When specific writing difficulty is detected
Specific writing difficulty is often present in children with specific reading difficulty. In these children, writing difficulty may first be detected when the reading difficulty is assessed.
In some children, such as David described earlier, specific writing difficulty is an isolated problem. When specific writing difficulty occurs on its own, it may not be detected until late primary or even high school. This often takes parents by surprise as they wonder why the difficulty was not noticed earlier. The late diagnosis seems to be related to the nature of the demands for writing made on children at school. Unlike reading, where the child performs in front of the teacher, written work is often not seen by the teacher until it is finished. Children with specific writing difficulty may be able to produce legible writing if they are allowed very long periods of time. (This is analogous to a righthander writing laboriously with his left hand.) Figure 7.4 shows the writing of the same boy as in Figure 7.3. The sample of writing in Figure 7.4 was produced over a period of 35 minutes, while the writing in Figure 7.3 was produced in five minutes. The writing shown in Figure 7.4 required a tremendous
Figure 7.4 The writing of the child in Figure 7.3 when allowed unlimited time.
amount of sustained effort but is now legible. Children with specific writing difficulty can often produce acceptable work by spending long periods of time writing it out at home. They often become very skilled at ‘forgetting’ to hand in work, making excuses for delays, and even getting others to do their writing for them. By high school, though, speed of writing becomes more important than neatness, and the child’s difficulty is discovered. It is often initially mistaken for laziness. This is likely to occur because writing for these children is very fatiguing and they often become tired after a short period. They become increasingly discouraged and may eventually refuse to write.