Here at the Yellin Center, we often find ourselves considering “the genius of and versus the tyranny of or.” Simply supplying children with a list of accommodations (e.g. either do it this way or learn it that way) is often limiting; a better strategy is establishing a system of accommodations that works in conjunction with a carefully crafted instructional plan (e.g. do this and that, too). Some students need help with a mechanical aspect of a task to complete classwork and should be given workarounds to get through particular tasks. But that doesn’t mean those mechanics shouldn’t be practiced at a separate time. For example, a child who struggles to sound out words certainly needs to develop those critical decoding skills. However, it’s also important that she listen to texts that match her intellectual level so she can practice her comprehension skills and build a love of literature. Learning to decode and listening to texts is a much better approach than only working on either decoding instruction or using audiobooks.
Children should learn how to write by hand, but if they are having difficulty with letter formation they should be given “bypass strategies” like having someone scribe for them, using speech-to-text software, or keyboarding, so their capacity for developing rich written output is not hijacked by their weak graphomotor function. It is essential, however, that kids continue developing handwriting “off-line”; as their mastery and automaticity grows, handwriting can be brought online and integrated into the writing process gradually.