Are you trying to figure out how to help a child with dysgraphia at home? I’m excited to share some strategies I used over the years to help my son overcome his writing challenges.
While this is something he will always have to deal with, we have definitely seen significant improvement in his writing through consistent modifications, remediation, and accommodations.
When kids are younger, the focus needs to be on building up their fine motor and visual-spatial skills that are essential to writing and then moving on to more in-depth writing processes.
Remember, the goal isn’t perfection. It’s helping your child be able to express himself clearly through the process of writing.
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Miriam Webster defines dysgraphia as an “impairment of handwriting ability that is characterized chiefly by very poor or often illegible writing or writing that takes an unusually long time and great effort to complete.”
Meaning, kids with this neurological disorder struggle with the physical act of writing. They have poor fine motor, visual, and processing skills. It affects handwriting, spelling, and typing.
While the challenge of getting thoughts out of your head isn’t necessarily a symptom of dysgraphia, it is a secondary result. When a child has to spend so much time and energy physically forming letters and words, it often gets in the way of forming ideas.
One of the first signs parents notice is messy handwriting.
Other things to watch out for are:
- the spacing of letters
- consistency in letter size
- the ability to write in a straight line
- holding a pencil correctly
- controlling the pencil and paper
This learning disability affects more than just handwriting, though. When kids can’t form letters correctly, they will most likely struggle with spelling. Often, they’re also slow writers because it takes an enormous amount of energy and focus to get the letters correct. It may even be a challenge for your child to draw and color.
It’s important to understand that if your child suffers from dysgraphia, he is not being lazy. He just needs some extra help to get on the right track.
Over the course of a couple of years, my son completed vision and language therapy programs which helped in a variety of ways, but as the months went on, he continued to struggle with writing.
When he was 10, we finally met with a school psychologist and she helped us identify the signs of dysgraphia.
For more information about dysgraphia, visit the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
What Does Dysgraphia Look Like
Every situation is unique, but this is what dysgraphia looked like for my son.
I didn’t know that he had dysgraphia when I was teaching him how to write. When he 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 lowercase 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.
Like with most families, it took time, patience, and a good bit of work to understand what was going on.
How to Help a Child with Dysgraphia
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 several approaches that have ultimately helped our son.
Every situation is unique, so not all of these may work for your child, but these are the tools and strategies that have worked for our family as we taught our son how to write.
Helpful Dysgraphia Writing Tools
Here are a bunch of the tools we use in our homeschool to help my son get comfortable writing.
Gripping the pencil is a huge issue for my son. We’ve tried lots of things, like using pencil grips. There are many sizes and styles of pencil grips and after testing several them, he finally found one that was comfortable.
He also found it was easier to use shorter pencils because they were easier to control.
My son is now a teenager, but we still practice handwriting daily by using copy work. We look at it like we’re constantly strengthening a muscle.
To make this activity more enjoyable, choose copy work that is interesting and meaningful for your child. For my son, that meant something related to history.
The lines on graph paper help keep columns straight and neat, which is great for keeping kids with dysgraphia focused. It’s also a must for working through math problems.
Speaking of math…consider reducing the number of problems required on a page, so your child doesn’t get overwhelmed. Maybe just have him complete the odd or even problems instead of everything on the page. Just enough to show that he understands the concepts being covered.
This will help keep the frustration over writing at bay.
Instead of having your child regularly write required responses, let him answer questions from lessons verbally instead. This is a non-threatening way to gauge his understanding of a subject.
Using narration in your homeschool (summarizing and repeating back what they have learned) is a great way to take some pressure off your child while still making sure he is mastering the material.
I would encourage you to use technology as much as possible in your homeschool because often it’s easier for children with dysgraphia to type their thoughts instead of writing.
This year we purchased a Microsoft Surface for our son to use to complete many of his assignments, and this has proven to be a positive step forward. It’s helped him to get more of his ideas out and onto the screen, instead of sitting staring at a blank piece of paper.
He is quickly learning how to get his ideas down first and then go back to edit his sentences and spellcheck his words.
Dry Erase Board
Let your child do some writing on a whiteboard instead of paper. This allows for writing larger letters, therefore incorporating larger muscle movements, and it is less stressful because it doesn’t require him to stay on the lines.
Here are a couple of handwriting programs that work well for teaching your child with dysgraphia how to write.
Handwriting Without Tears
Handwriting Without Tears is an award-winning curriculum that is my number one suggestion for handwriting curriculum for dysgraphia and the one we used for several years. Just as advertised, my son progressed through the printing and cursive books without too many tears, which we considered an enormous success.
The slate chalkboard and wood pieces that are a part of the program are very helpful to reinforce the size and direction of capital letters.
Rhythm of Handwriting
Rhythm of Handwriting is another program that’s a favorite among homeschooling families. It works well for kids with dysgraphia because of its multi-sensory approach.
It focuses on the movement of each letter stroke and has verbal cues to help struggling learners.
Kids start with large motor skills where they write letters with their fingers before using a pencil. They also teach the letters in patterns, grouping them together based on initial strokes.
The instructions are short and clear, which makes it easier for children to remain focused.
In addition to helping your child improve his physical writing skills, you also need to help him develop other areas of writing. While these programs aren’t specifically written for children with dysgraphia, I have seen firsthand how they can help a child with this learning disability improve their writing skills.
Spelling can be very challenging for kids with dysgraphia, but after trying more programs than I can count, Spelling Smart! is the one that finally worked for us.
A huge benefit to this program is that it reinforces spelling patterns through word lists and various writing opportunities. The repetition makes it easier for kids to master the spelling of a wide variety of words.
If you’re looking for a fun and creative writing curriculum, Wordsmith Apprentice is a great choice. This was an early favorite of ours, and it helped my son learn many of the basics he needed to write paragraphs and essays.
When you’re ready for a more in-depth, personalized writing instruction program, Writing Rockstars is the one you should choose.
As you know, it’s crucial for kids to build solid writing skills as they move through middle school. With this program, students learn how to write specific types of essays using a simple 5 step process.
Essay Rockstar 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 is invaluable.
It’s just the right curriculum to help teens get ready for high school level work.
They even have a free downloadable eBook called “End Blank Page Terror Forever!” It’s filled with 24 graphic organizers that are incredibly helpful for kids with dysgraphia.
One of my son’s least favorite parts of the writing process is facing a blank piece of paper when he begins a new assignment, so this was invaluable.
Tools for Dysgraphia
Check out my tools for dysgraphia shelf in my Amazon Influencer store. It’s full of all kinds of things you can use to help you teach your child with dysgraphia how to write.
Hopefully, you’re encouraged by these strategies and tools you can use in your homeschool. It’s not easy, but with persistence, patience, and helpful devices, your child can learn how to write well.