6 ways to help your special needs child with homeschool writing

by | Jun 23, 2008 | Encouragement, Special Needs, Teaching Homeschool Writing, WriteShop I & II

In an earlier post, I broadly defined three particular learning challenges: dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD that can affect your child’s writing.

Well, it’s one thing to put your finger on the problem, but quite another to find a working solution! We often get the question, “Does WriteShop work for children with learning disabilities?” For many students with ADHD, dysgraphia, and dyslexia, WriteShop does seem to be an excellent fit.

“WriteShop’s lessons tend to work well for many types of learning-disabled children because of their explicit instructions and requirements.”

– Nancy, learning specialist

Here are six ways WriteShop can help both special needs AND reluctant writers grow in skill and confidence as writers.

1. Special needs learners benefit from specific instruction

Give Your Kids Instruction and Guidance

It’s not enough simply to tell your children to write. You need to teach them how. Open-ended assignments and vague instructions create frustration and chip away at your child’s confidence. Instead, make sure your struggling writer knows exactly what’s expected. Kids feel way more confident when they know what you—and the assignment—are asking them to do.

Elementary Years. During your child’s early years, WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior lessons are almost exclusively parent led. Your Teacher’s Guide includes everything you need to teach your struggling learner, including daily lesson plans and detailed instructions for each activity. It’s all laid out for you step-by-step. You’ll even find suggested scripts to help you introduce new concepts and guide the conversation!

Teen Years. In middle and high school, WriteShop I and II offer increased student independence. WriteShop instructions are written directly to your tween or teen in an orderly, step-by-step way and with clearly defined expectations for each assignment. Even if your teen isn’t able to work independently yet, you can—and should—still work alongside to guide and help as needed.

Provide Them with Tools to Organize and Check Their Work

Graphic Organizers. All students (not just struggling learners!) do better when they use graphic organizers such as mind-maps (clustering), charts, lists, or diagrams to help them outline and plan their work. WriteShop lessons provide many opportunities for your child—whether 6 or 16—to brainstorm and prepare for writing assignments.

Word Banks. Kids who are easily distracted or who spell poorly benefit from word banks. WriteShop Primary and Junior include portable word banks, “super spellers,” word walls, and more. For teens, WriteShop I and II have 22 pages of comprehensive, topical word lists. These tools help students make better vocabulary choices because new words (and their spellings) are readily available.

Checklists are vital to the struggling learner. It’s important for your child to be able to mark progress. To help students with self-editing, WriteShop introduces simple checklists in WriteShop Junior and more detailed, lesson-specific Writing Skills Checklists in WriteShop I and II.

>> TIP: If your child with dyslexia or ADHD is visually overwhelmed, try inexpensive guided reading strips to help track each line of the student checklist.

2. Special needs learners thrive on repetition and reinforcement.

How do students with special needs learn? Repetition, repetition, and more repetition! It’s key to helping them better understand concepts. Choosing a curriculum like WriteShop makes sure your child frequently revisits and practices these skills.

All levels of WriteShop incorporate repetition, but even more importantly, lessons are cyclical. Because WriteShop lessons build on previously-learned skills and concepts are revisited regularly, retention is even greater. Remember those checklists I mentioned earlier? They will often include writing skills students have learned in prior lessons—which in turn ensures your children are applying these skills in their new assignments.

Looking for a writing program that teaches in a cyclical fashion? WriteShop Primary gently introduces writing skills to K-3rd graders using repetition, daily routine, crafts, and storybooks. WriteShop Junior for 3rd-7th graders benefits kids who thrive on predictable routines and multisensory learning activities. WriteShop I and II teaches tweens and teens through assignments that regularly apply skills learned in past lessons. Choose purposeful curriculum like WriteShop—and watch retention skyrocket!

3. Special needs learners benefit from alternative methods.

The physical act of writing may be too challenging for your struggling learner. Instead of making her write by hand, offer an alternative method. Here are four to try:

  • Make a distinction between handwriting and creative writing. Children who struggle with the physical act of writing often end up hating the creative aspect of writing because they associate it with the pain and torture of putting pencil to paper. So most importantly, teach and practice penmanship and building hand strength separately from the creative writing time.
  • Allow your child to dictate to you while you write or type. Usually a student will use more complex vocabulary and sentence structure when speaking, but if asked to write the same information, she will often choose shorter words and sentences. Allowing her to dictate to you helps ease her stress about writing.
  • Let her edit the draft you write. If she is able, have her recopy the corrected version to her own paper.
  • Provide an assortment of ergonomic pencil grips, pencils, and pens to increase comfort, improve grip and control, and reduce hand cramping and fatigue.
  • Allow your child to use the computer, including the spell-check function, to type rough and final drafts.

>> Let your child take advantage of digital tools and other assistive technology

4. Special needs learners do better with boundaries.

Most kids with learning disabilities flounder when assignments are open-ended. WriteShop gives specific requirements for each lesson, from brainstorming to writing. Students always know what they need to do.

WriteShop Primary and Junior guide children to develop a writing pattern of beginning, middle, and end.

WriteShop I and II build confidence in teens who learn with difficulty. Lessons the number of paragraphs (usually just one) and restricts paragraph length (at first 5-7 sentences but never more than 10 sentences in WriteShop I).

5. Special needs learners need bite-sized assignments.

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.

  • WriteShop’s lesson schedules spread assignments over 2-3 weeks to allow for the writing to rest between drafts.
  • Assignments focus on the processes that are central to writing. Lessons begin with prewriting activities and brainstorming exercises that narrow and focus in on the topic, and instructions are written step-by-step.

6. Special needs learners with benefit from multisensory writing activities.

Appeal to Your Children’s Interests and Learning Styles.

Children absorb information through their senses. The more ways they handle information, the better they retain it. But kids still have their unique bents.

  • Kinesthetic children learn better when prewriting activities incorporate games, manipulatives, or movement.
  • Auditory learners love brainstorming aloud, discussing their stories, and playing verbal word games.
  • Visual learners are drawn to writing projects that incorporate art, photography, or computer-related activities. They especially love colorful writing supplies.

WriteShop Primary and Junior appeal to all learning styles with multisensory activities in every lesson. WriteShop I and II also feature a number of hands-on and oral prewriting activities that appeal to auditory and kinesthetic learners.

Have them write letters, keep a diary, and make projects that use writing but are not writing-intensive, such as posters, mobiles, brochures, and cartoons.

WriteShop’s Teacher’s Manual has a wonderful supplemental appendix that is filled with ideas you can use with students of all ages.

Parent Testimonial

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, NY (using WriteShop I)

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