I love words. I love to write. I can feel the words flowing from my fingertips constantly, and when they aren’t actually flowing through my fingertips, I’m writing blog posts and books in my mind. That’s how much I love words and putting words together to communicate. And that’s why it’s been so hard for me to be mom to a struggling writer.
My sweet Isaac has never enjoyed writing. Way back in kindergarten, he decided he didn’t like it. And as much as I tried to explain how wonderful writing was, he just hated it. So, a couple of years ago, I decided to stop fighting it, and start thinking outside the box. So I decided to observe him to figure out the root of the problem.
The first thing I noticed was that it took Isaac a long time to write anything. It seemed that he pressed the pencil a little bit too hard, and it was more labor-intensive for him to write than it should have been. He hated turning his pencil over to erase, so many times, he just wouldn’t, and he made random scratch marks all over his paper, I think out of frustration.
I also noticed that he struggled to start his writing assignments. A blank page was daunting to him, and the beginning of a writing project was the worst day of his life, closely followed by every other day of a writing project. I knew that I wanted to change this, but how?
The first thing I did was I addressed the physical part of writing. I did some research and I found something called dysgraphia. This is a learning disability closely related to dyslexia where the child struggles with the actual act of writing. The symptoms seemed to match pretty well, so I looked into getting him some therapy. We went to a physical therapist in our area and while he wasn’t diagnosed with dysgraphia, we did find out that he had some pretty severe delayed fine motor skills which were hindering his writing. So, we began to work on it under the direction of the therapist.
Every day, during our read aloud time, I would have Isaac do his “fine motor” work. He would do simple tasks like transferring marbles from one place to another with chopsticks or digging beads out of therapy putty. Slowly, over time, I began to notice a big difference in his writing. He wasn’t struggling or laboring over it like he once did. Addressing fine motor issues was a huge step in writing success for Isaac.
Next, I wanted to address the blank page phobia. I knew that Isaac thrived when he talked to me. He could tell me lengthy stories and describe vivid scenarios in detail. So, I decided to start working with him verbally. I decided to be his recorder. I would introduce a topic, we would discuss it, and I would collect his thoughts on paper.
Then, we would take that paper, and we would organize his thoughts using a graphic organizer. After that, he would use the graphic organizer to verbalize his paragraph or story to me. He would stand next to me at the computer and say what he wanted me to type. I would type it on the computer in large print, double spaced, exactly like he said it. NO EDITING MOMS! This is critical. If you want learning to happen, you have to write it without capitals, periods, misspell a word or two…make mistakes so that he can practice finding them.
I would print that out, and he would edit and revise it. Then, I would type it out again with the revisions. And finally, I would have him copy it in his handwriting. This process would take anywhere from two weeks to a month, depending on the project. It made all the difference in the world! Soon, he began to really enjoy writing, because it was something that he could see slowly, but surely, coming together. And when he was done, he really had a piece to be proud of, one that he could take complete ownership of. It was a win-win.
The past two years, we have seen tremendous growth in Isaac’s writing. And when I think about it, I realize that we could have just gotten stuck in that spot. I could have left him behind, and let him continually struggle. But instead, we were able to find a solution that improved everyone’s experience. This year, I decided to try a more formal method of writing instruction using Here to Help Learning’s writing curriculum. We are loving it so far! In fact, my next post will be a review of Here to Help Learning’s program. I hope you’ll check it out.
Most of all, if your child is struggling in an area, it’s always a good idea to stop and think outside the box. Don’t get stuck in the box of how everyone else does something. First, look at actual physical delays. Is there a fine motor delay? Are you dealing with dysgraphia or another learning disability? Next, does your child just need a little more assistance from you? Remember, it won’t last forever. Independence will come. But your help may be just what they need to get going. And if you can’t offer them that assistance, can you try an outside-the-box writing curriculum like Here to Help Learning?
I’m so thankful that we have found a groove that helped my son so much. This year, he’s writing more independently, and it’s a joy for us both!