A Resource for Teachers, Clinicians, Parents, and Students by the Brain Injury Association of New York State.
Problem: The student can write or type words, but does not seem to be able to generate organized, coherent, and adequately long written compositions.
Academic Possibility:
Inadequate encoding (writing) fluency (writing mechanics)

Step 1: Organize observations relevant to the problematic behavior/issue

  • Who is reporting the problem?
  • When does it occur? (Include time of day, activities etc).
  • Where does it occur?
  • What tends to precede the problematic behavior/issue?
  • What tends to follow the problematic behavior/issue?
  • What is the age and functioning level of the student?
  • Previous documentation/charts?

Step 2: Identify possible contributors to the problematic behavior/issue

In many cases, there are several contributors to the student’s identified problem. These contributors may interact with each other, therefore, it may be necessary to combine tests from different categories of possibilities. The existence of several interacting contributors may become obvious as you proceed through individual intervention experiments.

Inadequate encoding (writing) fluency (writing mechanics): Some students have difficulty with written composition because the physical act of writing is hard and laborious, their spelling is very weak, and/or written grammar is weak. These difficulties may be independent of compositional abilities or may contribute to additional compositional weakness. (See Tutorial on Written Composition)

Relevant Observations: The student may write slowly and awkwardly; she may make frequent spelling errors; she may struggle with correct grammar; she may frequently stop to rewrite.

Useful experiments for assessment and intervention:

  1. Observe and record the frequency and/or intensity of the problem behavior when a new teaching strategy or support is being implemented versus when it is not being implemented.
  2. Possible encoding-related (i.e., writing mechanics) teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorial on Written Composition): Create an environment that provides encoding (writing mechanics) support for the student. Examples: Have the student dictate compositions to a person or into a tape recorder. Encourage first drafts in which handwriting, spelling, and grammar are disregarded. Offer needed spelling and grammar cues as the student composes.
  3. If the composition aspects of writing improve during intervention, it may be that this student’s problem behaviors are in part a result of writing mechanics problems. (See Tutorial on Written Composition.)

Possible referrals: School psychologist or reading specialist for reading assessment; instructional support specialist for instructional strategies

A program of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, and funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

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The Brain Injury Association of New York State
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