Online advice.

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Example question and answer

Q. My son is aged 6. He is reading everything enthusiastically to himself but I think achieving very little written work at school.

Sometimes he refuses to to write at school and he won't write at home. He is unable to form his letters or numerals correctly and often reverses them. At parents evenings we have always been advised that he is progressing well and it is only very recently we have been told that he refuses to write.

He seeks knowledge constantly at home and is always absorbed in highly technical books on space/natural world etc and he challenges and questions everything. We think in general he is quite bright.

He is at a good state school but they have few children with special needs. Should I be requesting help or what should I do?

A. I would try to get your son assessed by a Paediatric Occupational Therapist who will be able to look at the reasons why he is finding writing such a struggle. You can ask the school to refer him to the OT service or you can go to your GP and ask him/her to refer you. Emphasise the fact that his writing abilities seem out of line with his other abilities and that he is getting so upset about it that he is refusing to write. This is therefore affecting all his academic progress.

You don't mention whether he is left or right handed - letter reversal is much more common in left-handers.

It may be that he has problems with the motor control required for writing. These web pages

give some ideas of activities you can do with him at home to help improve motor control.

As he is not keen on actual writing I'd get him to practise writing and drawing activities as "subversively" as possible.

Some examples:

  • bath crayons - let him write and draw on himself and bath tiles,
  • finger paints (messy!) - get him to write with the first finger of his dominant hand but also let him play about with the paint,
  • using dry wipe pens to write on formica/melamine type surfaces (eg kitchen cabinet doors or work surfaces if not too precious! It comes off with kitchen cleaner!) - maybe you could get him to practise correct letter formation this way,
  • spaghetti and pasta pictures (boil till soft then allow to cool - starch in pasta will stick them to paper. You can add food colouring to the boiling water to change the colour of the pasta.),
  • chalking - especially on vertical surfaces - you can tape sugar paper to a door with masking tape for an easy way to do this - great for strengthening wrist and getting better angle for writing.