Why do so many children have the ability to orally tell a beautiful story, but when it comes to writing it down it’s all lost in translation? A Speech Language Pathologist will term this difficulty as an Expressive Language Delay, but often it is more than just that. It is an Executive Functioning (EF) Issue. As mentioned in a previous blog, the role of EF is to keep the brain organized, to help with reasoning and problem solving, and for planning and executing all the cognitive tasks the brain has to perform. Writing is a task that is cognitively demanding, and requires greater planning and organization than oral discourse.
How can we help children improve their written output? First things first, is helping them get organized, training their EF. Here are some useful strategies:
1. Discuss the topic at hand, so that the child has organized his thoughts orally, and has a great understanding of what he would like to express.
2. Research the topic and colour code the information. Colour coding is a great strategy because it provides a visual cue, and a way to manage information that belongs together.
3. Orally provide narrative, while writing key points of what the desire is to express, then using those jot notes create a well written exposition.
4. Create an outline! This is my biggest struggle with children who have writing issue. They hate creating an outline, however this is the key strategy to improve their written output.
To sum up, these strategies are all helpful in determining what a child wants to express in written form and how to do so in a cohesive and well organized manner. These skills are necessary to ensure academic success, as much of what they are expected to produce is in written form.