Writing and reading are related processes. Engaging in one enhances the development of the other (Langer & Flihan, 2000). Consider the following suggestions for writing instruction. Stages of Writing. Make Writing Accessible. Write Every Day.
Why should we teach writing skills to students with intellectual disabilities?
At times, we may be tempted to answer the above question by pointing out that writing is required as part of the Virginia Alternate Assessment Program. However, as dedicated teachers, we should be aware of the many benefits that writing instruction can afford our students. Writing and reading are related processes. Engaging in one enhances the development of the other (Langer & Flihan, 2000). As Erickson and Koppenhaver (2007) point out, writing can help children with disabilities to read, speak, and problem solve.
Consider the following suggestions for writing instruction. Each will encourage students to write. None of these tips require students to use a pencil, use immaculate grammar, or perfectly spell.
Stages of Writing: Students do not instantly pick up a pencil one day and begin writing words. It is important for teachers to be aware of the Stages of Writing through which all writers progress. This means that if your student is scribbling, not only is it ok, it is actually an early stage of the writing process. It is the job of the teacher to help each student progress to the next stage.
Make Writing Accessible: Work with your students’ Occupational Therapist to learn about the many physical adaptations that can be made to writing utensils, paper, and desks. Your Assistive Technology Specialist can assist with adapted keyboards. If your students communicate with eye gaze, consider using Alternative Pencils.
*It is important that modifications are appropriately and regularly modeled for students. If a student writes using Alternative Pencil eye
gaze, then an adult should regularly do the same. (See a demonstration of the Alternative Pencil at the upcoming workshop, TEACHING THE WRITE WAY.)
Write Every Day: Allow students to keep a journal. Give students time each day to write about whatever they choose. Encourage students to share their writing with others. Most importantly, do not make corrections (spelling, grammar, etc.) on these writing samples. The purpose is for students to practice composing their thoughts. Teachers can model writing the student’s thoughts in the early stage. Some students may also require assistance with selecting a topic.
Erickson, K.A., & Koppenhaver, D.A. (2007). Children with disabilities: Reading and writing the four-blocks way. Greensboro, NC:
Langer, J.A., & Filhan, S. (2000). Writing and reading relationships: Constructive tasks. In R. Indrisano & J.R. Squire (Eds.), Perspective on writing: Research, theory, and practice (pp. 112-139). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.