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Why Is Writing a Struggle for a Person with Dyslexia?

A complex diagnosis

Dyslexia is a very individualized condition. The severity goes from mild to severe, and within those bands, there can be great variation of what is hard or easy for each individual. Some individuals with dyslexia can read fine but struggle mightily with correct spelling. Others find spelling a fun challenge, but find it hard to express their thoughts on paper or read fluently. Dyslexia is a complex learning difference!

Writing as two skills

Writing can refer to two different skills. It may refer to mechanics, which includes forming legible letters and spacing them correctly in word groupings, and appropriately sitting on the lines with the conventions of capital letters and punctuation. It might also refer to thematics, or the ability to express one’s self in writing so the reader catches what the writer was trying to convey.

What is the fix?

For mechanics-based difficulties, the remediation starts with strengthening the child’s mental picture of the steps to form each letter. This will include large muscle movements to “sky write” the letter in question as well as a script for the child to say orally as they sky write, telling themself the steps to form that letter. This information is then scaled down to letters on a page size, with lots of supervised practice and encouragement. Sometimes special paper with double spaces helps students get a proper sense of the scale needed to write legibly on notebook paper. Poor writing is routinely improved dramatically with these approaches.

Thematic struggles are worked on by breaking the writing process into a thinking or brainstorming phase and an actual words-on-paper phase. Students learn to list possible ideas for their paragraph, then choose the strongest to include in their written output. They learn about the parts of a paragraph as an introductory sentence, three supporting sentences, and a concluding sentence. Using this formula helps students to keep ideas organized as they go onto paper, and also divides the crucial steps of thinking what to write from physically writing the words on paper. Since these two steps can each be challenging for the dyslexic writer, splitting them up is quite helpful.

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