“I know what I want to say,
but I just can’t write it down.”
Back in 1967 in their seminal text on learning disabilities, Johnson & Myklebust discussed the connections between writing and oral language and noted that “a child who cannot read cannot write” (p. 197).
Given that dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, many dyslexics have great difficulty with (and subsequent dislike for) writing. We know that dyslexics often have difficulty identifying the sounds (phonemes) in words. Because this skill underlies one's ability to spell, writing the words can be difficult. Likewise, difficulties in word finding can affect one’s ability to think of the words when writing. Many times we have heard dyslexics say, “I know what I want to say, but I just can’t write it down.”
Writing is a very complex process. It requires:
- the ability to hear the sounds in a word and know the corresponding letter or letter combinations to spell (write) the word
- a flexible and in-depth vocabulary and knowledge of word origins
- knowledge of grammar and syntax (word order)
- knowledge of punctuation
- knowledge of different types (e.g., narrative, expository, persuasive) and genres (e.g., fiction, analytical report, news) of writing.
As you know, writing is a complicated process that requires planning, drafting, editing, and revising until one has a finished product. Many times people who struggle with writing think that good writers naturally write well with little effort, which is simply not the case. The challenges of writing need to be made clear to the struggling writer. The conventions and the process of writing need to be taught explicitly. With good instruction, dyslexics can enjoy writing and become confident, prolific writers. Success starts here!