Thursday, June 19, 2008

Show #90- Amy Ford Hebert- Write On Handwriting

The LD Podcast Is officially two years old!

We all know how important reading is; equally important is the next step along the literacy pathway- writing. Writing requires that we synthesize our thoughts, and then express them, coherently, in text. For kids with learning disabilities, this can present a unique challenge. Some children have fine motor issues that make the physical act of handwriting difficult, which then acts as a barrier to developing good written expression. And interestingly enough, the answer to these problems isn't always as simple as teaching kids keyboarding or how to use programs like Dragon Naturally Speaking (Although these skills can help struggling writers immensely).

Other children may be overwhelmed with keeping their ideas straight long enough to express them on paper- the open-ended question that asks “Write whatever you want” seems to siphon any idea right out of their head. And for others, problems with organization or impulsivity can keep them from expressing themselves in an orderly, coherent way.

Today's guest, Amy Ford Hebert, has developed a computer program to help coach kids through the formation parts of print and cursive letters, and then take that practice and transfer it to the page. Write On Handwriting is a multi-sensory approach to handwriting geared mostly towards the classroom, but we are trying it at home this summer, along with daily journaling, to help both of my children work on the mechanics of handwriting as well as fluency in producing written expression.

And shockingly enough, the Nation's Reportcard on Writing, published by the Department of Education reports that only 33% of the nation's 8th graders are writing at the profiecient or advanced level- only 2 % at the advanced level. This means two thirds of the students are writing at a level that makes the demands of the classroom a challenge for them, largely because they do not have the skills they need to meet the demands they face. We need to do something to change this.

Handwriting is just one of the many factors that influence a child's written expression and output. Unfortunately, if the written output is poor or illegible, kids often get labeled as careless, sloppy, messy, or "not putting enough effort into their work" which certainly does not encourage them to write more. What may be something as simple as a fine motor problem becomes a moral failing in the eyes of teachers, and then a battle of wills can easily follow, where no one wins and the child certainly loses.

Amy has inspired me to put more resources about writing, handwriting and the writing process on the website- you'll find a new page under the Specific LD Resources menu addressing writing. Next week, we'll finish our interview with Amy Hebert, and I'll give you an update on how our home writing program for the summer is going.

Click here to listen to Amy Ford Hebert, Write On Handwriting

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