Are you frustrated because your child avoids writing or writes poorly?
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Your child is not lazy! Children (and adults) who are poor writers may have difficulty with fine motor control or processing and organization. The following will give you tips on how to identify the potential source(s) of the writing difficulties and provide strategies for improvement.
Evaluation: Ask your child to copy or write something for you.
- Grip: Does your child hold the writing instrument unconventionally?
- Pressure: Some children apply so much pressure that they tear the paper. They may grip tightly with a downward pressure to avoid an unsteady hand. Others apply very little pressure and the words may be hard to see.
- Tracing: If your child re-traces over letters and words, this may be a symptom of perfectionism or an obsessive-compulsive quality.
The Problem: The child tires easily and quickly. Frustration and avoidance increase.
- Many kids successfully develop their own grip. If your child is young, you can encourage a correct grip on the pencil. If s/he has a lot of difficulty, consider a consultation with a physician, early childhood educator or occupational therapist. If your child is older, acceptance is probably best.
- Computer, netbook, Alphasmart, etc. TIP: use a flash drive or email to access work from different school and home computers.
- Allow the child to dictate.
- Oral assessments.
- Require fewer questions or math problems.
Visual Memory/Visual Motor
Evaluation: Ask your child to copy from a paper and from “the board” (place something vertically at a distance).
- Spacing and margins: Are the words placed properly on the line with proper side margins? Also look at spacing and letter size.
- Does your child copy a letter, a word or a phrase at a time?
The Problem: Your child can’t hold what needs to be written in his/her visual memory. This results in poor spelling and the inability to simultaneously hear and comprehend the information.
- Avoid writing on white paper.
- Reduce the amount to be copied.
- Provide this child with a copy of notes so that they don’t have to copy from the board or a book.
- Encourage the use of the computer for proper spacing and spelling suggestions.
- Promote assessments based on the mastery of information, not the process of lettering.
- Have your child’s vision evaluated by a developmental optometrist to determine if the eyes are working together properly.
- Have the child screened for Irlen Sensitivity.
Evaluation: Ask your child to create a story in writing and then verbally. Compare their ease and the quality of the product.
- A disconnection between ideas and the expression of thoughts while writing.
- The child doesn’t know how to start.
- Poor self esteem – your child doesn’t expect success.
- The brain creates ideas faster than they can be expressed.
- If your child has difficulty expressing it verbally, there may be an expressive language difficulty – speak to your teacher to see if an evaluation by the Speech and Language Therapist is suggested.)
- Be encouraging!
- Initially, have the child respond orally while you scribe (preferably on the computer). Continue until the child trusts his/her own abilities.
- Brainstorm ideas (practice may be necessary).
- Start in the middle (especially on a computer) and build the story outward. Now organize the paper and see if there are ideas that can be expanded and reworded. Then correct punctuation, spelling and grammar.
- Provide counseling to address self-esteem, motivation and perfectionism.
Keep expectations reasonable and reachable. Encourage your child by praising efforts in all activities, not just school endeavors. While your child may not find ease in writing, s/he has other gifts and strengths. Focus on these. Over time, writing typically improves. If you need assistance, request the help of a teacher, tutor or specialist.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
Published in Metro You Magazine, October 2011