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Writing is a really complicated task that we often assume children should be able to start doing because they are now at school. There are so many ingredient skills and abilities that a child needs to have experience with before learning how to write becomes easy. This means that trying to start to learn how to write before you are developmentally ready to do so is a little bit like trying to put the walls up on a new house if there is no concrete pad to provide a stable base. It will all be a bit shakey!
These are just some of the skills that are needed for writing to develop easily.
- Words and writing are just the sounds that we speak put down onto the page so we can see them for later. If hearing all those words and sounds is difficult then it becomes equally hard to write down what those sounds might look like.
- Once you can hear all the noises within words, then visual memory and visualisation skills will allow you to see how a word looks in your mind’s eye. Then you can tell your hand what to write. Writing is much harder for visual memory than reading where the word is already in front of the eyes. Visual memory is particularly important for writing in English as there are 44 sounds but over 190 ways that those sounds can look!
- There are default movement settings for the human body called primitive reflexes. A number of these reflexes are involved in the beginnings of hand eye co-ordination. Primitive Reflexes should be replaced by more complex movement controls as a child develops. If any of these hand eye primitive reflexes are still present in a school age child they can lead to slow or poor writing development.
- Visual spatial development helps a child understand that there needs to be organisation on a page from top left to bottom right and visual spatial skills also help with letter orientation such as the letters p, d, b and q. These letters are all the same shape but it is only their visual spatial orientation that gives the symbol a specific and completely different meaning.
- Visual discrimination is the ability to look at something and pick up the sameness but more importantly the differences in it. Children without good visual discrimination will have confusion when writing words such as saw and was, of and for, and then and them.
Making sure children have played lots of visual games before they enter formal education places them in a much better position to learn the skill of writing.