The fear of the blank page

The fear of the blank page

I have 3 children all of whom have been assessed as dyslexic and although I have read masses about dyslexia and all my children have had lots of input from various educational professionals, I feel that I still don’t truly understand the complexities of the condition and how to overcome it. However what I am sure about is that it is a disability and has a significant impact on a child’s confidence and self-belief.

In my view we teach our children in a way that works for the majority but I think that dyslexics process and understand information in a very different way from the majority and sadly we don’t understand this well enough to provide the necessary support for dyslexic children and indeed adults.

I remember lots of painful homework sessions where my children are looking at a blank sheet of A4 paper and are expected to fill it with words, not just any old words but words that are put together in a way that’s meaningful, correctly punctuated and spelt accurately. Very soon a dyslexic child believes that they can’t write. So much of the teaching of writing focuses on the technical aspects and not on the creative side, just because a child can’t spell, struggles with sentence structure and can’t organise their thoughts doesn’t mean that they aren’t brimming with ideas and concepts that they’d like to convey.

For my children so much of the writing they were asked to do at school seemed not only difficult but also rather pointless. There was no context, purpose or audience for their writing and when the process of writing is such a struggle you can see how quickly my children became disaffected with everything to do with writing.

So how do we get children who don’t see themselves as able writers to write? It was this dilemma that motivated me to come up with a range of literacy resources that would motivate even the most reluctant writers to pick up a pen and not only write but enjoy it too. The range is called WordSpace and it focuses on having fun with writing by providing a stimulus, audience and purpose. For example one of the products is a based around the discovery of a giant egg, children arrive at school and an egg has turned up in the playground. How did it get there, what’s inside it and what are we going to do with it. There’s so much to work with and by the time the children have discovered the egg, examined it and discussed it they are ready to put their thoughts on paper. It is my hope that schools who use our WordSpace products suspend all concerns about grammar and punctuation, if only for one day, and just allow the children to write whatever comes into their head, whether it’s a newspaper report, poem or labelled diagram - let’s just celebrate the fact that children have been motivated to write, and had a good time doing so. Perhaps then dyslexic children might start to believe that the ability to write is within their grasp.