Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

December 17, 2014

Why is writing so hard for my child?

Writing difficulties are often seen in children in the upper elementary grades, as well as in middle school and high school.  Many of these children present with or have a history of language delays, language processing difficulties, or even diagnosed learning disabilities. 

As children matriculate into middle and high school, academic writing demands increase dramatically. Putting thoughts onto paper may be tough enough to begin with, but organizing those thoughts into cohesive, grammatically-correct essays that contain appropriate academic-style syntax can truly throw these children for a loop! Understandably, decreased confidence and motivation for writing assignments go hand-in-hand with writing difficulties.


A few interesting facts:

-Because it is such a complex activity, cognitively speaking, writing is often the last hurdle in treating (and overcoming) a language delay or learning disability.

-The majority of U.S. schoolchildren have writing skills that are judged to be below grade level.

-Essays written by children with writing difficulties are often too short, due to limited details, and too simplistic. Spelling and grammar errors are typically found throughout.  
-Children with writing difficulties often free-write instead of following a structured prompt.

-Children who present with writing difficulties often speak at an age-appropriate level; that is, their grammar and syntax during speaking tasks may be appropriate or even advanced.


In order to write at grade level, a child must employ receptive-expressive language skills, working memory, and other organizational and language processing skills simultaneously.  If any of these cognitive functions are out of sync, writing success becomes very difficult to achieve.  

A speech therapist may recommend speech-language therapy in order to address language and processing skills.  A psychological-educational evaluation may also be recommended in order to get a broader look at the child‚Äôs learning style.  In addition, educators can directly treat a learning disability that causes writing difficulties.