How I Teach Writing to My Child With Dysgraphia

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.

How I Teach Writing to My Child With Dysgraphia

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.

How I Teach Writing to My Child With 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.

Pencil Grip – There are many different sizes and styles of pencil grips.  After a bit of trial and error we finally found one that was comfortable.  We also found it was easier to use shorter pencils.

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”.

How I Teach Writing to My Child With Dysgraphia

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.

Keyboard Classroom

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:

How I Teach Writing to my TEEN With Dysgraphia

How I Teach Writing to my Teen with Dysgraphia - Education Possible My son struggles with writing. I’m not just talking about “writers block” or difficulties deciding what to write about. He has a hard time with the physical act of writing and getting his thoughts on paper. My son has dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects writing. My lesson plans have changed a bit now that he is a high school student.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. We are currently setting up testing for my 7 year old. It is believed that she has dysgraphia. I will pin this in case that is where things end up for us. Thank you again. =)

    • You are so welcome – thank you for pinning and sharing with other families. I would love to hear about your daughter’s testing and how you move forward. One of the hardest things for us was that I didn’t know anyone else going through what we were facing – it would be great to hear what works and doesn’t for your family and others over the years. Take care!!

  2. Thank you so much for this post! Our 11 year old son has both dyslexia and dysgraphia and I am always looking for ways to help him learn and succeed. I have bookmarked this for future reference, but was so glad to see that I do already utilize some of your suggestions: HWT, graph paper for math, using the white board, etc.

    Because this post was near and dear to my heart, I am choosing it as one of my favorites and will feature it on my Hearts for Home Blog Hop post tomorrow. Be sure to stop by and grab an “I’ve been featured” button. 🙂

    Many blessings,
    Lisa

  3. Thank you so much for this thoughtful post. I have a 10 year old son who was recently diagnosed with dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyslexia and Autism. Finding help for him has been my life’s quest. If you ever have more advise on this topic please share. I believe that mom’s, in situations like myself, desperately need insight like this to keep us going and moving in a positive direction for our children’s needs.

  4. Trish – You are so welcome! I totally agree – we need to keep searching and sharing this information to help each other help our children. We are currently trying out a new program for teaching keyboarding skills and my son is finding it to be very helpful, I’ll have a post going up in January with all of the details. I’m also working on a list of additional resources – good news is I keep finding new things to add to the list.

  5. I am constantly looking for things to help my 11 year old son. He has been diagnosed with auditory processing disorder, and dysgraphia. He doesn’t know all of his times tables so I believe that he also might have dyscalculia. He is a smart little guy that has to work twice as hard as most of the other kids just to get half as far. He goes to a private school. He will not be able to go there next year, and our public school system is of no help. I am looking for a math program for him can you suggest one? Also, we have covered the parts of speech, capitalization, and punctuation and they just don’t seem to matter to my son. I talk to him about them until I am blue in the face. He still cannot write a complete paragraph. We have him keyboarding as well as doing handwriting without tears. I just don’t know how to help my son. I have printed out a ton of graphic organizers and we talk about them.

    • Becky, I understand your concern. When compared to other kids his age, my son always felt he was “behind” in areas of math and language arts. But, we also found that he was pretty far ahead in other areas like history and computers. He learns at a different pace than others because his brain processes information differently. We talk about grammar all year, every year but he still has trouble putting that into practice too. The good thing is that because of the years of repetition the knows the information, it’s just harder for him to get it onto the page. He is a teenager now, and he still struggles a bit, so we have tried a variety of options. We have learned that for the language arts subjects he prefers more structure. Who would have guessed, but he likes to diagram sentences, and he likes to have a checklist of things to look for (punctuation, capitalization, etc.) to use to go back through is writing. Sometime he still misses things, but since he likes things to be orderly he is at least going through the process and catching some of the the items he needs to correct. We have used a number of different math programs over the years with mixed success. My son likes the online math programs — for the younger grades he did well with Aha! Math http://www.learning.com/providers/learning/ Right now we are doing a review course called Learn Math Fast – http://www.learnmathfastbooks.com/ . Khan Academy is also a great free online resource for math. The areas that are a challenge tend to get the most attention but be sure to support his overall development and confidence by encouraging the subjects he enjoys. It sounds like you are doing a lot already- you are doing a great job!.

      • Joanne Edmondstone says:

        Hi Susan I see that you are doing learn maths fast — but when I click on link it is only the books — Zach does well online — that is why I looked at the link — did I get it wrong

        Also if you do answer could you please explain further in diagram sentences and all of what you put on your checklists.
        I feel since his diagnosis was late that I am way behind.

        • Learn Math Fast is in a book format only, sorry if that caused an confusion. Even though it is book format we find that it is very straightforward when explaining new concepts and the review problems clearly reinforce the topics being taught. If you have questions about the program I would encourage you to contact the program creator directly via their website — she has answered many of my questions and offered a great deal of support as she is a homeschool parent too!

          When my son was younger we used First Language Lessons to help teach sentence diagraming. We haven’t practiced this in several years. For high school we are using “Easy Grammar” to reinforce grammar concepts.

          • Joanne Edmondstone says:

            Thankyou , once again , for your assistance. I will have a look at both.

  6. I read this and felt compelled to share my story. In second grade, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Not many resources were available. My parents did the best they could and told me to do what I could. I learned on my own what I needed to do in school. I made it through elementary school, high school, college, a Master’s degree and a Doctoral degree. I actually hand wrote parts of my dissertation because I was more comfortable with a pen and paper than a computer. I now work as an assistant professor and I still hand write my lesson plans. Having dyslexia did NOT stop me and I am confident and certain that all your children will also succeed! Good Luck!

    • Beth, Thank you very much for sharing your story with us! What a wonderful inspiration!! You should be very proud of your accomplishments. We wish you continued success!

  7. I just found out a couple of moths ago that my son has dysgraphia, and I feel so horrible for not understanding about his difficulty in writing. He has been so miserable when I thought he was just being stubborn.

    Thank you for the curriculum recommendations. We had been using Handwriting Without Tears but switched to another because he was having issues. I now know it was only because of the sound of pencil to paper that was driving him crazy. I’ll be looking into your other suggestions.

    Thanks again!

  8. Trina Yue says:

    I’m wondering how you got your son diagnosed with dysgraphia. I think my 11 year old son might have it. My pediatrician said that the school OT could test for it, when we questioned the school, we were told they don’t do that.

    • We had our son evaluated by a school psychologist but it was someone in private practice, not through the school system. We are in Florida and at the time were told it would take several month to get my son an appointment through the public school system so we made the decision to find someone in private practice. If you want to find someone in your area I would look for counselors who specialize in learning/child development evaluations.

  9. Thank you so much for this post. My youngest of three sons I believe has dysgraphia. I have not had him formally tested. He also suffers from chronic migraines and has had visual processing issues. I have been homeschooling him for the past two and a half years and writing has been a very difficult subject. I will be looking into some of the curriculum you have shared here. So far we have experienced more frustration than success, but I can’t give up!

  10. Heather Dollins says:

    What spelling program do you use?

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