Sue Ewing: Helping Students Overcome Their Writing Obstacles

Jul 05, 2017 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


At IEW, we mean it when we say our Structure and Style™ method works for students who have a wide range of abilities. This includes special learners. Sue Ewing is a Certified IEW Instructor and works with students who struggle with writing due to a variety of challenges including dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, Written Expression Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). Recently we had an opportunity to speak with Sue about her work, and she shared some wonderful strategies that she employs with her students as she teaches IEW. Her ideas are so constructive that we want to also share them with you. If you work with special learners in your family or in a tutoring or classroom environment, you will find some excellent tips for helping them maximize their writing potential.

Enjoy reading a few of Sue’s tips, which she has gleaned over her years of teaching, below:

  1. Use language that is concrete, and avoid lacing your teaching with irony, metaphors, or other symbolic language. This is because students who have ASD struggle to understand this type of language and can easily become confused.

  2. Be as visual as you can when you teach. IEW’s Structure and Style™ method makes this easy to accomplish.

  3. Avoid interruptions. Sue feels so strongly about this that she has informally added it as a fifth rule to Andrew Pudewa’s “4 Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing.” According to her, an interruption doubles the chances of an error in any task involving a series of steps. That’s why it’s so important to allow your students the time they need to think without interrupting them.

  4. Allow students to look in other directions rather than directly at you. Direct eye contact can be very disconcerting for students who have ASD.

  5. Don’t get offended if your student acts rudely or inappropriately. People with ASD struggle in social settings and may need you to show them in concrete ways how to respond appropriately in your classroom.

  6. Avoid bright lights, sudden movements, and loud noises. These can be highly distressing to those with autism.

  7. Know that autistic students crave structure and sameness. They do not handle change well. Always prepare your students verbally ahead of time before changing to a different activity, IEW writing unit, etc.

  8. Allow autistic students to participate in class at a level that works for them. That may mean allowing a student to do certain activities like brainstorming at home with a parent where disruptions may be kept to a minimum rather than requiring him to participate with the group during class time.

  9. And finally, know that as an instructor, you will make mistakes. When you do, seek your student’s forgiveness and be sure to forgive yourself as well. Then move on. Sue asserts, “Unfortunately, too many teachers and parents think they have to have it all together when they teach. Of course, we need to have watched and completed the practicum assignments in Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, but we also need to realize that a teacher is continually observing her students and then adjusting her method of instruction to meet the needs of those she is working with.”

These are wonderful words of wisdom from a veteran instructor. If you work with struggling students, try employing some of Sue’s tips in your own instruction time. And if you have additional suggestions for teaching special learners, please share them in the comments below.

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