Category Archives: Writing
A 2E Volcano–The Emotion of Writing
I called home to tell the girls I’d be late because I had haircut appointment after work. Lily was immediately not happy. When I made a joke about how much she must want to see me, she got mad and launched into some angry explanation about some sentences she had to write and she needed me to help her and now she was never going to get done!
When I suggested that she start without me, she got even more upset. I mentioned to her that these seem like the ‘volcano’ feelings that Dr. K talks about.
I hadn’t seen Lily this upset about writing in awhile. Up until this year, she would get angry and frustrated almost every time she had to write something. It was torture for everyone involved. She couldn’t even start writing a sentence by herself and often I scribed for her, helping prompt her along the way.
Now I know that part of this writing difficulty is caused by her Executive Function deficits in planning and task initiation, which seem to be fairly common in people with ADHD or Dyslexia.
Lily has trouble sequencing her thoughts and getting them down on paper. There’s a huge discrepancy between what goes in her brain and what comes out in written expression, which is, of course, frustrating for her. Although this article on written expression and Executive Function focuses on the bipolar child, there’s some great info in it for all students who struggle with writing.
This year, in 6th grade, Lily has really improved in this area and usually she is able to work on writing assignments by herself. When I got home tonight though, she kept trying to put off working on her writing.
Finally, when I asked a few more questions, she launched into another tirade about a test that she had to take at school and she had to write sentences for her answers and usually she doesn’t have to write the answers and she had to write sentences to support her answers and she got all the answers right but missed points because she didn’t know how/didn’t have time to write the support sentences.
I asked if her frustration with that writing earlier in the day had anything to do with her frustration with writing tonight and she said she thought that it did.
Next thing I know she’s in the office, in the dark, sitting focused at the computer, typing her science analysis answers in a wacky font. Probably took her 30 minutes total and then she was perfectly happy, at least until she realized she still had to write down her chapter notes for her Lit Circle.
Then came a mini-rant on how difficult it is to write notes while she’s reading. I reminded her that the teacher said it can just be a few notes she jots on a Post-It after she reads. So, after giving me a long, detailed verbal description of her chapter in The Golden Fleece, she scribbled down a few notes, which she then typed on the computer using a giant Greek font and titled with Jason’s name translated into its Greek spelling.
I think a lot of time, when faced with a writing assignment, she is just overwhelmed by a wave of emotion–frustration is what she’s used to–and then it usually it subsides quickly. Just have to keep working on making her aware and giving her the tools to use self-talk to quiet the volcano.
Students Who Struggle with Writing
So… writing. I know a lot of Twice Exceptional students struggle with writing, maybe, like Lily, for several different reasons.
Now in middle school, Lily says she doesn’t turn in a lot of her work on time because she doesn’t have enough time to finish writing it in class. She does well on her tests & quizzes because, most of the time, they require short responses. But her in-class work is a struggle, even when using her netbook. It’s better, definitely, but still hard.
This is actually the 2nd issue, besides organization, that I want to discuss at her IEP review mtg tomorrow… some sort of reduction of repetitive, written work.
Lily has complained to me before, saying that it’s dumb that she has to write out full sentences when she already knows the answer. She said, “ I can say the full sentences out loud if someone asks me, but it’s so hard to write them and I never have time to finish.”
Lily has always had a hard time with writing. We first noticed in 2nd grade, when we discovered that she had a desk stuffed full of unfinished worksheets. Her teachers reported that when Lily was faced with a blank sheet of paper, she would shut down or melt down.
Actually, I first thought something was up in 1st grade, when I made her hand write her classmates names on their Valentine’s cards. It. took. for. ever. And I remember getting frustrated that it was taking her so long. Oh, it kills me to think about it.
Even up through 5th grade, I scribed most of her homework assignments for her and she was unable to even start a writing assignment on her own. At the end of 5th, we got her up to speed on typing and she began using a laptop for most of her written work in class. That did make a big difference, but that was only one part of the problem.
Lily’s writing difficulties are caused by a few issues… Dyslexia, Sensory Processing difficulties, and ADHD/Executive Function issues.
DYSLEXIA-In her learning evaluation, Dr. Paula found that Lily had highly-compensated dyslexia. Lily was a late reader; didn’t really read until the end of 2nd grade, but by 5th she was reading a grade-level ahead. Dr. Paula felt that Lily was such a visual learner that she was using her visual memory to decode words and was using a ‘holistic sight method’ to spell. Her dyslexia was showing up in her difficulty with writing. This amazing article on Stealth Dyslexia, which describes both my daughters, was first written by Brock and Fernette Eide, back in 2005, but I feel that many educators still seem unaware that it exists. Dr. Paula did not think Dyslexia was Lily’s main issue with writing.
SPD/Sensory Processing-Lily’s sensory issues were also interfering with her ability to write. She has decreased fine motor skills and she is left-handed, which makes writing a laborious process and still makes her handwriting very difficult to read. Switching Lily to typing has made writing somewhat easier for her.
ADHD/Executive Function-This was and still is the big doozy. Lily’s executive function deficits interfere with her ability to plan and sequence her thoughts and then, get them down on paper. Visual organizers are supposed to help with that, but it did take some time for Lily to find one that was a good fit for her. She also performs much better if she is taught to plan her writing in a very structured and repetitive way… like a formula that just requires that she plug in her own words. In the beginning though, just one year ago, Lily’s EF was so bottlenecked that she even needed the steps to get ready to write spelled out for her… get a pencil out, get your writing notebook out, etc.
Lily has made great strides this year in 6th grade and is writing much more independently than I thought she would at this stage. I feel like she’s able to plan, initiate and sequence her writing so much better, but it just takes her longer than her classmates and that’s something I want to discuss at our IEP meeting.
Just one final thought on twice exceptional students and writing for now. I know several families and their 2E children who struggle with writing and we all have the same question… Where are all the research-based intervention programs for writing? If dyslexic students often have difficulties with writing too, why is it so hard to find them help?
Fostering a souffle in your home.
Our local GT association and the school district’s ‘Department of Diverse Learners’ are sponsoring a GT seminar tomorrow night. The topic is ‘Fostering Autonomous Learners in Your Home.’ I won’t be attending. I’ll be too busy fostering autonomous learners in my home. Seriously, the kind of GT/twice exceptional learners I have, I don’t have time to attend seminars. I’m too busy helping them with their homework every night.
I’m not saying this seminar is an example of this, but I usually feel like most seminars, classes, workshops, etc don’t offer me much useful, day to day, in the trenches information. They all seem to be about 2E theory. I need practical, concrete steps on how to help my twice exceptional kids with daily living skills and school work.
Here’s a story that Lily and wrote together… the first chapter of her “Me” book at school.
I love cooking. I spend long hours in the kitchen making up my own recipes. Most of them are pretty good. I love mixing flavors to make something new. If there was one recipe that probably best describes me it would be a soufflé.
A soufflé is a light and fluffy baked cake that can be made savory or sweet. It’s a complicated dish that is difficult for even a French chef to master. Like me, a soufflé is not a simple recipe to create.
A soufflé is sophisticated and delicate. It’s hard to keep puffy outside the oven because even just a loud noise can deflate a soufflé. Sometimes I feel like I’m the same way. I can be sensitive to my surroundings, and I can be easily spazzed out by loud noises. But, if all the conditions are right, I can rise high.
A soufflé is a unique dish, devoured by young and old. I’m not saying that I’m devoured by young and old, but I do think that I’m definitely out-of-the ordinary. My ideas are marvelously strange.
Even though making a soufflé can be a bit of trouble, the delicious results are well-worth it. Eating a soufflé is quite an experience. It’s a fun dessert that can make people happy, JUST LIKE ME!
Trouble in Zoolander Land
While Lily has been having such great success at middle school, her little sister has been having a hard time at the start of school. I’m afraid that Zoolander’s learning difficulties I’ve been waiting for have finally arrived.
Lily’s hit about 2nd grade, but for a lot of twice exceptional kids it’s 3rd grade, when the work in school gets a little more demanding. I suspected last year in 2nd grade that something was up with Zoolander. She’s never enjoyed school and she does fine, but she doesn’t respond like a gifted kid in the 99th percentile might respond. Her verbal output far exceeds any of her written output.
She could barely read at the start of 2nd grade, but I didn’t worry because Lily was a late reader too and now she reads at least a grade level ahead. Zoolander was having the most trouble with writing and math.
She was well behind in her math facts. The other kids has stacks of ice cream scoops on their Addition Cones. Zoolander had two. She had/has an especially hard time with time and money, especially money. No matter how many times she practiced and it seemed like she was getting it, if we’d take a 10 minute break and come back to it, she’d have a look on her face like she’d never seen a quarter before in her life. She was that way learning her numbers in preschool. We would work on them, work on them, work on them and we would think she was getting it and then 2 minutes later she wouldn’t recognize a thing.
Zoolander’s handwriting is rough and inconsistent but actually somewhat better than her older sister’s so I didn’t worry about that. What made me start to wonder was some of her writing and spelling assignments she brought home. She was spelling words in crazy ways and reversing letters. By the end of second grade she had become a pretty good reader and was reading above grade level. She did prefer graphic novels and pretty much only read non-fiction books about the human body, but that seemed fine. It was her spelling that didn’t seem right.
In 5th grade, Lily had had a learning evaluation done by a woman I’ll call Dr. P. Dr. P discovered that Lily had slight dyslexia but that she was such a visual learner that she was able to compensate for it and had no trouble reading. But it was showing up somewhat in Lily’s writing. She had trouble with encoding… or taking a word that she heard and figuring out how it might be spelled. This seemed to be what I was seeing with Zoolander.
I had mentioned these concerns to Zoolander’s teacher throughout 2nd grade, but she assured me that it was just typical gifted kid asynchronous development. But after my experiences advocating for Lily, I was ready to rumble. I insisted that something was up and I didn’t care who thought I was crazy. The teacher finally agreed that I might be right and we began an RTI for Zoolander.
So, back to this week, 3rd grade and the first day of school Zoolander has homework. She tries to avoid it and says she doesn’t know what to do. I explained that all she had to do was copy her 20 spelling words from a vertical list to a horizontal list with 4 columns. I came back to check on her and found her crying. I was impatient. It’s just copying spelling words. I sat with her and suddenly realized that she was really struggling. She was writing words on the wrong lines and leaving some words out. I asked her what was wrong and she said, “There are just so many ways to go wrong.”
She finally had the great idea to get a blank piece of paper and use it to try to block out the other words and keep track of her place in the list. That helped, but as I watched her copy the words, I noticed that even though she was looking at the words and silently spelling them as she wrote, what she actually wrote was misspelled. She spelled strawberry, s-t-r-a-b-a-r-y. I was stunned to realize that her difficulty might be more severe than I thought. I decided then that I need to make another appointment for a learning evaluation. I’ve got another 2E on my hands.