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Writing and the Profoundly Gifted Child

Highlights from Expert Series

The following article shares highlights and insights from one of our Expert Series events, which are exclusive for Young Scholars and their parents.

Our PG kids often amaze us with their precociousness, but we are often unnerved when some skills don’t develop as easily as other skills. While some PG kids write early and with comfort, many don’t. Understanding why a child’s writing is developing on a different timeline than other academic skills can help reduce parental concern and help us adjust our expectations while providing our children with better support.

Often, all children need is time. That need can make us anxious, but along with waiting for growth, there are lots of techniques we can use to foster their growth as writers while respecting that writing is a hard task requiring a good deal of skills, including strong executive function, attention to details, and a willingness to risk critique.

When writing skills lag behind other academic skills, don’t panic. This is common, and it often remedies itself with time. There is no “perfect” piece of writing, and that fact vexes our PG kids who are often focused on perfection. Some PG kids have disabilities that affect their writing skills, but most reluctant writers just need support, encouragement, and time to grow.

Top Tips for Supporting Profoundly Gifted Children with Writing

  1. Let your beginning writers pick their own topics. For the youngest of our children (and other resistant writers), writing happens when kids focus on expressing themselves or exploring a topic they love. Focus more on the process of writing than the product.
  2. Remind your writers that writing can be fun, but it also can take work. It’s okay that it takes work, as all the books they love took lots of work as well. Many PG kids equate working hard with being unintelligent. Remind them that their favorite authors worked hard.
  3. Older kids (over 10 or so) often start to want more privacy when writing. Some of that comes from a growing sense of self-consciousness, but some of that privacy is because they identify with their writing: If it’s “bad”, they are a “bad” writer, or even “bad” student. There are no bad writers, and there is no perfect piece of writing.
  4. Try comparing the writing process to some other skill they’ve managed well. Young pianists and soccer players don’t start out with all the skills: They work hard and practice. Writing requires the same.
  5. Remember that you may be more anxious about the writing than your child is. We certainly can transmit our worries anxiety to our kids. Let your kids see YOU working at something new and hard. Share your challenges – not just the ones in the past, but the ones that are recent.
  6. Scribing or speech-to-text technology can be a bridge to more independent writing. When you scribe for a child, put down exactly what they say. Let them read it over, preferably aloud. They then can proofread what they dictated. They’ll start to hear what doesn’t quite work.
  7. Revision is hard, and almost no one likes to reread their work. (And I fall into that camp!) It’s uncomfortable, and it takes time. It also connects back to our writing as our identity. I encourage my students to read their work aloud while alone, using a paper copy of their work, with a pencil in hand. That allows a writer to mark the piece up as they read through.
  8. There is no ideal writing program, which is terrific, as our kids are all different. What your child enjoys is probably the place to start. Some programs are highly regimented and repetitive, which works for some PG kids, but not for others. Some of my strongest writers have been in a variety of programs over the years. They pick up ideas along the way, honing in on what works for them.
  9. Writing disabilities, like dysgraphia, are challenging to diagnose and to treat, and there is no single answer. While sometimes the issue is in the making of the letters (type or dictate, if so), dysgraphia for some makes organization problematic. For many of these kids (my own son, included), typing or dictating can make things much easier.
  10. Autistic students may struggle with writing that requires thinking about the audience for whom they are writing. This can make writing narratives (including admission and scholarship essays) challenging, and it also can increase the challenge to give the reader enough information to understand their point.
  11. For the child whose writing skills are lagging, consider learning disabilities only if those skills are lagging compared to their age mates. PG kids are often uneven in skills, and it is important to remember that the eight-year-old child that has a 10th grade understanding of math may NOT have the writing skills of a 10th This makes school placement hard, but writing ability is on its own timeline.
  12. When you see your child struggling with writing, try not to panic. It will come. And, of course, it’s okay to wait.

Authored by: Sarah Butler
Bio: Sarah Butler is a writing coach and instructor at Online G3 and a private writing tutor. She is the author of the essay, “The Writing Can Wait.” She’s raised two DYS sons, from whom she learned just how much parent/child tension about writing can occur. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English composition and followed it up with a master’s degree in science. She practices as a Certified Physician Assistant, serving vulnerable populations.

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