Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Diverse Thinking Different Learning

Nov 23, 2021

There are a number of different reasons behind why a child is struggling with writing. It could be dysgraphia, a disorder of written expression, a specific learning disability in the area of writing, or just being a little behind relative to their peers. The challenge is how to know the difference and how to help. Because writing is a skill that is impacted by several different learning difficulties, we’re digging in today with Educational Therapist, Jan Esterkin.

Jan’s passion for teaching reading and writing is evident in today’s episode as she helps us understand the difference between some of the underlying issues in writing struggles. She gives us several tools and a generous list of resources to help struggling students of all ages. Not only do writing struggles look different per child, but the intervention designed to help them looks different based on their grade level, too. There are a lot of things to consider when supporting struggling writers and with Jan’s help, we can get started with a toolbox of graphic organizers, writing activities, games, and more.


Show Notes:

[1:19] - Welcome to the show, Jan! Jan and Dr. Wilson have been working together for a long time.

[2:52] - The reason behind a writing struggle determines what to do to help them.

[3:56] - Jan defines and describes dysgraphia and lists some of the red flags.

[4:46] - The most common problem of the students Jan works with is organizing their thoughts on paper.

[6:50] - The intervention for the child who has a pencil grip issue and the child who has trouble spelling will be entirely different but both may have dysgraphia.

[8:11] - Jan uses Handwriting Without Tears to support students who have difficulty keeping their writing on the lines.

[9:40] - Using a graphic organizer, Jan also supports students who struggle getting started with writing something.

[12:20] - Getting thoughts on paper is a separate process from grammar, spelling, and the mechanics of writing.

[13:10] - Writing in first grade is much different than writing in fourth grade. Jan describes the differences between working with the different grade levels of students.

[15:12] - Jan uses a program called Step Up to Writing and explains why she likes the program to support students who need visual models.

[17:46] - The folder of resources Jan provides to students helps them with “being stuck.”

[19:30] - Jan recommends a book called Banish Boring Words.

[21:00] - Executive functioning skills play a larger role in writing than in math or reading.

[23:20] - There is so much to think about simultaneously while writing.

[25:40] - Jan demonstrates how to make a game out of making boring sentences more interesting.

[28:50] - When a child can get their thoughts on paper, there is so much pride in this skill being developed.

[29:56] - Jan uses several games and a lot of humor in this process of supporting students.

[32:30] - Jan has provided us with a list of resources that you can find here and linked below.


About Our Guest:

Jan has been practicing educational therapy since 2002.  Prior to her graduate classes at UCLA in educational therapy, she earned 2 Masters Degrees, one in Education from Boston University and the other in Counseling and Guidance from Loyola Marymount University. Jan taught first through third grade in Los Angeles and was the school’s reading specialist before beginning her private practice. She also worked with three educational therapists at two Los Angeles public schools supporting struggling students in a one-to-one setting.

Jan is a member of the Association of Educational Therapists and Child Nexus. She has been on the board of AET chairing the Study Groups. She attends the AET annual conference, the International Dyslexia Los Angeles conference and maintains her continuing education through these conferences, webinars, podcasts, study groups, and zoom meetings. Jan loves to work with elementary age students in all subjects, especially in teaching reading and the writing process. Her love and compassion for her work is seen in her students’ progress and their growing self-confidence.


Connect with Jan Esterkin:


Links and Related Resources:

Join our email list so that you can receive information about upcoming webinars -

The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.