View Full Version : Is this a learning disability?

09-14-2011, 07:31 PM
I've not posted in this section of the fiar boards before but I have some concerns that someone here may be able to shed some light on.
I think my 11 yo son has some type of LD but what??
He has read most of the books listed for Ambleside Online 7&8. He loves history and science and is rather advanced for his age. In math he is a solid 6th grade level. He has beautiful cursive handwriting. He loves to build things following directions from the American Boys Handy Books -made a working rod and reel, fishing boat floats-he has won sewing contests and art contests. Here is the problem. He is working in a 4th grade spelling book and does well on the tests missing only one or two words. BUT he can not spell anything in his writing ( letters, stories, poems) and he is embarassed and wants to spell. When he writes the words for his spelling tests he repeats the word over and over while looking up and trying to see and spell the word. He will erase and rewrite until the word looks right -at least I think that is what he is doing. In his writing he makes mistakes after mistake. He learned to read using a phonics program -the only child of mine that used a phonics program and he is the only one with a spelling problem. He is ashamed that he can't just sit down and write a letter to a friend without having me correct everything. What is going on? Why can't he spell? Next year he will begin jr high and this is starting to hold him back. He writes beautiful narrations and just about every word is wrong. Please advise. Thank you, Ging

Rachel Jane
09-14-2011, 07:46 PM
I don't know if it is a learning disability or not, but both of my sons got great grades on tests but continued to spell poorly on the spot, until they each turned 12. Anecdotal, but true. Your son may just still need to grow into it.

09-14-2011, 09:47 PM
I don't know if it is a true learning disability, but if it is making it hard for him to do daily writing, then I would find some help. If he is doing well on selling tests, then I would possibly try a word prediction software to help him.

WordQ is a good one that my dyslexic and dysgraphic ds uses.

If you have an iPad, the TypoHD app is really good.

Here is an excerpt from a website about assistive technology. HTH.

Word Prediction
Word prediction can be a feature of a word processing program or a separate product. In either case, it helps you write using a word processor by providing a list of words that fit into the sentence.

After the first letter of the word has been typed, e.g., "The scientists n_," the program offers a list of words:
1. need 2. needed 3. know 4. never

If the word you're looking for isn't on the list, you continue to type the letters until, hopefully, it appears. After you choose a word, the computer predicts the next word in the sentence. Again, it offers a list of possible words, sometimes before the first letter is typed.

Predictions can be based on the sentence content and spelling, as well as the number of times a word is used. Word prediction may be helpful to who have problems with keyboarding, spelling, or grammar.

Word Prediction software is used to assist with text entry. These software programs "predict" and complete the word you are typing and the next word is based on word frequency and context. They may also include features such as spell checking as you type, multiple word prediction, text to speech, grammatical rules; phonetic spelling and hotkeys for frequently used words. Text to speech can provide auditory feedback to assist in word choices and selection.

Word prediction can be particularly useful for slow typists, probe or pen users, dyslexics and helps enable students to express their thoughts in writing with less frustration. Individuals can work at their developmental spelling level, write with content-specific words, and build good first sentences with correct conventions and gain writing confidence.

Word prediction programs reduce the time, effort and frustration for individuals with spelling difficulties to produce written work by providing an on-screen list of possible words to use in a piece of writing. The student types a letter or two and the program provides a list of words beginning with that letter(s). If one of the choices is a word the student wishes to use, he/she selects it. If not, the student enters another letter that produces a new set of choices.


Aurora for Windows (CDN) www.aurora-systems.com/ Demo downloads available
Co: Writer 4000 (PC/Mac) Don Johnston www.donjohnston.com/
Telepathic 2000 www.madentec.com Demo downloads available
Type and Talk 4, Read & Write 4, and WordSmith (PC/Mac) www.texthelp.com/
WordQ www.wordq.com/ Demo downloads available
Abbreviation Expansion software can be used to create abbreviated forms for frequently used words or phrases for slower workers and poor spellers. For example, if a student consistently misspells "individuals" he/she could type "ind" and space bar in its place and the word "individuals" will automatically appear on the screen. This feature is often included in word prediction programs.

Other Resources

If Word Prediction Can Help, Which Program Do You Choose? http://trace.wisc.edu/docs/wordprediction2001/index.htm
Word Prediction Resources (NCIP)

Laura F
09-15-2011, 08:05 AM
You mentioned that he's embarassed. Perhaps testing would make both of you feel better. :group:

09-15-2011, 09:54 PM
Esther -thank you, I've never heard of that type of software.

I do think he needs testing. Spelling is the area in which he is "behind" but there is something not quite right. There is something just a little different.
How would I even find out about testing? Where would I start?

09-15-2011, 10:25 PM
To me it sound like maybe a processing issue of some sort or perhaps a form of dysgraphia. The following is from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers, and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:

Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees
Language processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears
As with all learning disabilities (LD), dysgraphia is a lifelong challenge, although how it manifests may change over time. A student with this disorder can benefit from specific accommodations in the learning environment. Extra practice learning the skills required to be an accomplished writer can also help.

What are the Warning Signs of Dysgraphia?

Just having bad handwriting doesn't mean a person has dysgraphia. Since dysgraphia is a processing disorder, difficulties can change throughout a lifetime. However since writing is a developmental process — children learn the motor skills needed to write, while learning the thinking skills needed to communicate on paper — difficulties can also overlap.

In Early Writers
Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
Avoiding writing or drawing tasks
Trouble forming letter shapes
Inconsistent spacing between letters or words
Poor understanding of uppercase and lowercase letters
Inability to write or draw in a line or within margins
Tiring quickly while writing

In Young Students
Illegible handwriting
Mixture of cursive and print writing
Saying words out loud while writing
Concentrating so hard on writing that comprehension of what's written is missed
Trouble thinking of words to write
Omitting or not finishing words in sentences

In Teenagers and Adults
Trouble organizing thoughts on paper
Trouble keeping track of thoughts already written down
Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar
Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech
What Strategies Can Help?
There are many ways to help a person with dysgraphia achieve success. Generally strategies fall into three main categories:

Accommodations: providing alternatives to written expression
Modifications: changing expectations or tasks to minimize or avoid the area of weakness
Remediation: providing instruction for improving handwriting and writing skills

Each type of strategy should be considered when planning instruction and support. A person with dysgraphia will benefit from help from both specialists and those who are closest to the person. Finding the most beneficial type of support is a process of trying different ideas and openly exchanging thoughts on what works best.*

Although teachers and employers are required by law to make "reasonable accommodations" for individuals with learning disabilities, they may not be aware of how to help. Speak to them about dysgraphia and explain the challenges faced as a result of this learning disability.
Here are examples of how to teach individuals with dysgraphia to overcome some of their difficulties with written expression.
Early Writers
Be patient and positive, encourage practice, and praise effort. Becoming a good writer takes time and practice.

Use paper with raised lines for a sensory guide to staying within the lines.
Try different pens and pencils to find one that's most comfortable.
Practice writing letters and numbers in the air with big arm movements to improve motor memory of these important shapes. Also practice letters and numbers with smaller hand or finger motions.
Encourage proper grip, posture and paper positioning for writing. It's important to reinforce this early as it's difficult for students to unlearn bad habits later on.
Use multi-sensory techniques for learning letters, shapes and numbers. For example, speaking through motor sequences, such as "b" is "big stick down, circle away from my body."
Introduce a word processor on a computer early; however do not eliminate handwriting for the child. While typing can make it easier to write by alleviating the frustration of forming letters, handwriting is a vital part of a person's ability to function in the world.
Young Students
Encourage practice through low-stress opportunities for writing. This might include writing letters or in a diary, making household lists, or keeping track of sports teams.
Allow use of print or cursive - whichever is more comfortable.
Use large graph paper for math calculation to keep columns and rows organized.
Allow extra time for writing assignments.
Begin writing assignments creatively with drawing, or speaking ideas into a tape recorder
Alternate focus of writing assignments - put the emphasis on some for neatness and spelling, others for grammar or organization of ideas.
Explicitly teach different types of writing - expository and personal essays, short stories, poems, etc.
Do not judge timed assignments on neatness and spelling.
Have students proofread work after a delay - it's easier to see mistakes after a break.
Help students create a checklist for editing work - spelling, neatness, grammar, syntax, clear progression of ideas, etc.
Encourage use of a spell checker - speaking spell checkers are available for handwritten work
Reduce amount of copying; instead, focus on writing original answers and ideas
Have student complete tasks in small steps instead of all at once.
Find alternative means of assessing knowledge, such as oral reports or visual projects
Teenagers & Adults
Many of these tips can be used by all age groups. It is never too early or too late to reinforce the skills needed to be a good writer.
Provide tape recorders to supplement note taking and to prepare for writing assignments.
Create a step-by-step plan that breaks writing assignments into small tasks (see below).
When organizing writing projects, create a list of keywords that will be useful.
Provide clear, constructive feedback on the quality of work, explaining both the strengths and weaknesses of the project, commenting on the structure as well as the information that is included.
Use assistive technology such as voice-activated software if the
mechanical aspects of writing remain a major hurdle.

How to Approach Writing Assignments
Plan your paper (Pull together your ideas and consider how you want them in your writing.)
Organize your thoughts and ideas
Create an outline or graphic organizer to be sure you've included all your ideas.
Make a list of key thoughts and words you will want to use in your paper.
1. Write a Draft
This first draft should focus on getting your ideas on paper - don't worry about making spelling or grammar errors. Using a computer is helpful because it will be easier to edit later on.
2. Edit Your Work
Check your work for proper spelling, grammar and syntax; use a spell checker if necessary.
Edit your paper to elaborate and enhance content - a thesaurus is helpful for finding different ways to make your point.
3. Revise Your Work, Producing a Final Draft
Rewrite your work into a final draft.
Be sure to read it one last time before submitting it.

09-15-2011, 10:35 PM
The above post is one you will need time to read. I also wanted to tell you about others technology that could help your ds spell as he writes. Handheld spellers are helpful IF the student is able to have an idea of how to spell the word. For instance, if he spells the word, enough, but spells it "enuf" OR "elafunt" for elephant, then a handheld speller is probably not going to help much.

A handheld electronic speller is for the student with milder issues in spelling, like not knowing the I before e trick or how to spell words with three or more syllables.

My recommendation for all students with spelling issues, is to work on spelling, but to also use assistive technology for other subjects, until spelling gets to the correct level. For instance, in junior high, my ds needs to write essays. His thoughts are good, his vocabulary is good, but his spelling and writing make him dumb down the words to ones he can spell easily.

My ds is in his second year of typing lessons and doing well. He is also using WordQ for all writing and is doing so much better now. He and I both find writing assignments so much easier now.

As far as testing, I sought assistance through our local school. We ended up with free dyslexic testing through Scottish Rite foundation, but dysgraphic testing was done via a private school nearby. Testing will be general to find any and all weaknesses. There is IQ, phonemic awareness, auditory, and many other areas tested. Then a diagnosis can be made.Where you start depends mostly on your state.


Laura F
09-16-2011, 02:45 PM
When we had our dd tested for attention problems, we asked our pediatrician for the name of an educational psychologist. Apparently we could have gone through the local school system, but it was fairly quick to make the appointments ourselves and use our insurance.

Kelly K
09-16-2011, 03:08 PM
It might also be a vision focus thing. We just got a dx that my middle dd had vision focus issues. It manifested itself by her wanting to read large print books. And she is a terrible speller. Took her to a pedi vision doctor who dx'd her.

As a side note, she has 20/20 vision, just focuses incorrectly. I'd had her eyes checked by a reg eye dr. and he found no trouble at all!

09-19-2011, 10:10 AM
Esther, thank you. This is the information I need. I'm printing it off and going through it slowly because I see a lot of this in dc.
Thank you all for your help. I needed some information to get started on getting help. Ging

Amy Joy
11-19-2011, 10:22 PM
Mt dd, also 11, is the same way. She always has been. I wouldn't even put her at a grade 4 spelling level. We are using avko sequential spelling and it has helped a lot. For her reports, ect we allow her to type it on the computer and use spell check. She is also embarrassed b/c I have to proof read her letters to friends. We had her tested by a n educational psychologist and she is 'on the line' for dysgraphia and a few other things. She has also has a long processing time which complicates writing too. The spelling program is very different than any other I've seen. I use it with all 3 of my kids that can write.

11-20-2011, 06:25 PM
This whole post is soooo helpful ~ thank you 1. Ging, for asking the question, and 2. those with helpful information. It is so timely for us!!! :hcry: