Maybe your child has messy handwriting or poor spelling. Or maybe coming up with ideas to write about is hard. Is this a passing problem or something more? If you’re concerned that your child has writing challenges, follow these steps. It can help you find out what your child is struggling with and where to go next.
1. Understand why kids struggle with writing.
Knowing what it means to have trouble with writing can help you frame your concerns about your child. Kids can struggle in two main areas. One is the physical act of getting words onto paper through handwriting or typing. The other is expressing thoughts in writing. Kids can have a hard time in one or both areas.
Learn when kids are expected to have certain writing skills. That lets you know whether your child is struggling more than other kids that age.
2. Take a close look at your child’s writing.
Look for patterns in your child’s struggles with writing — where, when, and how the problems happen. Take notes on the things that stand out to you. Does your child have trouble? Is holding a pencil hard? Does your child avoid or complain about writing?
3. Find out what’s been happening at school.
Ask the teacher how your child is doing with writing in the classroom. Share your notes and describe what you’ve seen at home. And find out whether the teacher is using any strategies to help your child that could help at home, too.
4. Talk with your child.
Struggling with any skill can be frustrating for kids. Talk to your child about the parts of writing that are hard and explain that writing skills can improve. It’s important to show empathy. Say that you understand the challenges and that you’re there for support.
5. Talk with your child’s health care provider.
Health professionals can be a great resource if you’re worried about your child’s writing skills. This is especially true if your child struggles with the physical act of writing, or motor skills. Set a time to talk with your child’s provider, either in person or by phone. Be prepared with a list of questions and share what you’ve noticed at home.
6. Think about having your child evaluated.
The only way to know exactly what’s going on is through an evaluation. Kids have trouble with writing for different reasons. An evaluation can tell you where your child is struggling and shed light on your child’s strengths. Depending on the results, your child may be able to get extra help. Evaluations at school are free, and you can request one at any time. (You can also do a private evaluation, but these can be expensive.)
7. Try strategies at home.
You can help your child with writing in lots of ways. Many are low-tech and low-cost, like pencil grips, highlighted paper, and graphic organizers. There’s also technology that can help, including free tools.
Learn what to say when your child gets frustrated and says “I can’t do it.” And give praise that boosts self-esteem. When kids know that their writing skills can get better, it can motivate them to keep trying.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Mark J. Griffin, PhD was the founding headmaster of Eagle Hill School, a school for children with specific learning disabilities.