Fine Motor Skills and Inattentive ADHD

It is just our luck!! According to a study just published, the more inattentive a person with ADHD is, the worse their fine motor skills and handwriting. The researchers of the study published in the November edition of Neuropediatrics reported that, "Fine motor/hand writing was predicted by inattention severity. The other subtypes of developmental coordination problems in children with ADHD cannot be attributed to the variables of gender, inattentiveness severity, hyperactivity/impulsivity severity, comorbidity with separation anxiety symptoms and oppositional defiant behavior score, and handedness."

I did not need a study to tell me this, my handwriting is pitiful. My son's handwriting is worse than mine and that is saying a lot. To give you an idea of how bad my Inattentive ADHD son's handwriting is I will tell you a story. When my son was in second grade, his teacher, counseled us several times about the need to consider putting our son on a stimulant. I was not convinced as he was a good reader and good at math. His handwriting was horrible and knowing that I was reluctant to put our son on medication, his teacher finally tried to convince me by telling me that the stimulants would improve his handwriting. His inattentiveness was a problem she said but his handwriting was atrocious!

I am not sure that bad handwriting would qualify as a good enough reason to start medication but now that we know how tied it is to inattentiveness maybe his teacher knew something, way back then, that these studies are now verifying. This particular teacher has been teaching for about 200 years so I would not be surprised if she knew a lot more than I could ever imagine!

Studies have shown that the stimulants do in fact help handwriting and fine motor skills. One study found that children on methylphenidate (Ritalin) had improved quality of handwriting and that strokes on a graphomotor task became more accurate.

In college  I decided that my handwriting needed to be legible and i began to print everything that I wrote. I used graph paper and put a letter in every little square. This was the only way that my handwriting did resemble chicken poop. Luckily today we have keyboards and most kids and adults with ADHD will have less trouble mastering the keyboard than they do mastering the pencil and pen (though they will still take longer than their non-ADHD peers to master this skill as this too is a fine motor skill but one that requires much less precision and strength).

It is interesting to me that inattention is linked to fine motor skill proficiency. Recently my ADHD-PI got braces. One of the things that he is supposed to do three times a day is change these tiny rubber bands that attach to eight brackets inside his mouth. Talk about something being worse than pulling teeth.

He has been trying to master this skill for about three weeks and has finally, in the last week, been able to do it all by himself. Frankly, I thought it would never happen and that I would be changing rubber bands for two years. He was quite proud of himself the day that he accomplished the rubber band feat and I was 'jumping for joy, ecstatic!!

Fine motor skills like all the other skills that are lacking in Inattentive ADHD improve with practice and repetition. It may take us longer to get where we are going but slowly and surely, if we stay the course, we will get there eventually.

Predictors of Different Types of Developmental Coordination Problems in ADHD: The Effect of Age, Gender, ADHD Symptom Severity and Comorbidities.

Ghanizadeh A.
Neuropediatrics. November, 2010

Fine motor skills and effects of methylphenidate in children with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder and developmental coordination disorder.
Flapper BC, Houwen S, Schoemaker MM.
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. March 2006

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