Empowering Dyslexic Students with Effective Writing Strategies

As a parent of a dyslexic child, you may be all too familiar with the struggles your child faces when it comes to writing. Dyslexic students often find it challenging to organize their thoughts, express their ideas clearly, and revise their work for comprehension and engagement. But, fear not! There is hope for older students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, to improve their writing skills and build confidence in their abilities. In this blog post, we will explore the latest research on effective writing strategies and instructional approaches that can support your child in their journey to becoming a more confident and skilled writer.

Overview of Key Research Studies

Various research studies have investigated the best methods to help older students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, enhance their writing abilities. Let’s take a look at some of these studies and their findings:

  • Graham and Harris (1989) investigated the effectiveness of Self-instructional Strategy Training (SIST), a cognitive/motivational approach to writing. They found that teaching dyslexic students a specific writing strategy increased their ability to generate, organize, and elaborate on their ideas.
  • Hallenbeck (1997) explored the benefits of Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing (CSIW), a discursive strategy that engages students in writing apprenticeships and collaborations. This social/contextual approach to writing helped create a positive, collaborative environment, positively influencing students’ success in writing.
  • Walker et al. (2005) assessed the effectiveness of Expressive Writing, a direct instruction writing program, in improving narrative writing skills. All participants, including those with dyslexia, demonstrated improvement in their written expression skills after completing 50 consecutive lessons.
  • Allsopp et al. (2005) found that direct teaching of writing strategies led to measurable improvements in writing production and quality, as well as an improvement in the writing achievement scores of students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia.
  • Asaro-Saddler and Saddler (2010) discovered that early instructional interventions in writing using a systematic, explicit instruction approach resulted in significant improvement in the participants’ writing performance.

These studies suggest that teaching writing strategies to students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, can result in measurable improvements in writing production, quality, and achievement scores. The studies also highlight the importance of using both cognitive/motivational and social/contextual theories of writing.

The Importance of Direct Instruction and Writing Strategies

Direct instruction and writing strategies have proven to be beneficial for students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. Some of these strategies include:

Self-regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)

Proposed by Graham and Harris (1989), SRSD is a process that helps students develop strategies for planning, revising, and editing their writing. It teaches students to set goals, monitor their progress, and evaluate the success of their writing efforts.

Cognitive Instructional Strategy in Writing (CSIW)

Developed by Hallenbeck (1997), CSIW engages students in writing apprenticeships and collaborations, fostering a supportive and positive environment for learning and practicing writing skills.

However, it is essential to acknowledge the limitations of existing research, such as small sample sizes, artificial groups, and limited generalizability. Further research is needed to evaluate these strategies’ effectiveness for students with diverse backgrounds and learning disabilities.

Teacher Training and Effective Instructional Strategies

A well-trained and experienced teacher is crucial to the success of students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. The quality of instruction significantly impacts the development of writing skills, and teachers who are skilled in providing direct instruction in writing are integral to student success. Additionally, teachers who collaborate with students, not just instruct them, enable students to take charge of their learning while still having valuable resources to rely on.

School leaders should ensure that writing strategy instruction is included as part of the English curriculum and that teachers receive proper training in its delivery and use. This can occur through teacher preparation programs and as practitioners engage in professional development. Apprentice teachers should become familiar with collaborative teaching models that capitalize on children’s natural inclination to communicate and work together. Addressing the lack of attention given to writing strategy instruction in many teacher preparation programs is crucial for effectively supporting students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

Embracing Technology and Future Research Directions

As technology continues to advance, it is essential to explore its potential benefits for students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. Research studies have already shown the effectiveness of web-based programs such as TELE-Web, developed by Englert et al. (2007), in assisting elementary students with writing difficulties. However, more studies are needed to investigate the use of technology in improving the writing skills of older students with learning disabilities.

Future research should also encompass wider parameters in terms of age, culture, and ethnicity. Ongoing studies should focus on the use of direct instruction and self-regulated strategy development with students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. Finally, more research is needed to develop theoretical models supporting writing strategy instruction for students with learning disabilities.

In summary, students with learning disabilities, including dyslexia, need tools to help them be successful, both in and out of the classroom. Approaches such as direct instruction and the use of writing strategies offer valuable tools to help these students achieve success in writing. To use these tools effectively, students need skilled teachers trained in evidence-based practices, a commitment from educational leaders to invest time and resources in writing instruction, and ample opportunities to practice using the tools provided, both individually and in collaborative groups.

By equipping students with learning disabilities, like dyslexia, with the right strategies and support, we can help them approach writing with both competence and confidence. As parents, it is essential to be proactive in advocating for our children’s needs, working with educators to ensure that they receive the necessary support and resources to succeed in their writing endeavors. By doing so, we can help unlock the potential of our children, empowering them to overcome the challenges posed by dyslexia and thrive in their academic and personal lives.