Topic | Any advice on my son's writing delays would be great

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  • Hello Sonya and all!  I’ve never posted here before but I have so enjoyed reading these discussions as they have been incredibly helpful!   I have an almost 10 yo boy, a 6 yo boy and an 18 mo girl.  We’ve been homeschooling for about 3 years now.  We started homeschooling in the first place when my oldest son was six because he was going to have to repeat kindergarten in public school if he stayed there.  He was speech delayed at the time (didn’t really start speaking in semi-coherent sentences until he was about 4 1/2) which delayed him in reading and in social skills.  Wonderfully, and by the grace of God, he speaks very clearly now and there is almost no trace in his speech of his earlier issues.  He’s also learned to read and reads at his grade level. 

    I have realized however, that his problems go deeper than speech and are more about his ability to process what he hears. (Actual hearing is fine.)  This has made it very hard to teach him math and many other things that involve a lot of oral instruction.  SO, all that to get to the heart of my inquiry which concerns writing.  My son is basically spelling still at I would estimate a 1st-2nd grade level.  I have finally realized that he has a very hard time discerning sounds.  We have purchased (after too many spelling curriculums to count!) All About Spelling which has been excellent.  He’s doing the first grade level of that and spelling is SLOWLY coming along.  I’ve always been a big believer in copywork and he’s done that from day one.  However, he has been the exception to the rule and his spelling and composition has not improved at all by doing copywork (he has beautiful handwriting though!).  I still have him do copywork most days because I really believe in it. 

    I guess my question is what to do with a 10yo who can’t spell most words?  Should I have him write anyway and just continue to allow the spelling errors?  Do I just keep on with copywork and narration and hope that someday things will turn around for him?  We worked hard this year on writing a sentence.  He knows how to do that now so if I ask him to look up a word, define it and use it in a sentence, he can do that now.  Writing a paragraph – not yet.  As a “fifth grader” now it’s becoming apparent even to him that he is slow in this area (I would never tell him so, but in Awana and other places when he’s asked to write a little blurb about something he can’t do it and it bothers him.) So if anyone has any resources or any similar experienes to share I’d appreciate it.  Sonya, I do plan to order the SCM on language arts (among a lot of other goodies soon!) but I feel like it’s still not going to give me concrete answers to what to do in this particular case.  Thank you all for reading this very long post and for your consideration!

    Michelle G. in Colorado



    My first instinct is to say that you might explore two things…You’vealready mentioned that you “have realized however, that his problems go deeper than speech and are more about his ability to process what he hears.” I would look into language processing issues as well as occular motor issues. If you need to ‘chat’ more, feel free to pm me.




    very interested in this also. 


    Hi, Michelle:

    My son, age 9, (who is still in public school – praying, praying, praying for homeschooling) was diagnosed last week with an Auditory Processing Disorder.  There are three primary subtypes (Auditory Decoding Deficit, Prosodic Deficit, and Intergration Deficit) and two secondary subtypes (Associative Deficit and Output Organization Deficit)  and each requires a different “focus” to treat, though there are some similarities in each.  Auditory Decoding Deficit, according to my son’s audiologist, is the most common type of APD

    For my son, he has integration problems, meaning both hemispheres don’t communicate so well. If there are competing sounds (which could be a door closing down the hall or a student erasing something, the hum of the AC, etc.), my son’s brain gives equal weight to each sound – meaning his teacher lecturing is given the same weight as the AC Unit!  This causes gaps in learning in classes with a lot of auditorily presented material.  This also causes my son to “tune out” if there are too many sounds competing, because it is almost painful for him to try to attend to what he knows he should.  My son also is borderline on some aspects of Auditory Decoding, which means he has difficulty picking up on word blend sounds, for example, my brother’s name is Brad, my son does not hear the “r”, or if given the word brake, my son hears bake, flake he would hear fake, etc.   This is from a poor left hemisphere performance.

    The book I am working through right now is “When the Brain Can’t Hear” by Teri James Bellis.  While most of this is diagnostic in nature, there is some insight in how to help.  Most therapy is administered by a Speech-Language Pathologist so if you already had someone working with your son on speech delay – that would probably expedite the process.

    There are A LOT of strategies in helping at home but again it depends on the “deficit” area.  We are working on getting Earobics (  This, purportedly, helps all children, disordered or not in auditory skills.  From “When the Brain Can’t Hear”,  “…This computer-based program tains many different auditory and related skills, including speech-sound processing, auditory memory and sequencin, rhythm and related temporal patterns, following directions of increasing linguistic complexity, sound-letter associations, and phonological awareness.”  It is available in three levels and to my understanding, was used in Chicago public schools on non-disordered children in a case study, those children who used the program (in early grades) had significant increases in reading and spelling abilities.   This is the only program I know of that can be used at home.  According to my son’s audiologist, it is better to have any type of therapy completed in an office environment so that the therapist can control the mHz being administered.  However, therapy for us is cost prohibitive, so it has been suggested that we follow a strict schedule in administering the Earobics program, 45 minutes per day, five days per week, for six weeks, and then have my son re-tested before continuing.

    I have a educational support meeting to discuss treatment on Thursday.  I can post anything I glean from this.  I am not fond of labels, but I think knowing exactly what I need to treat is important.  IMO, getting the diagnosis, even without telling the child, is very important.  I have to make sure that I am supporting my son in the right ways (which some times takes a lot of trial and error), and not expecting things from him that he is not yet capable of.  My son has been formally diagnosed with ADHD – Inattentive with co-morbid Auditory Processing Disorder.  It appears, that like ADHD, APD is diagnosed in boys MUCH more than in girls.

    I would do an internet search of the different subtypes to see if you notice similarities in the problems your son is experiencing.  I know that diagnosis is expensive, with or without insurance, and therapy even more so.  We are trying to treat at home as much as possible.  As with all other areas of learning problems, there is so much overlap in each “disability” that it is difficult to tell what is wrong without testing. 

    I hope this helps some.  I am still learning so I will be interested to see other responses.  If you have any questions about my son’s specific areas of weakness, let me know.  For me having concrete examples is so much better than a list of “possible symptoms”.  =)  Also, sorry for the length. 


    mfurnell –

    thank you for posting.  I strongly believe that he has got audio processing disorder.  I have read the book “When the Brain Can’t Hear” (authur’s name escapes me now) and so much of what she talked about in the book hit the nail on the head.  The thing is that we are from a small, rural area where I very much doubt there is a lot of help.  I am resistant to get caught up in the public school here for various reasons and get entangled in all of that.  I really feel as though slow and gentle, steady progress will work, Lord willing of course, because by in large it already has just at a much slower rate with him as with other kids without these issues. 

    What I’m really looking for are ideas for how to pregress with writing when he doesn’t have a rudimentary (sp?) grasp of spelling yet.  I feel that he’s too old now to just ignore writing as a subject but I just really don’t know how to proceed in a CM sort of way.  Please keep in mind that physical writing, the motor skill is just fine.  We read tons of books so his vocab is good and as I said his speech is near “normal”.  It’s just the writing process itself that I’m looking at, a gentle way to familiarize him with the act of writing on his own more than a mere sentence or two.  Does that make sense?

    Thanks again for listening 🙂


    I haven’t used it at all – but maybe Spelling Wisdom, from here, would help?

    srlord –

    Posting while you were posting… Cool

     Yes, that book is excellent!  It was so nice for me as his teacher to read it because I was starting to feel as though I was a really bad teacher.  And I know just what you mean about the lecture getting the same attention as the AC unit – made me smile!  I will pray for homeschooling to come to you but always remember that all of us moms homeschool whether our kids go to PS or not.  I’d love to read about what you find out when you have time to post and thanks for responding!

    Sonya Shafer

    Hi, Michelle. A question comes to mind: Is there a need to make sure he is “grade level” in his writing/spelling skills right now? Here’s my thinking. If his speech was delayed but has progressed so nicely, just later than expected, can we reasonably hope that his writing/spelling will do the same? If so, you could continue with oral narrations to keep the mental composition skills developing. You could write or type his narration as he speaks it, then having him re-copy it for his copywork. 

    As suzukimom mentioned, you could also add prepared dictation at this point. Are you familiar with that method? You would want to use short selections, of course; maybe one or two sentences to start with. There is a video explanation of prepared dictation on the Spelling Wisdom page. Keep in mind that you can use any of his living books to find the selections for this method; you don’t have to use the Spelling Wisdom collection. That’s just one option.



    My 10 yr old daughter has been diagnosed with APD, has normal hearing, and she has terrible spelling.  =)  I know that doesn’t thrill you to hear!  She basically processes things differently, for example, I can sy air, and she will hear it as chair.  She functions pretty well in most situations, sometimes I don’t even realize that she has the problem until we write.  Then out come my decoding skills!  Whew!  I have read “When the Brain Can’t Hear” and purchased the same “Earobics” from ebay.  LOTS cheaper.  At her age, she was noticing a problem and starting to think she is stupid, which leads to serious issues everywhere.  So in our home, it has actually been helpful to her to know that she has this struggle.  When she spells, she spells phonetically, so she will sound out a word and spell it the way it sounds that day.  She can spell so many variations of a single word, I am amazed.  She loves to write stories and draw, sometimes she asks for correct spelling, sometimes not.  Depending on the moment, we do a gentle correction.  Some days when she is really struggling with this and starting to be frustrated, I will remind her that she has APD, which means that it is harder for her to get her thoughts on paper.  I have found a huge thing that helps her is to write her narrations and let her transfer them to her own paper.  She is reinforcing several of her APD issues this way and still getting to see the words spelled correctly, spaced correctly on the paper, and sees complete sentences with capitols and punctuation, all of which we struggle with.  The amazing thing is….she always can answer the questions correctly, do a great narration etc. verbally.  We just lose that in the writing process, which is very typical of APD. 

    Also we tested for food allergies. and removed them from her diet, it helped all the APD/ADD symptoms within a few weeks. 

    I have her working at a second grade level also.  I have the Spelling Wisdom books and fully intend to have her use prepared dictation as her spelling.  My 11 yr old loves it and because it focuses on seeing it in your head it should help increase the spelling abilities of my APD daughter. 

    Something else I have noticed is that lots of her own personal reading help her catch her writing mistakes.  Our audiologist recommended letting her proofread things later in the day because she can catch a lot of her own mistakes then.  She does… and it is cute when she says “oops that is supposed to say…” and either self correct it or ask for the correct spelling.

    Nutshell of what works for us: let him read lots, write his narrations and let him copy them (not as copywork), let hm check his papers later and see if can catch mistakes himself, (I usually ask her to tell me what it says…) and Spelling Wisdom will probably be excellent for him becasue it is visual as well as auditory.   Don’t underestimate your son – if he is noticeing he is slow, it might help him to know why (don’t let it be an excuse) so he won’t feel like all his effort is worthless and that he is stupid. 

    HTH, Sheila


    Does he know how to type?  He could learn to type and then type his material into a word processor which would alert him to spelling errors, which could then be corrected.  This would not teach him to spell, but it would allow him to progress in composition while you were working on the spelling.  (OK I am going to say something controversial now – don’t everybody bite my head off! – It may become evident that he can use this tool to correct his spelling deficit and you and he won’t need to worry about it so much.)

    If he has issues that will cause him lifelong spelling challenges, it seems like providing him with a tool to communicate in a way he can be proud of is a good thing.

    Dance Mat Typing is free online, and is what my 10 yo used to teach herself to type this year.

    Good luck – I have a terrible speller too, and just these past few months – at age 10 lol – has she begun to recognize that she is misspelling in her own writing and have the desire to correct it.  

    Thanks all of you so much for responding!  You know, at first I really felt like prepared dictation or Spelling Wisdom would be way over his head and I just disregarded it. But hearing so many of you suggest it even in the midst of what I would call a pretty huge spelling issue makes me wonder if it just might work.  One way people with these auditory issues compensate is by memorizing and my son is no exception.  He can memorize anything I ask him to in short order.  For some reason though, memorizing spelling lists never worked for us, so memorizing the spelling of an entire phrase taken out of an interesting passage might be just the ticket.

    I like the idea of writing down his narrations for him and using that for his copywork. I have a question about that though.  When he narrates back his oral composition and I write it down for him to copy is there ANY editing done at all??  (As in me guiding him in cases where something just doesn’t sound right or doesn’t flow) Again, I’m going to get the SCM book on LA very soon but I’d love to start formulating a plan now.

    I also like the idea in another half year or so to let him start keyboarding.  Honestly, that’s how I’ve improved my spelling is by typing on Word and being able to see my error right away.  Right now though, I think it would be overwhelming because, I can assure you, ninety percent of the words would have red underlines!  So maybe in time. 

    Someone else talked about letting him know that he has issues in this area and I’m really starting to see the wisdom in that.  Not plopping a label on him and making him self consious, but just starting to work on coping strategies say for listening better and asking for info a second time if need be.  This boy is bright and really artistic and kind, he’s got so many gifts that God has given him and I don’t want him to feel like he’s slow or dumb. 

    Sonya, you had asked if I could relax about his not being at grade level…”I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” Smile That’s honestly what shift I’m really wanting to make this year.  After these years of shifting back and forth and all around I’m really coming back full circle to this CM way of life, home and learning.  I was drawn to it from the beginning but went off in other directions, some very fruitful, some not.  I think to really go CM all the way, one has to let go of these high expectations for grade levels and passing tests, and raise our expectations in the quality of resources that we use, the way we spent our precious little time (quality, not quantity!) and just relax!  For all of us who have done our 12 years in the public school and then for some 4 + more years of college it is hard to do this, but I for one am really ready to make the shift!  Off topic now – but again thanks so much everyone for responding.  It’s amazing what writing down your issues and reading others’ similar issues and ideas can do for a  confused and weary mama!  God bless!

    Stephanie, Shiela and Gem –

    So nice to hear of other 9-10 year olds who can’t spell – I was beginning to feel as though my boy was the only one!Tongue out


    I’d love to hear over time if the Earobics is of any help at all if you wouldn’t mind posting about that from time to time.  Thanks!



    When I wirte her narrations, I am not always correcting grammar on paper.  It depends on how big of a mistake it is – if it is really obvious I will repeat it back and ask her if that sounds right.  She usually hears it on re-hearing it.  My main focus is for her to see her ideas on paper with the correct spelling, puncuation and capitols.   We will add the stress of grammar later. =)  However, I usually try to make it be “correct” – all the verbs and tenses match etc,

    I can tell you that she liked the Earobics, but there are 2 different level discs.  I have the Step 1 ages 4-7.  We are not actually using it now, but if you were to get one I’d get the Level 2 which is geared more to his age.   The one I have is probably too simple.  It has several leveled games of hearing and matching sounds and blends.  It allowed her to track her progress through the levels and she liked that; her favorite game was collecting the eggs from the hens.  =)  Really, though, it wasn’t as much help as I thought beacause she had already made her coping skills in real life (we struggled thru 3 yrs PS).  Now, I remind her of the issues when she is “feeling” them and try to help her find new coping strategies.  I have to say that she is thriving with the CM methods.  I’d swear that they were designed with her in mind.

    She struggles to keep her place from paper to chalkboard, remembering lengthy instructions, etc so we deal with those as well.   Typing games can frustrate her because of the difficulty in locating her place from board to paper (the games go to fast), so we are going gently with that.  =)  wonder if we sould do some form of copywork for the computer keyboard, so she can practise before we really go into the typing?   Hmmmmmm…  It is an important skill – just think of all the time I could save if I were able to type correctly =)  LOL


    Thanks again for posting Sheila – I really appreciate it.  I too, feel like my son is really going to benefit from CM methods also for the following reasons:

    So much can be done orally

    He loves being outside in nature so making that part of “school” will be wonderful

    He loves to listen to great books and, if the story is engrossing enough, doesn’t seem to have any problems processing those.

    Really doesn’t like the tedium of worksheets

    More reasons than this to be sure but this is off the top of my head.

    So I’m planning this summer to watch one or two of SCM seminars, reading, reading, reading myself (this forum, books, etc.) and really jumping in this fall.  The writing was one of my biggest hang ups but after reading what’s been said here I feel confident that it will come along. 

    I wanted to mention All About Spelling to anyone with children who struggle this way.  It really has helped my son with segmenting a word into syllables and really HEARING the sounds.  Before, he would just miss sounds/letters completely in his invented spelling.  For instance in the word “straw” he would miss the “t” and probably the “r” also and write “sa…”  With AAS, he’s slowing down when he’s trying to hear how a word sounds.  He himself has realized that he doesn’t hear all of the sounds, and thus become more mindful. So it so far has been really helpful. 

    I think Spelling Wisdom would be great to do along with it though (maybe once or twice per week) because with AAS he’s only exposed to very simple words right now (we’re in the 1st grade level of AAS for remediation) but he’s at a much higher reading level.  Plus I think dictation could be so helpful for a person with hearing/processing issues.  I just never wanted to do regular dication before because all/most of his words weren’t spelled correctly and I couldn’t see him getting those wrong spellings cemented in his brain.  Now I understand that prepared dictaion is much different.


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