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.
Cognitive / Self-Regulatory Possibility:
Weak idea generation/elaboration

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.

Weak idea generation/elaboration: Some students may have difficulty with written composition as a result of difficulty generating ideas or elaborating on ideas. (See Tutorials on Organization; Advance Organizers.)

Relevant Observations: The student’s ability to write compositions may be related to a more general difficulty thinking of ideas and elaborating on those ideas. The student may rarely raise ideas in class. His responses may routinely be short and poorly elaborated. He may complain that he cannot think of anything to write.

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 idea generation/elaboration-related teaching strategies or supports (See Tutorials on Organization, Advance Organizers): Maintaining other components of the task, provide the student with the key ideas for the writing project. Have the student then elaborate on the ideas in a detailed outline or on a graphic organizer that encourages organized elaboration. Offer adequate time and encouragement for elaboration before the actual writing begins. Offer elaboration suggestions. Perhaps encourage spoken elaboration with the teacher or other student writing the ideas. (See Tutorial on Advance Organizers.)
  3. If written composition improves during intervention, it may be that this problem behavior is in part a result of weak idea generation/elaboration. (See Tutorial on Written Composition)

Possible referrals: School psychologist for 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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