In addition to enhancing our ability to communicate, writing skills can open doors to countless opportunities including achieving learning goals and establishing meaningful connections with others.
However, as everyone who has been involved in some way with learning disabilities programs will recognize, the writing process can very quickly become overwhelming. But the good news is that there are a range of techniques that can be used to teach core writing skills in ways that feel accessible and achievable.
1. Understanding Current Abilities
Before it is possible to put together tasks and goals for each student, it is vital to first take the time to understand their current abilities. This is information that can be learned from both relaxed interactions and more formal assessments which look at a broad selection of skills that are connected in some way to writing, including listening skills in situations that involve responding to others.
It is worth highlighting here that positive reinforcement can go a long way, so always be immediately encouraging when students demonstrate enthusiasm for writing and display skills that are conducive to the learning process.
2. Prioritize Meaning
Spending too much time on the fundamental mechanics of the writing process isn’t usually the ideal way forward because it overlooks the whole purpose of written communication.
By focusing more on making the process meaningful, by providing students with a selection of characters from their favourite film or book and asking them which character they want to write about, for example, you’re increasing their level of engagement and connecting with them on a personal level.
3. The Role of Imitation in Spelling Skills
Imitation is something that can and should be encouraged in learning disabilities programs as often as possible because it will form the foundations that will pave the way for improved spelling skills.
Students who have mastered how to copy words can move on to spelling out words. The backward chaining strategy can be particularly effective here, which involves gradually fading a written traceable example and gradually removing letter guides until the word can be constructed independently.
4. The Structure of Sentences
Sentence prompts such as “The girl is …” or “I can see a …” are an excellent way to encourage both imagination and the selection of the most appropriate words to convey an idea.
Picture prompts can also be an excellent learning tool. Start by encouraging a single-sentence description of an image and gradually progress to multiple sentences that focus on different elements of the picture. This will help students with learning disabilities recognize how much information is needed for the reader to fully comprehend the content of each sentence and paragraph.
5. The Value of Editing and Revision
Momentum can be lost when it comes to editing written work, particularly as addressing more complex issues can be difficult and time-consuming. The box-and-explode technique encourages students to enhance a sentence by providing additional detail that sets the scene or describes a feeling.
Learning Disabilities Programs
Writing programs designed specifically for students with learning disabilities will help to address the issues that contribute to written expression challenges, including handwriting legibility, sentence completion, and idea organization.
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