Writing Skills

Why is my child having trouble with writing skills?

When looking at our child’s skills, we will commonly be puzzled to why they are having so much trouble completing a task that we take for granted. The role of a speech pathologist is to break down the smaller steps that are required for your child to be successful in completing a skill such as spelling and writing.

Writing is actually really complicated and requires a huge number of smaller skills to be developed first. These skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Phonological Awareness Skills (refer to our post here)
  • Sequencing (knowing what is the beginning, middle, and end)
  • Letter-sound knowledge
  • Understanding of word spelling rules (e.g. bossy ‘e’ rule)
  • Handwriting
  • Understanding of word and sentence structures (e.g. grammar)
  • Punctuation (e.g. full stops, commas, capital letters, etc.)

Is there anything I can do at home to support?

Practise sequencing – Following patterns can support your child’s development in learning that words are made up of different patterns. Making patterns with coloured buttons or beads can help support your child’s understanding of order of letters in words.

Engage in alphabet learning – to help develop your child’s letter-sound knowledge (e.g. ‘g’ – name is “gee” and sound is “guh” with visual support of letter). You can sing the alphabet song, add actions to letter sounds to help the child remember it, have the child trace the letter with a pencil or check out Jolly Phonics for interactive videos to help support with alphabet development at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhZHxhVhqFQ

Positive reinforcement – Writing can be a tricky task that children might not want to engage in. Try to create a positive atmosphere when practising writing skills and provide ample praise when your child works hard to finish a task. Don’t forget to praise your child when they try spelling a new word they weren’t sure of too! This can help support development of resilience to attempt challenging tasks at home, school, and community.

Talk about and trace words and letters – You can support your child’s early literacy development by looking at words everywhere and talking about them and tracing letters with their fingers. Count the letters in words and talk about long and short words. Cut letters out of magazines and paste them. Make your own alphabet book. Find the letter your child’s name starts with anywhere you can. Look at common words and see if you can find them on the pages of a book. Show your child that a word such as “the” has the same letters each time you find it and look for it in different places.

Encourage proof-reading and checking of own written work – It’s important for your child to develop independence in their writing skills just like if they were sharing information verbally. You can give verbal prompts (e.g. “did you underline words you’re not sure of?” “do you need to add capital letters?” etc.) or use visual supports to ensure that the child remembers the necessary steps in writing sentences and texts.

How can a speech pathologist support these skills?

It is common that families and teachers will identify concerns with specific skills such as early literacy development. Speech pathologists are trained to analyse your child’s current skills and difficulties to identify smaller goals your child will need to achieve as stepping stones towards achieving a larger goal, such as reading and spelling. As every child is different, the skills that one child needs support in, is likely to be different to another child. Hence a thorough assessment is always the place to start. Supports for working towards developing early literacy skills may include, but are not limited to:

  • Identifying if any of the above skills are lacking through the assessment process
  • Identifying if writing difficulties are linked to underlying overall language difficulties
  • Developing skills through fun and creative play-based activities
  • Supporting parents to develop their child’s skills at home, at school and in the community

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