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Understanding why kids struggle with writing

By Andrew M.I. Lee, JD

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Some kids struggle with writing. They may have messy handwriting or write a sentence full of spelling mistakes. Or they might not even be able to start when asked to write something.

These types of writing difficulties aren’t uncommon. But when are they something to be concerned about?

There are two main areas of writing where kids may struggle:

  1. Handwriting and spelling

  2. Expressing ideas in writing

Even bright kids can have trouble in one or both areas. They might struggle for a number of reasons. Kids develop writing skills at different rates, and some take longer than others to learn these skills. And sometimes kids just need extra help to get better at writing.

Dive deeper

Messy handwriting

Handwriting skills are part of an area of writing called transcription. Even if kids have well-formed and organized ideas, those ideas might be unreadable on a page.

When kids have a hard time with handwriting, they might struggle with:

  • Forming letters

  • Placing letters and words on the page

  • Making letters and words the correct size

  • Holding and controlling a pencil

  • Writing in a straight line

Learn more about what causes messy writing . And explore ways to help kids with handwriting and fun ideas for handwriting practice .

Trouble expressing ideas

Some kids have trouble getting ideas together and planning how to put them into written form. This skill is often called written expression.

Kids may not be able to come up with what they want to say. Or they may not know where to start. Maybe they start writing, but then they don’t know how to organize the rest.

Trouble with written expression is often caused by poor planning and organization skills. But there can be other factors, too. 

Use tools like graphic organizers to help kids plan their writing. Try out writing strategies , like asking kids to reflect before writing.

Next steps

Noticing that a child has a hard time writing is an important first step. You can talk with the child about the challenge. Make sure they know that everyone has difficulty with something — and that all people have strengths, too.

Continue to observe the child and take notes. If there’s a pattern that goes on for a while, it’s a good idea to talk to others.

If you’re a parent or caregiver, reach out to your child’s teacher . Teachers can be great sources of information and advice. If you’re a teacher, share your thoughts with the child’s family

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom