A note on learning to write

I came downstairs this morning to find this. Written completely independently by Little Miss M to guard her LEGO last night and I thought I’d share her experience of learning to write, and how it’s all coming together in a very PDA friendly way.

[The drawing isn’t relevant to the text, it’s just what she chose to write on. I actually drew it a week or so ago in a ‘draw a YouTuber challenge’ she set for me.]

writing 4

Sometimes she’ll ask me how to spell certain words but in this case she’s figured out how to spell the words herself either by memory or sounding them out and I think she’s done amazingly. “Don’t touch the LEGO below”. Check out the registered trademark symbol (R) after LEGO!

Little Miss M is home educated, she’s never been to school and hasn’t practiced writing everyday like a child in school would traditionally do. Asking her to write something triggers extreme demand avoidance and anxiety. Consequently we stepped back early on and gave her the freedom to write only when she instigates it. As writing has been rarely relevant to her life until recently, it hasn’t happened often. Whenever she does write though, it’s incredibly meaningful and as you can see, she can still form letters and write words despite the lack of practical experience.

It’s been fascinating to see how writing has developed and become relevant to her. When we introduced letters to her as a small child she enjoyed using a dry-wipe letter writing book but wanted to do it her own way and wouldn’t follow the arrows to form the letters. She also loved making her own alphabet chart with foam letters and using it to copy the letter shapes from. She then went through a very short lived phase of copying writing but the novelty soon wore off and demand avoidance set in. Over the next couple of years she’d very occasionally write, mainly labelling drawings, making signs or writing her name and preferred to write mostly in capital letters even though she learnt lower case letters in her dry-wipe books initially. We went with the flow and never made any attempts to encourage her to write when she refused to and we didn’t correct any mistakes, ensuring she felt no expectations whatsoever. In time she began to notice herself when letters or words weren’t quite right and would ask for help to get them right.

During this time she also started to notice punctuation marks in her books and that they were also on the computer keyboard and so started writing by typing on the computer to use them too and over the last 6 months or so she’s been writing by typing more and more – using my phone to write funny notes and to send WhatsApp messages to Daddy, searching the internet for images and videos, making signs in Minecraft etc. and has found this experience of writing very rewarding and enjoyable. Predictive text and auto fill initially gave her access to do these things more independently and with less frustration and as a result she’s personally motivated to write both by hand and by typing much more now than she ever has been and happily does it whenever she has a meaningful need to.

I’m seeing how she can now spell some words from memory and she’s started sounding out some words which she doesn’t know how to spell. If she asks me how to spell something or to write it for her, I do as I’m still very aware of demands creeping in and putting her off so I keep it light and enjoyable and in no way an expectation or demand.

Learning to write has happened very naturally and has been totally at her pace and within her control, with no expectations on her to do it. It’s come entirely from her personal desire to do it in order to communicate information and to find things. I was worried early on about demand avoidance preventing her from learning to write and how that might hold her back but giving her the opportunity to master these skills in her own time and with no expectations from us or anyone else has, so far, eliminated any demands, making it achievable and enjoyable.

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