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The Road to Writing
posted at 12:45 pm on 05-13-2011
THIS BLOG IS A WORK IN PROCESS. I find myself answering a lot of posts about writing issues, and am starting to collect some of those responses here to edit into a guide. For now, what you'll see here is a collection of content from posts I've written.
Writing was my son's biggest issue, which he has successfully overcome (he is almost 14 and keyboarding fluently).
To the parent of a 7 year old:
Don't think of it as a stubborn hat. Few sentences or not, the task is truly daunting to him, and he most likely gets frustrated and overwhelmed just at the THOUGHT of writing. Writing is a multi-task function and, think about it, how well does your son multi-task?
I believe that your son honestly doesn't know what to write, in the way of a satisfactory answer that can be composed in the time frame and accurately recorded before his hand starts to hurt and his brain frazzles out from multi-tasking. He doesn't know how to take the rambling answer he wants to give and fit it into the limited number of sentences expected, and certainly not at the same time he is tackling the mental challenge of being overwhelmed by the very idea of writing.
What my son did by around 4th grade was settle on very short sentence answers that were, actually, brilliantly concise but, obviously, still not what the teacher wanted (TOO short). But, I look back and think of that as a natural phase that had to happen in between rambling and succinct but informative. We're still working on filling out details better, but my son is getting there. It was a huge slog; you have to be patient. Despite everything that makes it seem like they ought to be able to do it, they honestly cannot do it. That I learned over the years, battling tears and frustration and "I don't care" acts.
Hopefully your son's writing issues are not as acute as my son's were but ... how you describe it all is completely familiar. This was a long, hard, road for us and you are just at the tip of the ice berg with it. Be wary of forcing your son to do too much writing work catch up at home; if he gets too frustrated, he WILL tune out, possibly for good. That answer about getting an F? He isn't caring simply because he does not see a way to accomplish the task. My son has done that often: he turns his caring off because he has no interest in fighting a battle he does not believe he can win. I have always seen that as a big red flag that we are asking too much from him, and I have always carefully changed course, usually in what turned out to have been in the nick of time.
At this age I recommend scribing for your son, anywhere from 50 to 100% of the homework, based on what you believe he can comfortably do (set the guidelines up front, so he knows how much he has to do, and when he can have you write for him; that will reduce issues with begging you to write at times it really isn't appropriate). Your son needs to focus on learning to sort his thoughts into concise answers, and focus on the content of the material. The pragmatic language issues of an AS child his age are quite challenging all by themselves. Right now the difficulty with writing is distracting him from learning to communicate knowledge. So, remove the barrier.
I also recommend setting a time limit for doing the work at home. Here is the trade off you tell the child: if you sit down and work hard for X minutes, then even if the work is not done, you are free for the day. But you MUST be focused and working for that time, or you don't get the sign off. At his age probably sessions of 15 minutes are appropriate; schedule it as 15 minutes work, 15 minutes something super fun, 15 minutes work, etc. Then he is DONE. This was a brilliant tool suggested by my son's 3rd grade teacher that really taught him to sit down and START what otherwise seemed like an overwhelming task. He used to be defeated before he ever started, because he saw the homework as this never-ending task that simply could not be done in anything resembling a reasonable amount of time. If you are now adding schoolwork to homework, I am sure your son will see it as consuming all his home time. He needs to understand in a tangible fashion that it will not.
In his IEP he should have some Resource and OT time to work on the physical skills involved in writing, without having to consider content. I wasn't there so I'm not totally sure what they did, but I think there were dot to dot type pencil activities, tracking exercises, hand strengthening, and so on.
An overview of what our approach has been at what age:
Very rough outline of our journey:
Elementary school: We would have him handwrite anything that was short, but used mostly dictation (scribing) for anything longer, to allow him to focus on content and structure. On homework, what he wrote v. what we wrote for him was 100% in our discretion.
Middle school: OT taught him to type (before 6th grade his hands were not developmentally ready), and he was programmed into an academic support period to allow extra time for completing and editing his writing assignments (much better to let the school monitor it; the finished product would look so different from the first pass that they understandably wondered who had written it). The work is tedious, learning to type and edit; having it be a school class also helped keep him at it. For class, he was given an Alphasmart.
High School: We still help proof read (he can't catch the misuse words on his own yet), but otherwise he's on his own and very comfortable writing on his netbook. He's even written a full play and has started writing a book.
Levels of Conscious and Making Rules for One's Self
posted at 05:12 pm on 02-16-2010
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