When my son was young he did not like to draw or write because he couldn’t find a comfortable way to hold a pencil. As he got older his handwriting was very inconsistent – words and sentences were often a combination of upper and lower case letters, with no spacing between words. When most kids were writing 1-3 paragraph essays he struggled to get a complete sentence on a page. He knew what he wanted to say, but he could not get his thoughts on paper. We were frustrated and confused.
It took time, patience, and a good bit of work to begin to understand what we were dealing with. Over the course of a couple of years he completed vision and language therapy programs. Therapy helped in a variety of ways, but as the months went on he continued to struggle with writing. When he was 10 we met with a school psychologist and she helped us identify the signs of dysgraphia.
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The advice we received was to find various strategies to address the situation. We needed a three pronged approach:
- remediation – additional training/instruction for writing
- modifications – altering expectations/requirements
- accommodations – alternatives to writing
Over the years we have searched and researched, and through trial and error found a number of different approaches that have ultimately helped our son. Every child is different, therefore I’m not suggesting all of these will work for another child, but this is how I teach writing to my child with dysgraphia.
Handwriting Without Tears – We used this program for several years. My son progressed through the printing and cursive books without too many tears! The slate chalkboard and wood pieces helped to reinforce the size and direction of capital letters.
Copywork – My son is now a teenager but we still practice handwriting daily. We look for copywork that is interesting and meaningful – for him that typically involves something related to history. He worked his way through many of the Handwriting by George books and is now using Write From History.
Graph Paper – This is a must for working through math problems! The lines on graph paper help to keep columns straight and neat. Speaking of math…we often reduce the number of problems required on a page. As long as he shows that he understands the concepts being covered, we typically have him complete only odd or even problems rather than every problem on the page.
White Board – Writing on a white board allows for writing larger letters, therefore incorporating larger muscle movements, and it is less stressful because it doesn’t require “staying on the lines”.
Spelling Smart! – Spelling is still challenging, but after trying more programs than we can count, we finally found one that works. This program helps to reinforce spelling patterns by using word lists and various writing opportunities.
Verbal responses – My son will often answer questions verbally rather than in writing. We use narration in our lessons (summarizing and repeating back what has been learned) as a way to gauge understanding.
Wordsmith Apprentice – Yes, we do use writing curriculum. Wordsmith Apprentice was an early favorite because it was fun and creative.
Fortuigence – This is wonderful, personalized writing instruction program for students. We understand how important it is for our son to build solid writing skills as he moves through middle school and prepares for high school level work. With this program students learn how to write specific types of essays using a simple 5 step process. Fortuigence is unique because students work through the lessons at their own pace, THEN submit their work to a writing teacher for feedback. The one-on-one coaching has been VERY helpful! An extra bonus — One of my son’s least favorite parts of the writing process is facing a blank piece of papers when he begins a new assignment. A great takeaway from this program has been their Free downloadable ebook “End Blank Page Terror Forever!” filled with 24 graphic organizers.
Keyboarding – We have been encouraging the use of technology as much as possible. This year we purchased a Microsoft Surface RT for our son to use to complete many of his assignments. This has proven to be a positive step forward. He is building his keyboarding skills and speed using a very unique program called Keyboard Classroom which uses Finger Guides to help maintain proper hand placement on the keyboard and build muscle memory via repetition of keystrokes. This has allowed him to get more of his ideas out and onto the screen. He is learning to get his ideas down and then go back to edit his sentences and spell check his words.
For more information about dysgraphia, visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities website.
**Note** Our story continues as my son is moving into the teen years. Find out more about our journey at:
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