A child with special needs may have difficulty writing for a number of reasons. She may have trouble putting her thoughts in words or elaborating on one basic idea. Focusing on what to say often results in her forgetting capitalization and end punctuation. Because spelling does not come easily, the entire task may seem like torture.
Writing a Sentence
Start with small steps to help your child with sentence writing. In fact, first encourage her to write single words. Go on to short phrases, then tackle sentences.
CHECKLIST FOR A GREAT SENTENCE
Start with a capital.
Use a capital for names of people, places, and things.
Write a complete idea.
End with a punctuation mark.
Have your child make a book based on a fun experience, such as going to the zoo. Have her illustrate four or five things she saw or did, then have her write a sentence for each one.
Writing a Paragraph
Children are ready to write paragraphs only after they become proficient with sentences. Have your child use a graph like the one below to help her organize her thoughts before she begins a paragraph.
Have your child use the sentence checklist with the paragraph checklist below. In a sense, writing a paragraph is similar to working a math word problem. Follow the steps and check your work to get a good product.
CHECKLIST FOR A GREAT PARAGRAPH
Write a sentence to tell what the paragraph is about.
Write three more sentences. Each sentence should tell a detail.
Write a sentence to tell what the whole paragraph is about.
Check each sentence for capitals and end punctuation, and make sure it's a complete thought. Use the sentence checklist above.
Writing a paragraph will call for more supervision and more encouragement than completing a homework worksheet. Redirect your child to the checklists, give lots of positive feedback, but try to resist leading her through the work. It is important that she develop her own writing skills without depending on continual monitoring.
Writing an Essay
It can be a long road from writing a few letters of the alphabet to some kind of essay composition. Most children with special needs can reach this goal if they use the necessary tools. Remember that writing skills are acquired gradually over time.
THE ORDER OF WRITING SKILLS
Single letters of the alphabet
Have your child plan the paragraphs for an essay using a more elaborate graphic organizer than for a paragraph.
Beginning essays usually include an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. Using the paragraph-writing graph, have your child describe an animal.
Have her write three body paragraphs, including: three things the animal eats; three details about its appearance; and three details about how it acts. Creating a paragraph for each of the sets of smaller details is a great way to write the body of the essay.