As parents, it is always a puzzle to us when we are working with a teenager who seemingly has to work too hard to learn things that should come more easily. We constantly question, “Is there a curriculum that will work better for this child? Should I have him tested for a learning disability? Is he just lazy and unmotivated? Should I put him back in school? How will I give him a diploma?”

When I finished homeschooling my son, I worked with “twice exceptional” teenagers in the school system. What is meant by that phrase? We have many of these students at home. Twice-exceptional teens are those who are “gifted with a glitch.” They have an above-average IQ but are struggling in one or more areas of learning.

Because they are verbally bright and interested in many topics, we often think these students are doing poorly in other subjects because they are just not trying hard. Now, thanks to research, we know better. We understand that a teenager can be very good in some areas and yet struggle in others. The good news about this is that there are answers! You and your teenager can find help in overcoming areas of struggle.

Let’s look at two of the most common areas of struggle:

     •Writing and spelling

     •Focusing/attention

Writing and Spelling Struggles

The most common reason teenagers were placed in my resource room for language arts was because they were not turning in any writing assignments. In their testing, such students had scored low in “Processing Speed” and its subtest, “Coding”—which is rapid, accurate copying of shapes and symbols. These students basically were suffering with a learning glitch called dysgraphia.

At home, the picture looks like this: The Great Debate occurs every year. “Am I expecting too much of my child, or not enough?” “Is this groaning and moaning about writing just a discipline problem or a character issue, or is there really a problem here?”

Common comments I hear from homeschool moms are:

     •“She can tell me the answers orally well, but then it takes her an hour to write it down!”

     •“When he writes his spelling words to learn them, he leaves letters out of the words.”

     •“When he wants to, he can write neatly. He’s just sloppy.”

     •“He’ll do the longest math problem in his head rather than writing anything down.”

Unbeknownst to themselves, many of these parents are pointing to signs of dysgraphia.

Symptoms of Stress in the Writing System, or Dysgraphia

     •Resists writing

     •Writing reversals

     •Math problems not lined up

     •Omits letters when spelling

     •Can’t get thoughts on paper

     •Copying very labor intensive

     •Poor spacing on paper

     •Great stories orally, but writes very little

No teenager exhibits all of the symptoms, but if your teenager exhibits some of them, it would be good to recognize this and help him with the problem. It is best to do two steps:

     •Compensation

     •Correction

Of course, the first thing we do is teach these students keyboarding skills so they can do much of their work on the computer without going through the mechanics of writing with pencil and paper. But, as Dr. Mel Levine in his book One Mind At A Time states, teenagers with this grapho-motor problem avoid writing in all modalities, even on the computer. We can get a voice-to-print software program such as Dragon Speak, and this will help with longer written assignments. However, the teenager is still using too much battery energy to put finger to keyboard or pencil to paper for such tasks as filling in worksheets or doing math problems.