This is a story about a dysgraphia diagnosis.
Josh struggles in school because writing is so hard for him. Even though he tries writing until his hand hurts, he can’t ever seem to form the letters correctly or put his thoughts on paper. He has trouble copying from the board and he can’t take legible notes. He has trouble writing down his homework assignments which frustrates his parents because they can’t help him with his homework. They can’t decipher what he writes. His teachers ask him to rewrite his papers because they can’t read them. His spelling is abysmal and his grammar, punctuation and capitalization are just as poor. Josh even struggles in math class because his numbers get mixed up. One column of numbers somehow ends up in the other column and his fours look like nines and his sixes never seemed to be closed so they are misinterpreted as ones.
But Josh is smart. So what’s going on here?
Josh needs a dysgraphia diagnosis which is a learning disability that makes writing difficult.
Children with dysgraphia can sit in front of a blank piece of paper for hours. If they are told that they can’t leave their room until they have written a legible well written paper, they’ll never leave their room. These kids often have wonderful and creative thoughts but can’t get them onto paper. They can tell you what they want to say but are unable to write it.
For some, writing is such a slow and tedious process, that they don’t have the patience to sit still long enough to write. Other kids will write fast and furiously, skipping words, getting sentences and paragraphs in the wrong order, never capitalizing and spelling everything wrong. Often they can’t read their own handwriting. The end result is the same: poor grades and an aversion to writing.
Often these children stop writing because, even if they can get the paper written, they’re terrified that their teacher or their parents will insist they revise and rewrite.
Some children may also have actual physical problems with writing that are related to poor eye-hand coordination or lack of fine-motor skills. These children tend to avoid writing, even something as simple as their homework assignment.
What are the symptoms of dysgraphia?
- Poor handwriting because of difficulty forming letters
- Good ideas but difficulty getting the same thoughts onto paper
- Difficulty copying from the board or from a book
- Overly long time spent when required to write a paper
- Difficulty with spelling, punctuation and grammar
A diagnosis of dysgraphia, a writing disorder, is not appropriate if the child does not have all the symptoms. Some children are simply poor spellers, some have poor motor skills and some simply haven’t learned punctuation and grammar yet. Because children can have different challenges with writing, you’ll want to pick and choose from the list below to help them improve and learn to enjoy writing.
Five Strategies for Writing at Home and School:
• Use a computer. Encourage your child to use a computer when at all possible—especially as they become proficient at keyboarding.
• Set up short practice sessions. For young children, practice writing individual letters, words, sentences, or short paragraphs. Keep the sessions appropriate (in subject and in length) to your child’s age, maturity level and personality. For example, 5 to 10 minutes for 6 year olds because they are just learning how to write, 15 to 30 minutes for 7 – 10 year olds, 30 to 45 minutes for middle schoolers and and 60 minutes and more for high schoolers. Depending on their maturity level, personality and desire to write, more time is great. But for the struggling writer, more time may be counterproductive.
• Help with spelling. During a writing session, if your child has trouble spelling, spell the words for her. If the primary goal is writing, stopping often to look up a word interferes with the creative process. Or encourage her to ignore spelling until the draft is written. Use the spell-check function of your computer’s word processing program.
• Have your child tell you what he wants to write about. Then write his thoughts on paper. This can be in list form, on a web (main idea in the middle of a circle and thoughts are on spokes coming out of the circle), or outline form. Then decide together which ideas should be in the beginning of the paper, which should be in the middle and which should be at the end. Number the ideas and cross out the ones that do not belong. Then have your child write or type the final copy by writing one thought after the other.
• Avoid making your child rewrite excessively. Forcing a child with a writing disorder is drudgery that often turns him off to writing.
Dysgraphia can certainly affect children’s grades, test scores, and even their attitude toward school. If you suspect that your child may have dysgraphia or if your child has had a dysgraphia diagnosis, call us and we can help you understand what kinds of modifications that can be made at school that will make all the difference.