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7 year old afraid of writing and makes mistakes spelling own name

(34 Posts)
Quincejelly Sun 08-Sep-13 13:07:35

My 7 year old dd goes to elaborate lengths to avoid writing. At school she does the absolute minimum stopping after two or three words. They do little creative writing at school, mainly grammar exercises, but dd merely copies a few words from the text book. Recently I noticed in her school book that her teacher had had to correct her spelling of her name. Actually she has been able to write her name correctly since she was 3.

I tried today to get us writing a story together. Both kids got quite into making a story up orally and so I suggested we write it down. Dd suddenly wanted to play outside, but I finally managed to get her to sit down with the promise that I would write most of it and we would then have a nice book with the story they had made up. I did manage to get her to write a few sentences and it was noticeable that, apart from a word which she had had in a spelling test a week ago, her spelling was such that the words were unintelligible. I didn´t mention this at all as I wanted her to experience writing for pleasure (although unfortunately it wasn´t because I was coercing her to do it - but she had enjoyed making up the story). Still, she wrote things like "mim" instead of "him" and "parin" instead of "pirate". It is very difficult to "decode" what she wrote.
She used to be very bad at spelling tests but has improved such that she now often gets all words right - we practice every night and the improvement has been dramatic. However, two or three weeks later it is as if the words have been completely erased from her memory.
I wouldn´t worry about it and let her develop at her own pace. However, I am concerned that she dislikes writing so much. I remember writing thousands of little stories at her age and enjoying it immensely. I don´t know, but I fear her difficulty spelling is making her feel inadequate with her writing and this feeling of incompetence is leading her to avoid writing altogether.
How can I help her?

tinytalker Sun 08-Sep-13 13:56:32

This is quite a cause for concern at this age, have you spoken to the school? Have they picked up on her difficulties? If not then they are failing her!
You really need to go back and reinforce the phonics as she doesn't seem to have a confident grasp of these 'basic building' blocks to writing. Most children of this age can use their phonic knowledge to attempt words especially 'him' and pirate would usually be written as 'pirat' or 'pyrat'. What phonics program do the school use? Jolly phonics is good and Letterland as they employ multi sensory methods of learning.
How is her speech and grasp of vocabulary?
Have you had her hearing and eye sight checked? These could be cause of poor grasp of phonics.
You are doing the right thing trying to keep her enthusiasm for writing and you should keep it fun with games and word puzzles etc and let her use a word processor or talk to type program. Online 'Reading Eggs' is a good program. Also play memory games to develop her Working Memory.

Quincejelly Sun 08-Sep-13 14:12:39

School just says that she always seems to be in a daze. They say it is not off the "normal" spectrum, but I am not really convinced.
Her speech and vocabulary are good when she is speaking to us or to her friends. Unfortunately she is very nervous speaking to many adults (including her teachers) and tends to clam up.
Going back to the phonics sounds like a good idea. To be honest school doesn´t seem to have used phonics much at all (we´re not in the UK). All emphasis seems to be on rote learning. Aargghh. I´ll investigate Jolly Phonics and Letterland to see what I could get for home.
Her hearing and sight have been checked and it seems that there´s no problem there.
Thanks for the tips for online games.

theri Sun 08-Sep-13 14:31:49

Get the school's learning support teacher and her class teacher involved and make sure they do all the tests for dyslexia and see where she is on the spectrum. My DD has just finished doing all the assessments and is a year behind where she should be in terms of spelling and literacy at 7 (not quite enough for the dyslexia label but enough for learning support to be involved) Its the schools duty to help your daughter, so keep harrassing them

tinytalker Sun 08-Sep-13 17:15:28

Glad you've checked 'medical' causes. I'd be interested to know what methods they use for teaching reading & writing if not phonics. Obviously I am talking from a UK perspective where all schools and even pre-schools introduce phonics as the building blocks. How long has your dd been in education? You see here a 7yr old will have been in school for 2 or 3 yrs but I know that in some countries they don't start formal education until 6/7yrs in which case my cause for concern would lessen. If I were you I would definitely supplement the schools teaching with extra 'home' teaching in phonics, Jolly Phonics and Letterland both have a wealth of resources you can buy.

WowOoo Sun 08-Sep-13 17:26:29

Great advice already!
My Ds is 7 and a bit anti writing, as are most energetic children.

I get him to do lots of short bursts - Christmas wish lists, to 'help' me with a shopping list, top 5 or 10 favourite food/toys/TV programmes etc

His imagination is also great, but his written stories don't show this so I ask him to draw a flow chart of ideas or a mind map (not sure if you've heard of them). Short and sweet and spelling can be checked later. He has a dictionary, but really can't be bothered.
HTH a bit.

Chrysanthemum5 Sun 08-Sep-13 18:54:32

Could they check for dysgraphia as well? It's where writing is physically challenging to the point where it can be painful. It's more common than people imagine because children don't know what writing should feel like so they don't realise that it shouldn't hurt. It's one reason why some children simply don't want to write.

Also redo the phonics and check for dyslexia.

Quincejelly Sun 08-Sep-13 19:11:50

They basically use the Oxford Reading Tree for reading - which has precious little phonics. Otherwise, I´m not really sure how they´re being taught writing... I suppose I need a better talk with the teacher!
She has been at school since she was 5, but being in a British school not in the UK makes it harder to work out where she should be.

Quincejelly Sun 08-Sep-13 19:14:00

Dyslexia and dysgraphia do sound worth checking although I don´t think it hurts when she writes. But she spent the first year of school holding her pencil wrongly so perhaps that was due to something like that.

Thanks so much everyone.

Quincejelly Sun 08-Sep-13 19:15:08

By the way, we had a good time this afternoon with Reading Eggs! Thanks for that!

Ferguson Sun 08-Sep-13 19:33:26

Yes, I would agree with all the advice others have given you. It is difficult to give more specific help, not knowing what methods are being used in school, or how long she has been at school.

A book that I recently bought, and several MN parents are using, is the Oxford Phonics Spelling Dictionary. It lists words according to the initial SOUND, not just the initial letter. Thus, in the 'S' sounds section (sounding sssss), after words that DO start with 's', come words like: cinema, circle, circus, cycle, which sound as though they should start with 's', but of course don't! I think this can help children make a bit more sense of English spelling, boosting their confidence.

The book is available from Amazon for £5.66 in the UK, but of course may cost more in your country. You can see sample pages from it on this link:

I was a primary school Teaching Assistant for twenty years; now retired, I still help people via MN.

maizieD Sun 08-Sep-13 19:47:24

I wouldn't use Letterland with a child who was experiencing difficulties. It can be a bit muddling. Jolly Phonics is good but I'd also suggest that you check out Phonics International, which has loads of good advice and help on teaching phonics as well as excellent resources.

maizieD Sun 08-Sep-13 19:48:23

Blimey Ferguson; are you on commission? wink

Quincejelly Sun 08-Sep-13 20:22:42

Thanks for all these wonderful tips. I really like the mind map idea and I think dd will too. I had a look at the phonics dictionary (thanks Ferguson). How exactly do parents use it? Is it so that the child can look up a spelling when they are trying to write?
Thanks too for the phonics international link.

Cheryzan Sun 08-Sep-13 21:34:24

I'd she's been taught by rote rather than by phonics it'll be very hard to tell whether she has dyslexia or just bad teaching.

Those random spellings look more like bad teaching than dyslexia to me. Buy toe by toe or apples and pears and spend 15 mins a day doing those books with her. Then in 3-6 months you'll have a better idea if it's dyslexia or poor teaching.

The always in a daze bit is more concerning. Would you agree with that? If so google attention deficit disorder (ADD)

Always in a daze combined with poor teaching is not a good mix...

Quincejelly Mon 09-Sep-13 07:00:53

I know what you mean, Cheryzan, about random spellings. It does seem to me that she thinks writing is about writing a random collection of letters which mean nothing to her and don´t bear any resemblance to the word she is trying to write.
In which case, it seems phonics is really the only solution! grin)
I wish I had picked up on this when she first started school - and probably changed school! As I didn´t learn using phonics in the 70s, I didn´t realise how important it was. But, I was a child who had no trouble with spelling (oops! I shouldn´t have said that so confidently - please don´t look too closely back through my posts smile ). For a kid who´s strugglng, it seems to be a different matter.
Our GP is keeping an eye on the "in a daze" issue. So far his response has been to wait and see. He doesn´t seem to think there´s a problem.

WowOoo Mon 09-Sep-13 11:01:29

I'm glad you like the mind map - you can help too with ideas. (or do your own to show her)

If you're near an Ikea/ Stationery shop they do the big rolls of paper so you can make them large. I use a large roll big squared graph paper- perhaps from Ikea -that's good for helping him to write on a straight line.

If it makes you feel better my son seems to be in a daze a lot of the time.

MerryMarigold Mon 09-Sep-13 11:11:16

She sounds similar to my ds1. Though being here and setting where his were at, I have fought a bit to get help for him. Currently he has been seen by an occupational therapist. He had poor fine motor and gross motor skills, struggles with left and right, getting dressed as well as writing. His focus is poor too, which isn't surprising add if you are struggling to keep up a. Your brain gets tired quickly and b. You don't understand do you switch off. I ask convinced he has some developmental delay which mostly bothers us because of how it's affected his self esteem. Do read, is that my child?

MerryMarigold Mon 09-Sep-13 11:17:40

Sorry on my phone. Meant that seeing where he was compared to peers helped me realize something wasn't right. Also he was very stressed at school fit the first 2 years. The phonics had helped his spelling but he mostly reads from sight.

Quincejelly Tue 10-Sep-13 15:51:13

That´s great Marigold, that you managed to get some help for your ds. My dd doesn´t have trouble with motor skills at all. Actually gross motor skills are really her "talent". She has taught herself to ride a unicycle recently and is very good at everything like inline skating, circus tricks to do with balance and co-ordination, climbing etc..
But otherwise my dd sounds just like your ds. No focus, your brain gets tired because you´re struggling to keep up. Last night my dd had a piano lesson and completely independently from all of what I have been worrying about with school, her piano teacher said she thinks dd has a developmental delay of 2 years. I would agree with her.
I just saw your thread about number bonds. Our children really sound VERY similar!

blueberryupsidedown Tue 10-Sep-13 16:01:36

DS has low muscle tone and is hypermobile and the school spent ages doing stuff with him to make him more confident at holding a pencil. He had to draw lots of mazes, colouring in, tracing (this is really good for concentration and making the muscles in the hands stronger) with tracing paper. It could obviously be something else, but the actual physical act of writing needs a lot of fine motor skills and muscle control and that was a barrier for DS to express himself in writing.

Maybe she could start by writing short lists (think father christmas, birthday list, help you write a menu for meals at home, recipes, short postcards, etc).

Depending on her interests also. DS likes to write instructions! and he has lists of his top ten cars, his top ten toys, his top ten songs, etc. Much easier to write than a story!

Quincejelly Tue 10-Sep-13 16:13:12

Oooh! "Top ten" lists will be a real hit ...! That is a good one!
Thanks, Blueberry!

MerryMarigold Wed 11-Sep-13 11:11:05

Just saw your reply on this thread quince. I didn't twig before in my thread! Yes, I've known for a while things aren't right with ds1 and go through these phases of really pursuing it, and then just wanting him to feel ok about who he is and accept him the way he is. It's a constant balancing act. Last year they did a class reshuffle (there are 3 classes per year group) and he found a good friend AT LAST which was previously my main concern as he was not as socially apt as his much more developed peer group. (This boy is almost a year younger and they get on great).

If you can, get the books secondhand on Amazon, they are not that expensive. Whereabouts are you in the world? Also you can look up Tinsley House online. Basically this guy's theory is that all these 'things' like dyspraxia (the motor skills), dyslexia, adhd, add (attention deficit), tourettes are from a core problem in the brain which isn't that hard to fix with diet and some exercises. Kids generally have several of the 'symptoms' although 1 is often more 'core'. This is certainly true of ds1 who has dyspraxic, dyslexic, sensory processing and ADD 'symptoms'. There is a questionnaire at the beginning of the book and one of the questions is about assisted delivery. Ds1 had a very violent forceps birth and some bad bruising. We have started on some of the food,and we are considering whether to take him in at the beginning of next year.

Some key things for ds1 are the lack of focus/ concentration, bad memory, inability to tell the time (still), struggled with reading especially with phonics, forms many of his letters and numbers in writing incorrectly (eg. 'g' would be a circle first and then adding the line down after and they are not always touching!).

Top 10 is a great idea. My ds also enjoys drawing (which helps the motor skills) although he only drew is first picture in reception. Sometimes he writes independently on it, labelling.

Quincejelly Wed 11-Sep-13 11:55:54

Marigold, yes yes yes yes! That is my dd! Things have also been SO wonderful at school since she has found a good friend. A few people have suggested me moving her to a different school - but I couldn´t do that to her as her friend is so important to her!
I know too what you mean about wanting to accept them as they are. In a lot of ways dd is such a bright little girl. Plays very creatively and with complete absorption. Is good fun to be with.
I had a talk with both her teachers this morning and one made the point that if I am worried and concerned, she will pick up on that and that is not good for her. Very true. So I´m trying to calm down. The other teacher said what a creative little girl she is when she´s playing - so I´m really pleased that her teacher is concentrating on what she CAN do rather than me who is at present focused on what she can´t do. So, I´m going to try to turn over a new leaf - positive but keeping plugging on with it all.
Thanks for the tips about food. I will definitely look into that.

MerryMarigold Wed 11-Sep-13 13:15:15

Yes, we plug at it 'behind the scenes', as it were. Try to shield ds from it as much as possible, but he very perceptive and does totally understand that he is not where a lot of his class are. In Y1 in the UK they do a phonic test now, which he did not pass in Y1. In the first term of Y2 he did pass and I was really pleased, congratulated him etc. but he was totally weird about it. Later in the day I said, "You didn't seem pleased about the phonics" and he said, "I should have passed it the first time." Bless. We have never put pressure on him, but he does put pressure on himself. Lots and lots of praise for other stuff and our kitchen is his art gallery! (Including framed pics). He's also extremely sensitive and imaginative and can play for ages on his own, just as you describe. My other ds is a lot more 'demanding' during play and less imaginative but seems to 'get' school so quickly.

Don't let the teachers slide away from dealing with it though...sometimes it's easier to be positive than address the issues, which I have often found in teachers. I've had some supportive but most not-so-much. It is harder work for them to address things plus they have tons of kids to deal with, not just yours! Meeting with ds1's new teacher tomorrow as I doubt she is aware of any issues and I'd like to make her aware so she doesn't treat him as stupid or get too frustrated with him.

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