10 Year Old Who Struggles with Writing

Updated on December 02, 2011
S.C. asks from Schnecksville, PA
13 answers

My son is a gifted 4th grader, participating in our school's gifted program, accelerated reading, and is a year ahead in math. He gets good grades & takes pride in his work. Despite this, he continues to struggle with writing. He is not lazy, he seriously has a mental block & has a melt down when he has a writing assignment. I am questioning if he may have a learning disability such as twice gifted or dysgraphia. Does anyone have any experience with either of these? I would consider getting my son tested but don't know how/where to start.

In addition to writing, he struggles with reading comprehension (he can tell you an exact sentence from something he read but cannot tell you the plot or what the story was about without a lot of prompting and help). He also has poor social skills.

Thank you for your help and insight.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My child struggles with much the same problems. The best place to have him evaluated would be at Duquensne University. They have a reading/writing/comprehension clinic. HTH!

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answers from St. Louis on

I do not have experience in either of these, but I am curious to know what his teachers think of this? Usually they are very interactive with a childs education and they would notice the issues you are talking about. I would talk to his teachers before the school year is up and let them know of your concerns. See what they suggest. Also, you may want to bring it up to his pediatrician.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

My child struggles with much the same problems. The best place to have him evaluated would be at Duquensne University. They have a reading/writing/comprehension clinic. HTH!



answers from Dallas on

look into dysgraphia more. While my son does not have a formal diagnosis for it, I used turoting and methods geared toward it with pretty good results.



answers from Harrisburg on


I SO feel your pain. I could have written this post 3 or 4 years ago. My son has a high iq...and excels at pretty much everything...but writing was just so hard for him. When he was your son's age and had a writing assignment, my husband would sometimes send me out of the house because it was just too stressful for me. There would be tears and shouting and tantrums. I would return to find his bedroom floor full of crumpled papers...broken pencils etc.

I think the problem for him was that he has ADHD and had trouble slowing his brain down enough to get it all on paper (plus the sitting still was bad as well). Is it possible your son has ADHD? Yours is about the age many are when they are diagnosed.

This was something he needed to work out on his own. I think for kids like yours and mine...when everything else comes so easy...they really struggle when something doesn't. Writing was the only thing hard for him and he didn't like it (the writing or the fact that it was hard for him.) It's still our challenge to teach our son to work through things he doesn't like to do and put forth his best effort.

The thing is...with our son...the only thing that helped was time and maturity. He's now an incredible writer. I would never have believed it could happen.

I guess what I'm saying is be patient...comfort him...encourage him...and wait for him to mature a bit.



answers from Dayton on

My son was at the end of his fourth grade year when he was diagnosed with dysgraphia. His is dyslexic dysgraphia, so his spelling is effected as well as his sentence structure, organization of his written thought, neatness, the way he actually makes the letters, spacing and so on. He as tested above average intelligence on two IQ tests and if you were to ask him to answer a question orally he can give you a well thought out articulate answer. If you were to ask him to write it down he gets frustrated and confused. He cannot make that same thought translate to the paper. When he does get an answer down it is horribly mispelled and very difficult to read. It is also disjointed with a lot of structure errors, fragments, runons and so forth. It is also important to know that for some dysgraphics, writing is actually and literally painful so that writing makes the hand sore very quickly.

The school referred him for testing, because a sign of a LD can and usually is, excelling in other areas while have distinct trouble in just one or two. If he is in gifted and talented it might be that they are having a more difficult time seeing the struggle and he is also probably pretty darn good at compensating. Talk to the school and if they don't bite, call your pediatrician, explain your concerns and ask for a referral to a developmental psychologist for testing. You shouldn't have trouble getting one. We had my son privately tested as well (which I really recommend every parent do regardless of school intervention) and they split the testing up over three sessions of about 1.5 hours a piece. It was a great thing to do because we got all of the testing scores and paperwork for our own records plus a more thorough explanation of what was going on.

Martha R., is right. It may take a while to get it in to see someone and it could be a little expensive, but it is so worth the time, money and effort when compared to your son feeling inadequate because he doesn't know why he can't do what others can. It will also help him get special intervention and compensation from the school if he DOES have a LD. In the meantime, get a program that teaches him to type. Let him practice during the summer and as he gets better, do some work with him. One thing you could do is read a book together, or several during the summer. Take turns reading a paragraph or page at a time and at the end of each one encourage him to tell you what that paragraph or page was about in three sentences or less. Let him type it out on the computer AND tell you. At the end of the chapter, let him read over what HE wrote and tell you what that chapter was about. It's called chunking, breaking down the work into manageable chunks so that he isn't overwhelmed. Then let him put the chunks together and see what he comes up with.

I hope this was helpful and good luck. Also, I wanted you to know that you are doing a really great thing looking into this instead of waiting for someone else to see what you do.



answers from Columbia on

I was thinking dyslexia until I got to the "meltdown" part of your post. I smiled...because I recognize your plight! Then, when you ended with "he has poor social skills" you pretty much sealed it for me: Your son may have Asperger's Syndrome.

My middle child is an Aspie (the common nickname for those who have Asperger's), so I recognize it well. I am a medical student and a case manager, which has allowed me to do a lot of research on this topic. He is highly intelligent (sometimes annoyingly so...he can be a bit of a know-it-all). He gets very frustrated when he struggles with something or feels offended and will occasionally have a meltdown due to this frustration. He has a hard time with some small motor functions. Handwriting is messy and never consistent, reading comprehension is a challenge (though he comprehends things that interest him and can talk about them in detail, and can read aloud beautifully). He loves science, animals, machines, electricity, math, and pretty much any subject he loves will mean the memorization of facts that he'll toss out (occasionally at inappropriate times). He's a bit of a "nerd" (not that I'd ever say that to him). We love him as he is. :o)

Asperger's is a high functioning form of autism. It isn't autism in the mainstream sense, the non-talking, non-functioning kind (many very famous and intelligent people are/were Aspies). Most Aspies are of above average intelligence. Asperger's is "on the autism spectrum," with non-functioning autism at one end, and high-functioning Aspies on the other. This means that some Aspies show just a few symptoms, sometimes just one or two, and some show many. Aspies are not disabled by any means.

I can speak with some authority on this, since I'm on the Aspie spectrum as well.

Asperger's is usually not diagnosed until after about 8 or 9 years old (contrary to what some websites say). Many, like myself don't know until they are adults (my childhood might have been so different if my mom had known!). While traditional autism can usually be diagnosed at about age 3, Asperger's is more difficult to recognize because it deals with how Aspies perceive the world and interact with others. Aspies think differently. They see and process the world differently. They can seem to be very self-centered. This usually causes some social problems.

Do some searches on "Asperger's Syndrome" and "High Functioning Autism." There are plenty of excellent books out there as well.

This information isn't meant to single your child out. I personally suggest that you avoid labelling your child as much as possible. My middle child has no idea that he is an Aspie, and I won't be telling him until he is much older. I don't put him in special classes, because he already has social problems. We work together at home. We are very careful about teaching him about social interaction and the things he needs to know so he can understand them in his own way (Aspies don't take "because I said so"...they need to know "why?" in order to fully process things).

It's important that you recognize that your child will need to learn some extra coping mechanisms, and that can be done without labelling them as "disabled." I suggest, if you feel that your child may be on the spectrum as an Aspie, that you read the book "Look Me in the Eye" by John Elder Robison. http://www.amazon.com/Look-Me-Eye-Life-Aspergers/dp/03073... It will truly help you understand how and why your Aspie child thinks as he does.

Finally (I swear, I'm wrapping it up!), please know that, if you recognize your child as possibly being "on the spectrum," this is not a hinderance. There is nothing "wrong" with your child that you cannot teach him to deal with (don't fix everything, teach him to cope...that's another post entirely!). Your child will still be a successful adult, there will just be a few roadblocks to overcome.

I'm currently a medical student, well on my way to becoming a doctor. I have an excellent GPA. My middle child gets A's and B's in school. There are still some areas we both struggle with, but by recognizing how we interact with the world we are able to cope and find pride in our successes.

If your child is an Aspie, or you find some other challenge to deal with, please know that the road to success depends upon teaching your child to cope. Teach him to adapt, overcome, and improvise.

I wish you the best of luck, and if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.




answers from Austin on

This may be a sign of dysgraphia or disorder of written expression. There is a great Yahoo discussion group for this, go to groups.yahoo.com and search for dysgraphia. The members there can give you great advice on what tests to ask the school for, what type of doctor can actually diagnose this, and how to get help.
My son is 8, and has Aspergers/ADHD. He gets a lot of help at school with writing, working one-on-one with the RTI teacher, an aide with him in class, occupational therapy for fine motor skills, and an after school social skills class. He is above grade level in reading and is amazing at science, but this year they decided to take him out of the gifted program because he was behind in math.



answers from New York on

have you tried to get a tutor or learning classes for him.. maybe someone can help him with these issues before he gets to much older. It seems that a lot of school is about writing .. the SATs and all these tests.. have big writing portions now.... so see if a learning class would help him with this area.. have you talked to the teachers.. maybe he can work one on one after school with them... are the teachers concerned.. good luck



answers from Columbus on

Yes! Call your nearest children's hospital and get an appointment with a developmental pediatrican. Since you list more than a fine motor issue, you really need a full assessment and a developmental pediatrician can diagnose dysgraphia and related issues. Writting is often the first sign that there is an issue, so this is a very common presentation.

This may take several months before he can get in, but hopefully he can be evaluated before school starts next year. The evaluation will include all the kinds of professionals that will be helpful, including OT, educational testing, social skills assessments, nueology, etc. It will all be rolled into one report for you, so you will know what is going on, and what to do about it.

Good luck,

Edit: I did not mention any school evaluations because you said that he makes good grades. It is unlikely that the school will agree to do any evaluation on a child who is making good grades and in the gifted program. That is not to say that you cannot make a case for him having difficulty, or that he might not qualify for some kind of service if you play your cards right. I would start by knowing everything you can yourself and getting a medical diagnosis that also includes a complete educational evaluation, which you can usually get through insurance with a Developmental Pedatrician. A diagnosis alone will not qualify a child for service, it must be a qualifying diagnosis and an educational need for services. Dysgraphia is a difficult one, schools often fight this as a qualifying LD, and OT as a related service to special education will not be available to him in school unless he qualifies for special education.

Once you have a diagnosis and an evaluation, you will have a plan for him and know what to do next. That my include requesting a school based evaluation. In my expereince, if there is not an obvious educational need, they will not agree to spend the money to assess. You will have to advocate well, and you need data and information to do that.

I would hesitate to say he has asperger syndrome based on so little information, but if you go to a developmental pediatrician, you will walk away knowing what it is, and what it isn't!



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi! I would think that learning or other issues would have presented themselves when he was assessed for giftedness....

I would take the gifted assessment with you for any additional assessment that is made.

When you say writing and the mental block, is it the physical writing, or even keyboarding? It could be a processing issue, too.

Good luck.



answers from Pittsburgh on

A couple suggestions:
1 - Handwriting Without Tears is exellent. You can attend the training, and it is worth every penny. I use it with my kids on the ipad, dry erase, etc. This is what OTs use, and some schools now as their writing curriculum.

2- Duquesne Reading Clinic is excellent and reasonably priced. Highly recommend. http://www.duq.edu/read/

3- As his reading improves so will his handwriting especially using HWT. I just improved about 12 of my sons letters tonight in about 20 minutes by going over categories of letters.

4 - Pittsburgh is working on getting a charter school for dyslexic children. They are on facebook. Also they workshops. There is not a fee. http://www.pbida.org/professionals_tutors.asp


answers from New York on

My son has dysgraphia. It is a language based learning disability. Learning to type and using a computer is the solution. My daughter has dyslexia, yet reads at a one grade level above her grade.

Under federal law, the school is required to administer educational testing to your son. You need to request in writing that you suspect a problem and feel that the problem is impacting his education. The laws fall under the No Child Left Behind Laws, IDEA. You can google Wright's Law for more information.

Google the National Learning Disability Association and you will find information about learning disabilities and interventions. Do not hesitate to click the contact link and call someone at the Association, they are there to provide free information and can help point you in the right direction and provide resources. They have been very helpful to me.

An Occupational Therapist can evaluate your son for dysgraphia. But, he should have a complete educational evaluation. The school can determine that your child has a learning disability but, they cannot give it a name because that would be considered a diagnosis. For example the school calls my son's disability, specific learning disability of written language. My daughter is classified by the school as specific learning disability. I had outside evaluations done by psycologist so that I could get official diagnosis for my kids. Sometimes, you need to this, but not in every case.

Sometimes you need an advocate to help deal with the school and understanding the testing and your rights. I have used advocates from our states chapter of Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities. They are great help.

Good Luck. If you need any resources or have any questions, feel free to e-mail me.

Ps: The school is required by Federal law to do the educational testing within 45 school days of receiving your written request.



answers from Charlotte on

S., he needs a language assessment to be done by a speech pathologist. A psycho-educational evaluation would also be helpful. Your insurance might cover these evals, or at least a portion.

Sometimes it helps to use pictures to tell a story. There are card stories you can buy at educational stores that you can get your son to put in order, and then get him to tell you a story. This helps teach organizational thinking, which might help him. The speech therapist will have a lot of good ideas for you once she has evaluated him.

Supposedly he has a GIEP (gifted individualized education plan), so if you find that he has a type of learning disability, accommodations can be added to the existing IEP.

I will say that some boys take a long time to learn to write, S.. Some schools and teachers allow the parents to "script" for them. I did that with one of my sons (the gifted one, by the way) up until he was in 7th grade. He would tell me the story, and I'd type while he talked. We'd read it together, and he'd talk some more. Then I'd let him sit down at the computer, and he'd change what he wanted to change. No meltdowns, and he got really interested in his stories.

I hope you can get some good advice and help from the professionals.

All my best,

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