Many children have difficulty with reading, writing, or other learning-related tasks at some point, but this does not automatically mean they have learning disabilities. A child with a learning disability often has several related signs, and these persist over time. The signs of learning disabilities vary from person to person.
Here is an incomplete list of some of the COMMON signs that a child MAY have learning disabilities:
- Problems staying organized.
- Poor coordination.
- Problems with math skills.
- Difficulty with reading and/or writing.
- Problems paying attention (staying focused).
- Difficulty remembering information and time-related skills/tasks.
- Trouble following directions.
If your child is having difficulty with writing and spelling and has some of the common signs identified above, speak to their teacher about having them evaluated.
Written language is a basic method of communication in our society. As adults, we are all expected to be literate. Literacy includes not only the ability to read but the ability to write. Writing as a skill is taught to us as students in elementary school. Students are expected to master the language, which is a system of communication using symbols (the alphabet), and composition, which is the process the students uses to create a written product. The act of writing and spelling requires the student to focus, use their memory, processing speed and handwriting. If your student has poor written expression skills, they will have difficulty with almost every task asked of them in their daily school routine.
Signs and symptoms of written language disorders vary across individuals, so there are no ‘signs’ you should be looking for in your student. If your student is experiencing difficulty with writing and/or spelling, first speak to your student and ask them what they think their strengths and weaknesses are in writing and/or spelling. Maybe they just don’t like to write so they don’t put any effort into their finished product.
If you speak to your student and they express their own concerns about their struggles, go and speak to their teacher. Their teacher sees their work product day in and day out, are they concerned? Ask the student’s teacher these two main questions and then discuss what should be done next:
1. What are the student’s strengths and weaknesses in the various skill areas (spelling, punctuation, alphabet, handwriting and composition) of written language?
2. What is the student’s current level of achievement in written language?
When assessing a student experiencing difficulty with writing and/or spelling the team should consider doing both formal and informal assessments.
INFORMAL ASSESSMENTS should include work sample analysis (portfolios) across a period of time and if possible across the school day. Maybe the student does better with writing in the morning versus in the afternoon. The teacher and/or an aide can observe the student while they are on task. The purpose of the observation is to identify what if any strategies the student is using to complete the assigned task. Does the student not know what to do in the situation? Could they be taught some strategies and/or given some supports to help guide them in the process? Sometimes, the teacher can ‘interview’ the student to find out what they think worked well (or didn’t) for them while completing an assigned task. This interview can be straight-forward questioning but it might be insightful to ask the student to help the teacher edit/correct their written work. This will provide information about the student’s proofreading skill and their ability to spot spelling and grammatical errors. While the informal assessments are being conducted, teachers are able to incorporate scaffolding and modeling to see if those changes help the student make progress.
FORMAL ASSESSMENTS should be administered by the appropriate member of the TEAM. Parents/Guardians should pay close attention to the skills measured by each test. There is no one test that should be administered. However, whichever assessment is given it should use measures of oral and written language that have been co-normed on the same standardization samples so that their results may be compared directly. Some of the more common formal assessments used when probing for written difficulties include the most current edition of the Test of Written Language (TOWL), Woodcock-Johnson IV Tests of Achievement (WJ IV), and Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT).
The team should consider all of the data on the student when making decisions about specific areas of need in written expression and the instructional goals to be addressed to improve the student’s writing performance.
Have questions or concerns about your student? Contact us to discuss further:
E.M. Curran & Associates LLC