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bright year one boy refusing to write - should i ask for help?

(31 Posts)
morechocolate Thu 23-Jun-11 21:49:22

My son is aged 6 and at the end of year one. He is reading everything enthusiastically to himself but I think achieving very little work at school.

He is refusing to write at school according to his teacher although presumably he does write sometimes although he doesnt at home. He is unable to form his letters or numerals correctly ie all numerals other than 1 and 8 are reversed except 4 which is written as a t which I believe may result in his maths answers being wrong. Letters are reversed and or incorrectly formed and from what I have seen his spelling tests were being marked as incorrect for this.

At parents evenings we have always been advised that he is progressing well and we had never queried that and it is only very recently we have been told that he refuses to write. The teacher has also advised me this week that he does not respond to praise or consequences which makes me rather concerned as to how she has managed him all year. It is very late in the school year to mention this for the first time, although I do agree with her.

He seeks knowledge constantly at home and is always absorbed in highly technical books on space/natural world etc and he challenges and questions everything but says he doesnt want to go to school because he is made to work and write which is boring. He will go to school although sometimes reluctantly but seems to have been happy when he comes out.

His IQ has recently been tested by an NHS consultant Psychologist and found to be exceptionally high to quote them. Verbal IQ 99th centile. I am unaware if anything special has been put in place at school to help him achieve slightly closer to his potential. We have not been advised of any specific help. As far as I know he is not on the bottom table which consists of just 4 children but think he is on the one just above this in a class of 30.

He is at a state school deemed by ofsted to be great ie above average SATS, virtually no SEN or free school dinners or English as a 2nd language. He is my eldest and I naively thought it would be ideal for him.

Should I be requesting help or what should I do?

houseofboys Thu 23-Jun-11 22:11:05

My oldest DS sounds very similar - he wrote almost nothing legible all year one, and only the odd word or two then, but his school weren't worried about it, until he went into yr 2 and it was a big problem with Sats coming up. His reading was great - he was on lime books by end of yr one I think so was a big mismatch between the two. Year 2 felt such a nightmare to us all we eventually took him to a friend who teaches SEN who said he has mild dyspraxia. Two years on, after lots of encouragement, practice and exercises for fine motor skills, he spends his spare time writing stories. He doesn't particularly enjoy writing at school - more what they get him to do subject wise I think - but at least can and will do it, and his writing is getting closer to reflecting his real ability. So dypraxia (which I knew nothing about before) may be an issue. More boys have it than girls. Does he have any other symptoms, co-ordination, clumsiness etc? He is still young, remember and plenty of time to work on his writing, but I remember the worry...

blackeyedsusan Thu 23-Jun-11 23:02:36

<nosy emotion> how come you got him assessed by nhs psychologist?

what is he like physically? (walking, running, drawing, balance, etc)

ask what they have been doing all year to support his writing and what you can do at home.

ask if they can refer him for assessment, possibly occupational therapy if he haas difficulty with writing. (this is the only thing I know about others may have alternative suggestions)

you could try going through your gp too if school are not helpful. (not all schools are and they have few sen so may not be picking stuff up)

Malaleuca Fri 24-Jun-11 00:33:56

I've seen several children like this, very clever with excellent memories so they can easily memorise or use part word assembly for reading, but pretty useless strategy for spelling which underpins writing.
Is your son just as good at reading multisyllable words accurately by the way?
After getting to grips with spelling, then is the time to address writing/grammar. He needs explicit spelling instruction with a good systematic programme like Apples and Pears. from Promethean trust.

howabout Fri 24-Jun-11 05:58:18

I am shocked it has taken the school this long to raise this with you. I think you should ask for help since I don't think it will sort itself out. I think if a child disengages from school early on it is difficult to get them back.
I wonder if it is partly a confidence issue for him. Writing takes time and practise of motor skills and since reading comes so easily your DS is probably shocked he has to put in any effort - how is he at expressing his ideas verbally? You don't mention how he is doing at maths - I just wondered if this also comes easily?

IndigoBell Fri 24-Jun-11 07:40:55

The reason the school has not many kids on the SEN register - is because they are not identifying the kids who need extra help sad

I would be very concerned by the schools attitude at this point......

catrachmattben Fri 24-Jun-11 08:39:01

Hi my son who is also 6years old refuses to write at school also avoids drawing. He has been reading since 3years old and was fluent when entering school.He loves maths and is way above his year group.He is very enquiring and loves working on the computer at educational games.He loves topic work and all subjects at school. He doesnt have fine motor difficulties that I can see.He doesn't like writting and will only write the minimum. He is good at spelling but thinks he isn't.
I do worry about him, but if it is any help I have four children the eldest 21yrs is studying medicine at university, but at his age was just the same I just hope he developes as she did and by 8 was writing more and closer to her reading ability. I have two other children one who is slightly dyslexic and of average ability and a 17 year old with severe learning difficulities due to a illness in early childhood. So dont worry I feel if he is bright he will get three.
The advise I would give is to try and work with school to get help with his writing and try fun ways to get him doing it at home. At moment dd loves kids crosswords will write little messages on notelets to people in the house but want write stories of more than a few lines so we are writing stories one sentence at a time each. School say he can tell stories fabulously orally but want put it on paper. I feel they think he is lazy but I just feel he doesn't enjoy writing.

morechocolate Fri 24-Jun-11 09:46:52

thanks for these replies in answer to your questions

house of boys – he is not clumsy at all as is very active and climbs etc and has never had injury. Coordination is good for cycling for example but not for ball games.

blackeyedsusan – good question I would have asked the same. He was referred by paediatrician for assessment for an unconnected problem which turned out to be a medical condition. The IQ was not done due to any concerns by school at his lack of progress but it has obviously now increased my concern. Great balance on scooter etc but never seen him draw

malaleuca – I have always thought he reads using his photographic memory and am not aware of him ever having sounded out words. He only reads school books to us and they are very easy so there would never be a word he doesnt know. I know he had photographic memory as at 18 months he knew all letters of the alphabet and had memorized most of his books.

howabout – agree it could be confidence as I think whilst he is not one of the 4 on the bottom table from the work displayed on the classroom walls his writing looks worse than all of theirs. Also he says everyone laughs at him for being the slowest to finish and some of his class mates have told me that he is the slowest although not said that they laugh. Also his undiagnosed medical condition would most likely have affected his confidence as would his lack of football ability and less friends etc. No idea how he is doing at maths, we were told he was good at parents evening but now I am not sure about anything we have been told, he doesnt do any maths at home and cant write his numerals so I would think he is struggling. His verbal expression is fantastic, years above his age and was the highest score on the IQ test and even school have always noticed and commented on this, as has everyone (speaking in sentences at 18 months) but not always at a level with his peers ie his current fascination with space so much better with older children or adults. This was always attributed to my parenting which is insane as my other two didnt speak at 18 months and I cant even name the planets and rarely know anything about the subjects he is discussing. What help should I ask for?

IndigoBell – totally agree they are not used to SEN and what should I do?

catrachmattben – Yes I do agree with you as my brother was very similar and went on and got PHD and had far more interest in his subject than I ever did despite my being the one who excelled at age 6 at school. I also know that writing will become less important and keyboard more but I am concerned about his confidence and behaviour in the meantime. I am aware he shows dyslexic traits and it is strongly in the family ie was unsure which hand to use, disorganized, reversing numerals and letters etc. Cant imagine school would accept this as they have only reluctantly accepted it for children 3 years behind average in reading. Yes think school would prefer to blame it on laziness.

munstersmum Fri 24-Jun-11 10:06:01

Not my area of expertise but found favour with logical non-writer DS - you can buy a pad of kids Su Doku from Asda for £1. They start with smaller much simpler grids. Lots of writing numbers but DS didn't see it in the same way as school work.

CecilyP Fri 24-Jun-11 10:26:31

In one way, I would advise you not to worry too much. My son was a good reader but hardly wrote anything until he reached P3. As he attended quite a low achieving school, it was probably less of a problem in terms of what other children thought. And, although his spelling was good, it was obvious he didn't really know what to say, so one or two sentences was it. He gradually did write more as they years went by!

I feel that letter and number formation is something your ds needs to concentrate on before worrying about spelling or composition. It seems a shame to get his maths answers wrong if he can't read his figures.

Is there anything that your ds does enjoy that would encourage him put pencil to paper. My son enjoyed doing dot-to-dots. Books of puzzles, including munstermum's suggestion of kid's Sudoku's, would seem to be a good idea.

Malaleuca Fri 24-Jun-11 11:31:51

Doing nothing is a risky option.
Apples and Pears has pages of tracing so that children also learn to form letters correctly. It sounds as if there should be daily practice of numbers also. Y1 is a critical year for learning this type of thing. Tracing and copying are very effective ways of learning to form letters correctly, and it sounds like the boy has no fluency at all in this regard.
He does sound to be quite atypical. It could be that school can provide for his needs but if there is little evidence of any kind of SEN provision, I would be looking to do the job myself or find someone else who can before the boy becomes even more disenchanted.

howabout Fri 24-Jun-11 12:38:24

I think munstersmum, CecilyP and Malaleuca's suggestions are all great and are things I did with my reluctant writer DD. I would approach the teacher by way of a follow up to parents' evening with some of these suggestions and see if they will work with you in this regard.

morechocolate Fri 24-Jun-11 21:39:24

Thanks for these suggestions. Have not tried suduko so will certainly try that as he likes new things. We have books of most other types of puzzles, games, dot to dot, comics etc but he rarely wants to try them.

I know he needs to practice/copy/trace letter and numeral formation daily in order to improve but am not sure how that will work as his teacher cant even get him to write about things he finds interesting.

We (parents and grandparents etc) have never found a reward that motivates him or a consequence that has had any effect and his teacher is now reporting the same. My other children have always responded to rewards and consequences as would be expected. It is not that he doesnt have anything to say as he can dictate pages of work, he just wants a PA and not to do boring things.

My feeling is that school should help and I should not be having to get a private tutor.

blackeyedsusan Fri 24-Jun-11 22:44:56

try playing guessing games and writing the letters on his back..

2 minutes writing the letters with his finger on the carpet.

writing letters in the air with his whole arm.

painting letters on the fence outside with bucket, large paintbrush and water.

caan you go back to your gp with your concerns.. ask to be refererred to the same person or maybe someone different. sk school for an ssessment to be made or written information hy they don't think this is necessary. you could try asking for a meeting with the senco.

Malaleuca Fri 24-Jun-11 23:21:53

his teacher cant even get him to write about things he finds interesting

But if he can't write or spell whether the topic is interesting or not is irrelevant. My last student like this resisted writing anything. He was end of Y2.
He just did not know how to spell by segmenting, and got most of his 'sight' words wrong. So he was reluctant to write. First we had to provide sensible spelling strategies, he had to be taught letter/sound correspondences and how to blend for reading multi-syllable words, he had to be taught what a sentence was. (He is now Grade 6. It took a long time and there have been tears along the way. In G 5 he wrote nothing in our equivalent SAT tests. Yesterday he told me he had entered a creative writing competition! )

Your little boy can't even form his letters yet. Check to see if he can hear and write all the basic alphabet sounds, then the digraphs he has been taught this year. Or better, ask the teacher to provide this information.

morechocolate Sat 25-Jun-11 13:13:15

Thanks for this but I dont think the problem is just that he cant spell as he can tell you how to spell a word ie sound out the letters but he gets his spellings wrong because he reverses his letters. He can dictate sentences and whole stories with full use of punctuation etc and whilst I do think he reads by sight not blending I presumed that is just because he has a photographic memory so never needs to blend. If I ask him to blend something ie a made up word then he can do so.

He knew all his alphabet sounds by 18 months which was years ahead of my other 2 children and could play I spy at this age without error. He was so far ahead by age 2 without any encouragement from ourselves that we thought school would be so easy for him. He can write all the letters but he reverses any that can be reversed and forms the others incorrectly ie he does about 3 loops to form an a which all makes writing take much longer. He could write any digraphs or simple words too if he wanted to. He has just written a birthday card and the letters were incorrectly formed and reversed and the whole experience was an effort but not because he doesnt know what to write or how to spell simple words.

Shall I ask him to spell some words aloud would this help to pinpoint the problem and if so what words?

Have any other teachers had any other pupils like this?

sarahfreck Sat 25-Jun-11 22:10:16

He sounds as if he is finding the physical aspects of writing very difficult.

"I know he needs to practice/copy/trace letter and numeral formation daily in order to improve but am not sure how that will work as his teacher cant even get him to write about things he finds interesting. " This may be jumping ahead to a higher level than he is ready for (hence the refusals?). I tutor a child who is also tutored by an occupational therapist for handwriting skills. I've learned loads from her and sometimes starting with actual handwriting is much too far ahead of where a child is at.

I would ask your GP if he will refer him to a paediatric Occupational Therapist who can assess his fine motor skills for writing and give you specific exercises to address the areas he his struggling with. I think children like this often need a lot of "pre-writing" exercises and work in order to address things, otherwise they can not cope with the physical aspects of writing. Just giving them handwriting practice doesn't work too well because they are lacking even more basic fundamental skills.

"I am unaware if anything special has been put in place at school to help him achieve slightly closer to his potential. We have not been advised of any specific help."

In the meantime. See if he will trace over words. For example - If he has to do some writing for home work, let him dictate it to you and you type it on the computer in a font like comic sans (yes I know it isn't a standard primary font but it isn't too bad and has standard letter formation). I have segoe print on Openoffice which is a great font that I use a lot - better than comic sans if you have it but comic isn't that bad imo! Then print it out in a light grey or yellow (experiment with which he can see most clearly) for him to trace over. Start with a largeish size (25 to 30?) and gradually decrease it to the smallest size he can cope with. Watch him to make sure he has correct letter formation but start with just a few words.
If he knows that he can do this as an alternative to actually writing on his own, it might seem more attractive to him? I'd honestly scrap asking him to free write anything at all (except maybe birthday cards!) for a while ( at least until September, if not longer!). If you type, he can express himself to the full extent of his spoken vocabulary without frustration. Start by getting him to trace just the first few words or one sentence (with the rest in standard black type) and gradually increase it.

Tracing allows him to practice correct letter formation without having to worry about spacing, size, mirror writing etc.

You could see if he will make a book about something he is interested in, if he only has to trace the first sentence of every page!

I certainly just wouldn't leave things and hope the school will somehow sort things out!

Malaleuca Sat 25-Jun-11 23:06:31

Sounds like spot on advice from Saah Freck if the problem is the letter formation, and not the segmenting.

morechocolate Sat 25-Jun-11 23:18:38

Yes I think this computer font sounds like a fantastic idea to try. Certainly something we have never tried and anything new always appeals. Have just checked and I have sego print on my word documents which was a most welcome surprise. Hopefully if he types it or dictates for me to type it and then he can print it which he will enjoy then he might be inspired to write over. Thanks for this suggestion. Presume standard primary font is not available then or is it available to buy if this idea works?

Would school recommend OT if they thought it necessary? They appear to have been very keen on referring other children from the start of reception for eye and hearing tests and speech assessments whenever they have struggled with phonics etc.

Someone also suggested to me that the pen on a DS was useful for their child in practicing the correct type of movement for pen control. I have never tried a DS and it wasnt something I was keen to introduce but if it would help may reconsider. Any thoughts on this?

howabout Sun 26-Jun-11 06:49:44

I think the DS could be a good idea, except it has some odd protocols on letter formation so if it does not recognize his letters even when he makes them correctly then this may make things worse.

Merle Sun 26-Jun-11 07:04:01

My son, now 12, was slow at writing but bright etc. At the end of Y6 I seriously considered taking him to a hypnotist - he would get very stressed at the mention of 'literacy', 'writing' etc.

His verbal/non-verbal has recently been tested at the 98th centile.

To be honest I think this is a fault of our education system, in contrast with countries who start the reading/writing process at 6 or 7. If they are bright but don't 'get' writing until later, by Yr 1 and 2 they are thoroughly discouraged. The content of a lot of the work doesn't help - if intellectually he is way ahead what he can read or write.

I think he will get there in the end. Using the computer to produce writing is a good way of building confidence.

Merle Sun 26-Jun-11 07:04:39

Yr 2, not Y6.

janeybo Sun 26-Jun-11 07:52:02

He sounds similar to my dd & ds (both very bright) but neither good writers. Other kids can be very cruel mocking them as scribblers etc which made them even less keen to engage in this. My ds went into a small writing class at the start of u2 & his writing has improved beyond belief (he seems to be excelling at everything now. Dd is a different kettle of fish she is left handed and is bearing the end of y1 and really struggling writing letters and numbers (she reverses odd letters & whole words this is even appearing in her reading. I am sure she is dyslexic. The teacher says not to worry (but I am) as she gets very upset & frustrated when attempting reading or writing at home. I give her lots of support praise and encouragement but progress in these areas is very slow and almost non existent. She is at a high performing school on the top table fir numeracy and on the second bottom table for reading and writing.

janeybo Sun 26-Jun-11 19:34:53

I would ask for help from school although don't expect to get very far. We've raised this half a dozen times with class teacher & in her reading book notes most weeks. I also had an informal chat with an ed psych who said most schools reluctant to take u seriously but best to keep them informed and in the loop about your concerns and intentions etc

Abgirl Sun 26-Jun-11 19:42:54

Sounds v similiar to my DS, who was prem so we were watching out for problems. School have recently referred him to OT and physio as he has some gross motor skills issues too and it is making a big difference - just having a little slope to write on, and learning to 'flow' his movements rather than jerking. Other problem with DS is that he wants to be perfect at everything straight away and this impedes practising. Also we had this recommended from mumsnet and DS really enjoys the exercises. HTH

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