How a Child is Taught to Write in Special Education

Written by Adeline, a Clonlara School guest blogger (***Clonlara School does not endorse or recommend any product/service in connection with this author***)

Nearly all of us are given a chance to improve in handwriting. It works with the body and mind in harmony. The brain sends a chain of commands to the muscles of the eyes and hands that enable one to write. However, not everyone is able to write normally. There are those who had been born with disabilities that hinder them from writing properly. This, however, does not mean that they can’t learn.

Dysgraphia and other learning disabilities
What Is Dysgraphia? This is a learning disability (LD) found in persons with writing disabilities. How is this observed? When a child has difficulty learning correct spelling, exhibits poor handwriting skills, and experiences dilemmas in reflecting thoughts upon writing down words or paragraphs, he or she might suffer from dysgraphia. However, it takes more than this to diagnose the disability.

What is taught in the normal learning environment as well as getting involved in additional practice for improving the writing skills will still help them. In short, the issue here is starting a unique program under special education for children with dysgraphia with goals in improving their writing abilities.

Other cases of children with LD who, also, cannot write well are: dyslexia, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and the ones with muscle disorders.  Statistics have shown that around 15% to 20% of the U.S. population suffers from dyslexia or a reading disability. This was a top reason for getting low grades in reading at school, which affects the children, casting shadows of frustration and self-doubt. Sadly, most cases of learning disabilities go undiagnosed. If you notice your child to be having problems in writing, consult a specialist right away so you can help your child learn in spite of his or her disability.

What to Do
Writing equals mechanics and content. The basic writing mechanics are capitalization, punctuation, spelling, letter and sentence construction, while content should be the expression and organization of thoughts. These are the basic things one learns to .be able to write successfully. If the basic mechanics are done correctly, then coming up with very good content follows.

With the advancement of technology today in skills development, a child with LD can now easily complete a task that is related to writing, like composing a short essay or story. They find with it easier to do typing than writing by hand. Spellcheckers found online or those that come installed with word processing software can aid a student with dyslexia in his or her reading and writing skills.

Steve Graham, a professor and the current Currey Ingram chair in special education at Vanderbilt University in the United States, has developed a series of steps on how to teach a child under special education to write legibly. According to him, the “once and done” model is not enough in encouraging children with learning disabilities to write. A child with LD, really, asks for extra attention and care; this is called scaffolding. Going over and over again on the instructions and process of writing until he or she completes a task should be done by a teacher or parent so that goals are met.

Some of the said steps are:
a) Strictly teaching children the ways to plan, revise, and edit their own written work.

b) Selecting goals for them in relation to the assignment.

c) Teach the use of word processing as a tool for their assignments.

Another exercise is by instructing to copy a sentence letter by letter, with, of course, the ones that are already, recognized by a child with LD. Do it again, but quicker (10% faster), in as many times as possible, for about three minutes. This should improve speed while still writing legibly. A set of different steps are taught to early writers, young students, teenagers, and adults with writing disabilities.

You can use modern technology to teach children who struggle in school. Aside from websites, there are computer programs that focus on writing and reading for children with learning disabilities. Remember to be supportive in their writing and reading activities, especially if the child has special needs.

About the Author: Adeline is an expert writer on various topics under special education and gifted learning. She regularly writes for the website helpyourteennow.com.

References:
Kids Health from Nemours website; Understanding Dyslexia; KidsHealth.org and Laura L. Bailet, PhD; 2012;
[http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/learning/dyslexia.html]

LD Online website; How to Help Your Students Write Well: An Interview with Steve Graham; Dale S. Brown; 2007;
[http://www.ldonline.org/article/12991/]

LD Online website; Special Education; LD Online; 2010;
[http://www.ldonline.org/indepth/specialed]

LD Online website; What Is Dysgraphia?; National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD); 2006;
[http://www.ldonline.org/article/What_Is_Dysgraphia%3F]

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