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What does it mean to have a "sequencing" problem?

Girl at deskThe first year we had a girl’s softball team at the school where I teach, one of the girls on the team was very athletic. She could throw and hit the ball well, and she could run very fast. In the first game of the season, however, she hit the ball and ran to third base! This is an example of how a sequencing disorder can affect a child.

Sequencing simply means putting things in the correct order like the alphabet or numbers. If spelling a word, the order of the letters is very important. Changing the order in a math problem (writing "21+17 = ___" instead of "12 + 17 = ____") produces the incorrect answer. And, who knows what happens in a softball game when you run the bases backwards!

Socially, these children may tell you about an argument they had with a friend and then later tell you the same story in a different order. This can make them look like they are lying when it is actually a sequencing issue over which they have no control.

Students with a sequencing problem have trouble following step-by-step directions. They fall apart when working on long term projects because they are not sure what needs to be done and in what order. I watch for these problems with my students. I teach them how to check off what they have completed when following a set of directions. When working on a long-term project, I break it down into manageable pieces and monitor whether they are completing each part in time to finish the whole project. I also use graphic organizers such as those shown here to help these children organize their thoughts.

There are many accommodations and compensatory strategies these children can benefit from. For more ideas of possible ways to help, check out this article from the Child Development Institute.

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#5 Jenny mcevoy 2015-08-29 22:21
Hi I have researched sequencing problems because I feel something is wrong with my child but don't know what. Outwardly to everyone she comes across totally normal and clever but there are some things that concern me. She has never really been able to learn a song even basic nursery rhymes. She remembers parts of them but orders them wring or misses bits out. She is nearly 7 and can read well but I have helped her a lot. However it took her until fairly recently to be able to recite the alphabet fully and the same with counting. She struggles to skip and her swim teacher cannot understand why she cannot breathe on every third stroke despite the fact she swims beautifully. Can you offer any advice please.
#4 Livia McCoy 2010-09-30 22:36
Linda, I am always excited when I see how you take what I write and apply it to struggling writers! So now, the next step is to figure out how to solve that problem. Thank you for making me think! Please let me know if you figure out a strategy that helps these kids sequence their narratives.
#3 Linda Aragni 2010-09-30 13:18
I had noted for years that my students who struggle with writing (which is nearly all of my students) really struggle with writing narratives. I have always assumed their problem was that they had a mass of material and couldn't decide what to include and what to leave out.

Your article suggests that they may be having trouble with even putting the material in chronological order. That would explain why they can handle thesis and support organization far more easily than chronological organization.

That really intrigues me because I cannot remember ever seeing a writing textbook that didn't start writers out with narrative. If the first assignment we give students who have difficulty sequencing is an assignment that requires sequencing ability, it should be no surprize if they hate writing and think it's beyond them.

As always, you open my mind to new ideas. Thanks, Liv!
#2 Livia McCoy 2010-09-29 00:48
I appreciate the feedback! Please let me know if you have a topic you would like me to discuss. I have worked with struggling students for many years and I do love seeing them grow and improve. The girl mentioned in this article now is a successful teacher and volleyball coach.
#1 LilaADHD 2010-09-29 00:21
Thanks so much for writing this article and sharing this website. It has really useful suggestions and I have passed it on to many others.

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