For a whole host of reasons that won’t be raised at the moment, writing is difficult to adequately assess, even though there are standardized measures that practitioners and education specialists use in the assessment of writing.
I would be willing to go out on a pretty significant limb to say that a vast majority of school struggling children maintain some level of mild, moderate to severe problems with writing and spelling.
However, when parents raise the issue of writing/spelling with the school they are frequently told variations on the following:
- “Spelling doesn’t matter – they can just use spell check.”
- “Maybe the child has ‘dysgraphia’ and you should go to a neurologist or an O.T. (occupational therapist).”
- “They can get ‘A.T.’ (assistive technology) and dictate into speech-to-text programs.”
- “All that matters is that they express their feelings – that they write what they feel.”
Even though the motor-component of most children’s writing is typically an issue, I don’t think the results would be very different if the writing is composed on a computer or through dictating software.
From where I sit and the kids I evaluate, the issue with their writing struggling has more to do with the child’s understanding of the concepts of writing and is less a matter of whether the child uses a pen/pencil or some type of assistive technology.
For example, today I gave 8 year old Logan a picture from a standardized test in which he was asked to write a paragraph to a story of the picture. (Keep in mind, the picture has a lot going on.)
Logan was told the paragraph should have a beginning, middle and an end
Here’s what he wrote in about 20 seconds:
“I am gooing to hlep mom oops I dopd the eggs.”
If your child is struggling with writing, I wish I could offer an easy answer to “fix” the problem.
The reality is Logans of the world need a great deal of direct guided instruction starting at the basic, simple sentence level. Once the concept of a simple sentence is mastered and internalized, then somewhat more complex sentences can be taught and practiced.
This instruction would also focus on the concepts involved with punctuation. There would be talk about why do we use commas, periods and capital letters? What is their point?
Such an approach is the direct opposite of the “just write what you feel” approaches.
It’s difficult work and there are no short-cuts. Direct instruction practiced over time is the only ticket I know.
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