Beside the fact that I am having root canal done later today, I find myself having a throbbing toothache all too often.

Behind the toothache, let’s look at Joanna, an 8-year-old third grader.  Increasingly, frustrated by her school challenges, Joanna is prone to melting down when asked  to do certain tasks during the homework hour.

While different professionals are focusing on her lack of “emotional self-regulation,” there’s something overlooked contributing to these meltdowns.  Put simply, Joanna can’t spell or write and nothing is being done about it.   Nightly, Joanna is asked to write a paragraph with an open-ended theme (e.g., “Write about Halloween.”)

Doing everything she can to avoid it, the meltdowns are a frequent occurrence.

Here’s a sample of a paragraph Joanna wrote when I  asked to to describe her favorite game:

freas tag, me and my bruther play freas tag.  my Buther alas macs me play it.  like when my babea sitr is ovfr.  you run arand and someone taps you and you freas! my bruthr machs me play in siwde.  I like it becaus you can run arawnd and you get to tag peapol they they freas.

When asked to write something she likes, Joanna writes “I wish that I cud lrn mor about sins.”  (learn more about science)

or “I like doing sins and I like stutying spas.”  (spas = space)

Here are a few of the words I asked her to spell:

make/ mac     should/shud  arm/amr      dresss/jres

So back to my throbbing tooth.  Why is it throbbing?

The fact of the matter is Joanna is not on anyone’s radar screen in school other than recommending that the parents see a neurologist to address her emotional self-regulation.  Spelling?  Writing?  “Don’t worry about it,” the parents are told.  “Spell check works just fine.  So does text to speech.”

Takeaway Point

I’m off to my getting root canal addressed.

Copyright, Richard Selznick, Ph.D.  2022,

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