(Remember that if your child has other “special needs,” the adaptations suggested in these posts may also be helpful for your child’s particular issues.)
Why a Child with Visual-Spatial Processing Issues may have difficulty with spelling and writing:
- Children with these issues will often find writing difficult because there is a detachment between their thoughts and their ability to express them through writing. There can be trouble coming up with ideas at the same time as thinking about how to spell words, use correct punctuation, and produce handwriting that is readable.
- A child with these issues will require much more handwriting practice than usual. The child may require much more “tracing” practice–starting with letters, then going on to words, and even tracing full paragraphs. Once the child is comfortable with a piece, then have them “copy” it in the lines below. Finally, you can introduce non-copied work. Try different forms of lettering to see what works best–manuscript, cursive, D’Nealian, cursive italic, etc.
Things to Avoid:
- Developing a dependence on memorization of spelling rather than phonetic spelling; depending on memorization impacts a child’s writing skills as the child is limited to using memorised words.
- Don’t penalise for messy writing.
- Avoid traditional dictionaries as spelling aids, since they are difficult to use due to reading issues.
- When writing, do not ask the child to edit/correct work during the initial draft. Once the first draft is complete, sit down with the child and help with editing, and/or teach the child to use editing tools (see below).
Tips for Writing and Spelling:
- Support for writing assignments: adapt the assignment length (less writing), and/or allow more time for written tasks.
- Provide the opportunity for keyboarding use as an alternative to handwriting
- Provide access to a computer for writing assignments. Check out software. This article compares several good writing programs for children with writing difficulties
- Use spelling dictionaries, especially online ones that recognise beginning letters of words and give possible correctly spelled choices.
- Tape/record stories created orally, then play back and write, or have an assistant scribe the story, or use computer software that writes spoken material. After the entire piece is written, then help the child edit for spelling and flow.
- Teach how to use spelling and grammar software. This allows the child to focus on her desired content first, then deal with editing afterwards. One step at a time!
- Start with large lettering and use large writing tools: chalk on a blackboard, thick erasable markers on a whiteboard, coloured sidewalk chalk drawing and writing, finger painting, drawing letters in sand or whip cream or other textured surfaces, finger writing on textured fabrics, etc.
- Allow extra time to proofread for accuracy, using tools such as proofreading checklists and spelling/grammar software. When using checklists, only edit for one or two items at a time. This will require going through the piece several times, so allow the child to write shorter pieces and provide more time.
- When writing a piece, work with programs like Clicker 5 or Kurzwiel as the emphasis should be on paragraph development and not spelling.
- Consider looking into having the school provide a personal laptop or tablet with a variety of useful software loaded on it; this is an option often available for certain learning differences.
- I do think it is very important to also work on phonological awareness (phonics training) to provide the basic skills (including spelling) which underlie successful writing.
What other tips do you have?
Please share them in the comments below. Thanks!
In the posts in this series, we look at: