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Teaching Kids with Writing Difficulties

Yesterday, I wrote about ways to help students who find it difficult to write.

Many of these kids just plain don’t know what to write or how to structure it, so I wrote about ways to help them learn these skills.

Some kids have bigger difficulties when it comes to writing, though.

Today’s post is for them.

A middle school child writing an assignment.

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For some kids, the challenge goes a lot deeper than just not understanding the mental process of writing.

In these cases, there’s something else going on.

It might be dyslexia or dysgraphia (my son has both), or there might be a processing disorder to deal with. This doesn’t mean your child won’t be able to write (and write well), it means they’ll probably need to be taught with methods you won’t find in the teacher’s manual.

There might also be muscular or developmental issues that prevent a child from physically being able to write for long periods of time. Most will get there, just not on a “standard” timeline. (And for those who won’t, there are great accommodations available through voice to text.)

These are very real things that, as parents and teachers, we need to learn to help them deal with.

So how can we help them?

Dealing with Learning Differences

For many kids with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or processing disorders, the road to diagnosis is long and not very fun.

Because of this, the path to finding teaching methods that work can be even longer.

This is because these learning differences are often not easy to diagnose. They’re also not standardized, so there’s no one “cure” that works for everyone.

At the end of this post, I’ll point you toward some sites and books that I’ve found really helpful.

There are accommodations that are really easy to adjust to your child’s needs, though!

A lot of the tips that I share are things I learned through working with my son, who is 2E (twice exceptional).

He’s profoundly gifted, but also severely dyslexic, dysgraphic, and deals with sensory processing disorder.

What this translates to is a child who could devour college-level information at age 10, but couldn’t write a standard paragraph on his own until high school.

He’s currently planning a trilogy of novels, but doesn’t take notes because the process is too distracting.

I’ve also found these methods work well for kids with Asperger’s and high-functioning autism, as well as kids with muscular or other physical issues.

The key to providing accommodations is understanding the foundation of them and being willing to tweak them to fit your child’s needs.

When your child learns differently, you have to be willing to
teach differently.

If I can help you do this, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m happy to help! I’m easy to reach on my Facebook page or group.

Tips for Tweaking Writing Instruction

Like I said above, it is important to be willing to tweak these tips to fit your child. Don’t feel like you have to use them exactly as I did.

I’ll give ideas for modifications, but feel free to add your own!

Separate the Physical and Mental Processes

Yesterday, I wrote about the fact that writing is largely a mental process. That’s what makes it so difficult for a lot of kids!

When you add in differences like dyslexia or processing disorders, or when there is a physical or developmental issue, the physical process becomes something you have to address.

Separating the two makes this a lot easier!

It gives your child time to learn the mental process without the frustration and sense of failure that comes with the physical process.

This can make all the difference in your writing instruction!

Find Out of the Box Ways to Brainstorm

Conventional wisdom says that we should plan out a written piece with an outline.

When your child doesn’t learn conventionally though, conventional wisdom may not be all that wise.

*Let your child talk through their thoughts while you take notes.

*Let them act out what they’re thinking or move around while they’re talking. For some kids, the ability to move unlocks whole new areas of their brains.

*Using a trifold board or a piece of poster board, let your child make a sort of mind map with post-its. Each idea or detail goes on a post-it, and those post-its get moved around the board until categories (paragraphs) begin to form. For visual or kinesthetic kids, this can make a huge difference.

*Have your child dictate their ideas – or even their rough draft – into a digital recorder. (We’ve used a lot of these over the years; this is the one we’ve found works best. And it’s reasonably priced!)

Olympus VN-7200 Digital Voice Recorder (V404130BU000)Olympus VN-7200 Digital Voice Recorder (V404130BU000)Olympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-853, BlackOlympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-853, BlackOlympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-852, SilverOlympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-852, Silver

This will allow your child to brainstorm without the restriction of having to write it down, and it’s really easy to review.

Let Your Child Use a Voice to Text Software

*For some kids, this is huge. My recommendation is Dragon NaturallySpeaking, which you can get on disc or download.

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Basics 13.0 [Download]Dragon NaturallySpeaking Basics 13.0 [Download]Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home 13Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home 13Dragon Premium 13, Student/Teacher EditionDragon Premium 13, Student/Teacher Edition

It has a little bit of a learning curve, but it’s come a long way since the early days when we first used it – and even then, it was really helpful for my son. As a college student, he still finds it helpful.

Feel free to be your child’s scribe.

*If your child is still learning to write, let them make up stories while you write them down. Then, let them copy a small portion of it and, if they want to, illustrate it. Over the course of a few weeks, they can even make it into a book!

*If your child is older, it’s still fine to be their scribe. Let them dictate the rough draft while you type, and then let them make any corrections from there.

You may find the graphic organizer in my resource library helpful for this – just subscribe to my newsletter below to receive access.

Helpful Resources

If you would like more information about any learning differences I’ve discussed above, following are some resources I’ve found really helpful.

The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read...and How They Can Learn, Revised and Expanded EditionThe Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read…and How They Can Learn, Revised and Expanded EditionThe Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis + Dyslexia Brain Games USB + Reading Strips | Easy Bundle | Revised and Expanded Edition | Why Some of the Smartest People Can't Read and How They Can LearnThe Gift of Dyslexia by Ronald D. Davis + Dyslexia Brain Games USB + Reading Strips | Easy Bundle | Revised and Expanded Edition | Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read and How They Can Learn

How To Reach and Teach Children and Teens with Dyslexia: A Parent and Teacher Guide to Helping Students of All Ages Academically, Socially, and EmotionallyHow To Reach and Teach Children and Teens with Dyslexia: A Parent and Teacher Guide to Helping Students of All Ages Academically, Socially, and EmotionallyThe Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic BrainThe Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic BrainOvercoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any LevelOvercoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any LevelThe Gift of Learning: Proven New Methods for Correcting ADD, Math & Handwriting ProblemsThe Gift of Learning: Proven New Methods for Correcting ADD, Math & Handwriting Problems

Homeschooling with Dyslexia – Site and Blog

Autism Homeschool Mama – Site and Blog

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting writing activities, lessons, and printables designed to help you teach your child to be an effective writer.

For many of them, I’ll give accommodations or modifications to help kids with learning differences.

In the meantime, please feel free to comment with any questions or issues that you’re facing – I’m happy to help!

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6 Comments

  1. Oh BOY do I get the “devouring college level material” but yet not able to correctly spell the word ‘circle.’ 😉 2E mom veteran here! One other resource I wanted to share was an ebook I wrote for Time4Learning called “Successfully Homeschooling Your Child with Dyslexia”…they’ve made it a free download, so I hope anyone who might find it helpful will head over and download. A remediation program we found particularly helpful was Saxon Phonics Remediation (the homeschool vesion). Thanks for this post, Jen. I will be definitely sharing it widely!

  2. Hi Kerry, thank you so much for your comment and for sharing! It’s good to know that other moms “get it” 🙂 I’ll look into that ebook, thanks!

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