Special Needs & Writing FAQ
The term “special needs” covers many different diagnoses, from mild learning challenges to severely impaired cognitive function. Developmental delays may catch up quickly or remain fixed. Our focus is on mild to moderate physical or learning challenges that affect writing.
- How do learning disabilities affect writing?
- My child is a reluctant writer. Does this mean he has a learning disability?
- How can I help my special needs child with writing?
- At our house, writing starts and ends with tears. What can I do?
- Holding a pencil is torture for my child. Do you have any suggestions?
- Was WriteShop created with special needs students in mind?
- Does WriteShop use a multisensory approach to writing?
How do learning disabilities affect writing?
Has your child been diagnosed with dysgraphia, dyslexia, ADHD, or Asperger’s? Maybe he has an auditory or visual processing disorder. Whatever lies at the root, writing is a source of contention for many children, and the mere mention of it reduces them to tears. Kids with special needs may display any combination of these writing-related symptoms:
Poor written expression
Strong verbal skills but trouble communicating ideas in writing
Inattention, carelessness, or distractibility
Poor self-monitoring skills
Problems with details (paying too little attention or obsessing too much)
Awkward or cramped pencil grip
Illegible or laborious handwriting
Poor word and line spacing
My child is a reluctant writer. Does this mean he has a learning disability?
Whether children have special needs or are simply reluctant or resistant writers, even a slight hiccup in their ability to learn can cause daily struggle. While many children with learning disabilities are reluctant writers, not all reluctant writers have learning disabilities. Reluctant writers and children with special needs may share characteristics, but learning-disabled children have underlying physiological reasons why they struggle to write.
How can I help my special needs child with writing?
First, know how important it is to work closely with your child. Students who learn with difficulty are easily overwhelmed by the writing process and often need a lot of hand-holding. Your encouraging presence during this time matters a great deal to your struggling writer.
Second, break down the steps of the writing process. Take care not to dump the whole assignment on your child at once, but instead portion out instructions in manageable bites. Spreading writing activities over several days or weeks will go a long way toward easing anxiety and stress.
Finally, establish a distraction-free work space—one that’s quiet, well lit, and uncluttered. Try to look at the area through a child’s eyes. Even a spoon on the kitchen table can draw their attention away and hinder learning!
At our house, writing starts and ends with tears. What can I do?
Most kids struggle with writing at some level, but when a child learns with difficulty, the challenges are magnified. Poor spelling, indecipherable handwriting, attention and processing disorders, and physical limitations interfere with the ability to communicate on paper. This often leads to anger, frustration, and tears. Lack of ideas isn’t necessarily the problem; the meltdown often begins when they’re asked to write those words in their own hand.
By the time a thought tries to make its way from brain to hand to paper, the reluctant or learning-challenged student has lost his grasp on the idea, and it simply drifts away. You can help by acting as your child’s scribe. Writing is much more about coming up with ideas than about who writes them down. Letting him dictate allows you to capture those ideas before they dissipate. Even if you’re not dealing with a diagnosed learning disability, this is one of the best ways to reduce stress in young or reluctant writers.
Holding a pencil is torture for my child. Do you have any suggestions?
Whether the issue is dysgraphia, immature or illegible penmanship, undeveloped fine-motor coordination, or arm/shoulder pain caused by poor pencil grip, the physical act of writing may tax your child. Again, instead of making struggling kids write by hand, let them to dictate to you while you write or type.
Sometimes, the problem is the writing implement itself. Normal pens and pencils combined with a child’s tight grip can cause sore muscles in the hand and pinched nerves in the wrist. Ergonomic pens and pencils are designed so they’re easier to hold and manipulate. Let your kids to experiment with various writing devices to find what works. Here are just a few options [may contain affiliate links]:
- PenAgain Ergo-Sof Grip Pens or PenAgain Twist N’ Write Children’s Pencils: Designed around the human hand, these rest comfortably between the fingers and require no grip.
- Ring Pen: Worn on the forefinger, it requires no grip. Available in different sizes.
- Wanchick Pediatric Writer: When your child doesn’t have the strength to hold a pen or pencil.
- EZ Grip Pen Grips: Most students will enjoy the soft rubber grip that slides onto regular pens and pencils.
- The Crossover Grip: Improves kids handwriting by helping to give more control, reduce hand fatigue, and increase comfort.
- WriteDudes Training Grips: Grips help with proper placement for fingers and thumb, reducing fatigue and producing better handwriting.
- Pencil Grip Starter Set: Here’s a variety pack of grippers, pencils and crayons. Each feels a bit different in hand. The set gives your child a chance to try them out and choose a favorite.
Was WriteShop created with special needs students in mind?
“WriteShop’s lessons tend to work well for many types of learning-disabled children because of their explicit instructions and requirements.” – Nancy, learning specialist
Both reluctant writers and students with special needs benefit from similar techniques. Though WriteShop wasn’t specifically created for children with learning disabilities, its methods have proved to be an excellent fit for reluctant writers and students with ADHD, high-functioning autism, dysgraphia, and dyslexia. WriteShop benefits struggling learners through:
- Specific instruction
- Reinforcement and repetition
- Strict parameters
- Bite-sized assignments
- Projects that build writing skills
Does WriteShop use a multisensory approach to writing?
I love the tactile learning experiences. The multi-sensory approach is great for children with dyslexia. – Lisa, homeschooling parent
At the younger WriteShop Primary and Junior levels, lessons appeal to a wide variety of learning styles. But even WriteShop I and II will engage older students with various multisensory activities.
- Visual learners at all levels benefit from graphic organizers, calendars/schedules, writing skills checklists, and written instructions. Elementary children also enjoy illustrated worksheets and visually appealing projects.
- Auditory learners at all levels benefit from playing word games, responding to verbal instructions and writing prompts, and participating in oral activities. Elementary children also enjoy occasional activities that incorporate rhyme or music.
- Kinesthetic and tactile learners at all levels benefit from activities that involve the senses of touch, taste, or smell. Elementary children also enjoy hands-on crafts, mixed-media projects, movement activities, and games involving physical exercise.
Praise from Parents of Special Needs Kids
My child has some learning issues and he loved this program. Spelling improved. CONFIDENCE [improved]. I had been dealing with the dreaded “I can’t,” and this program helped them to see that “I CAN”! It was fantastic experience.
Cheryl, Canada | WriteShop Primary
I haven’t really seen a good concentrated writing curriculum that is aimed toward younger kids … until now!
Tim, Families Again | WriteShop Primary with autistic son
My son is a reluctant writer. It is nice to have a program that considers this and gives options for the reluctant writer and the advanced writer for each lesson.
Yavonn, Oklahoma | WriteShop Primary
As a parent of a struggling 3rd grade writer, I am so excited about this program! The ideas in Book B helped my son to be able to come up with his own stories. His penmanship skills also were lacking, and the suggestion from the book for him to dictate stories to me was exactly what he needed to succeed.
Cheryl, North Carolina | WriteShop Primary
Love this program … It is perfect for the dyslexic learner because of its explicit, systematic, multisensory instruction. What’s more … my kids like it!
Marianne Sunderland, Abundant Life | WriteShop Junior
He has dysgraphia, which makes writing painful and difficult for him …We loved this program … The activities included were fun and he loved the fact that he got to play games to learn. I really enjoyed not having a daily battle to get him to write … I highly recommend this for any student but especially those with difficulties.
Amanda, Mrs. Mandy’s Musings | WriteShop Junior
WriteShop company writes materials with learning disabilities in mind … That’s not to say all children wouldn’t benefit from and love their materials! They’re just excellent–hands-on, systematic, explicit, and fun. No more tears at writing time, that’s for sure.
Christine, Glory to God blog | WriteShop Junior
WriteShop Junior was just what we needed … Bryce has not only learned how to be an effective writer, but he has also gained confidence along the way. I never would have thought this was possible. The progress he has made since we began is truly an amazing thing. I would recommend this program to anyone who has a reluctant or struggling writer.
Michelle, Florida | WriteShop Junior
We are continuing with Writeshop! We found a curriculum that is great for dyslexics … I saw such wonderful growth in him!
Ligia, Journal of a Busy Mom | WriteShop Junior
WriteShop has been a wonderful program for us. I don’t think my dyslexic daughter would have ever learned to write without it!
Dena, Tennessee | WriteShop I
Our son is a junior in high school, and writing has always been rather a nightmare for him. He has ADHD and getting thoughts and words on paper is a difficult and long, drawn-out process for him. BUT your curriculum so quickly gave him the tools to help him to put descriptive, concrete thoughts on paper that I am truly amazed at what he can write after only Lesson 4. I know of at least one other home schooling family that has a son with special learning needs, and they rave about your writing program as well.
Laurie, New York | WriteShop I