Literacy Differences: A Guide for KS1 Parents
As parents of young children, we want to understand and support our children's unique learning needs and how they relate to literacy development.
Sometimes, it can be challenging to unravel the underlying causes of our children's literacy struggles, especially when multiple conditions coexist.
This guide will help you as a parent to be aware of these literacy differences and know what steps to take if you recognise them in your own child.
This blog will focus on two literacy differences dysgraphia and ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) and how they affect children under 8 years old. Dysgraphia affects writing skills, while ADHD affects attention and behaviour, causing difficulties in learning to read and how a child concentrates at school. Both conditions can occur together. Let's explore their symptoms, how to seek assessment, get help and discover strategies to support our children effectively.
Understanding Dysgraphia and ADHD in young children
Dysgraphia and ADHD are two distinct but frequently overlapping conditions that can impact a child's ability to learn, read, write, and perform academically. Dysgraphia makes it hard for children to write clearly and organise their thoughts on paper. ADHD affects attention, making it difficult for children to stay focused, follow instructions, or complete tasks.
While they are separate conditions, the presence of one often increases the likelihood of the other. Let's take a closer look at each condition:
1. Dysgraphia: Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that affects a child's ability to write and form letters or words coherently.
Children with dysgraphia may have difficulties with handwriting, spelling, grammar, and organizing their thoughts on paper. They may struggle to write legibly and often experience frustration or avoidance of writing tasks.
2. ADHD: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties with attention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
Children with ADHD may have trouble sustaining attention, following instructions, staying organized, and controlling impulsive behaviour. These challenges can affect their academic performance and social interactions.
Research suggests a significant overlap between dysgraphia and ADHD, indicating that children with ADHD are more likely to develop dysgraphia. The precise relationship between the two conditions is complex and not yet fully understood. However, it is believed that common underlying factors, such as executive functioning deficits and difficulties with fine motor skills, may contribute to the coexistence of these conditions.
Recognising the Symptoms
Identifying the presence of dysgraphia and ADHD in younger children can be challenging due to overlapping symptoms and learning development. However, some indicators may suggest the need for further assessment when your child is at least 6-years-old:
Illegible and messy handwriting, inconsistent letter formation, or poor spacing between words.
Avoiding writing tasks due to struggle.
Difficulty with spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
Slow and laboured writing, often accompanied by frustration or avoidance.
Trouble organising thoughts on paper or expressing ideas coherently.
Difficulty sustaining attention or staying focused on tasks.
Excessive fidgeting, restlessness, or impulsivity.
Forgetfulness, poor time management, or difficulty following instructions.
Challenges with organisation and task completion.
Seeking Assessment and Support
If you suspect your child has dysgraphia or ADHD, speak to your child’s school for initial help. They will guide you through the process and ask you to seek an evaluation from professionals who can provide appropriate support. The assessment will guide personalised strategies and interventions.
Strategies for Supporting Children with Dysgraphia and ADHD
After a diagnosis is made there are several strategies that can help you support your child in managing dysgraphia and ADHD:
1. Individualized Education Plan (IEP): Collaborate with your child's school to create an IEP that includes accommodations and modifications to address writing and attention-related difficulties.
2. Occupational Therapy and Literacy Support: Engage an occupational therapist or a qualified tutor who specialises in handwriting and fine motor skills to work with your child on improving writing legibility and coordination.
3. Assistive Technology: Explore the use of assistive tools, such as speech-to-text software, word prediction programs, or ergonomic writing tools, to facilitate written expression and alleviate frustration.
4. Multisensory Approaches: Incorporate activities that engage multiple senses, such as tracing letters in sand or writing on a textured surface, to reinforce letter formation and improve motor skills.
5. Break Tasks into Manageable Steps: Help your child break down writing tasks into smaller, more manageable steps to reduce overwhelm.
Use visual aids, checklists, or colour coding to provide structure and support.
6. Create a Supportive Environment: Minimize distractions in your child's study area, establish consistent routines, and provide clear instructions and expectations. Consider using visual schedules and timers to help with time management.
7. Encourage Self-Advocacy: Teach your child to advocate for themselves by discussing their challenges with teachers, seeking assistance when needed, and developing strategies to cope with difficulties.
8. Positive Reinforcement and Emotional Support: Recognise your child's efforts and progress, emphasizing their strengths. Provide emotional support and create a safe space for open communication about their frustrations and concerns.
Understanding dysgraphia and ADHD in children under 8 helps us support their learning journey. Remember to seek a proper assessment, collaborate with class teachers, work with a qualified literacy tutor and implement strategies to help your child thrive.
With the right kind of support, our children will have the tools to succeed academically and emotionally. Remember, every child is unique, and with patience, understanding, and tailored interventions, we can empower them to reach their full potential.
For more information about dysgraphia and ADHD here are some great places to start:
Literacy help for your child
If your young child struggles with reading, writing or attention, they may have a literacy difference. Look for signs like messy handwriting, spelling difficulties, and trouble staying focused. Getting help from an experienced, qualified tutor will help your child get back on track with strategies and tailored literacy interventions to overcome learning barriers.
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