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Have you seen the article on working with the dysgraphic child by Karen Hollis on the WTM blog? There are so many gems, applicable not just for a child who is dysgraphic, but also for a child who is simply resistant to writing.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


My 7yo has somehow turned a corner with his writing just this year. He has been diagnosed with numerous issues that have affected his ability to write fluently (coordination disorder, visual-motor and visual-processing issues, working memory deficits, expressive language disorder). He wasn't specifically diagnosed with dysgraphia, but he had all the elements. We have done extensive therapy for these issues, and while I still consider him to be a reluctant writer, he is clearly not dysgraphic. And actually, he's been balking at writing much less lately. I think he's becoming rather proud of his gains over this past year.


To give you a measure, a year ago he would have taken 10 minutes to write three illegible and probably misspelled words. Yesterday, he wrote a paragraph (five sentences) about black holes. While it's clearly immature, I was tickled to see perfectly clear handwriting, correct spelling (I helped with just two words), appropriate punctuation, only one capitalization error, and a clear beginning, details that developed the topic a bit, and an attempt at an end. It's a topic that he's currently interested in, but even I was surprised to read my 7yo refer to Hawking radiation. (I apologize for bragging, but writing had almost always resulted in tears. He's worked SO hard, and now I'm just ridiculously proud of him).



Some things that have helped:

  • lots of exercises for core, shoulder, arm, hand and pincer strength
  • fine motor games and activities
  • weighted pencil
  • slant board
  • keeping handwriting a separate activity from academic subjects
  • acting as a scribe
  • the book Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye
  • AAS for spelling
  • picture books about grammar and punctuation
  • doing very little "correction" of ds's writing (I would point out the features of writing from children's magazines and passages from books we read, but I'd mostly leave his writing alone)
  • remediating his working memory (this seems to have helped his ability to hold his thoughts while managing all the processing tasks involved in writing)

You go right ahead and brag, Kelly! I'm glad you shared your son's success with us! It's encouraging to see your hard work pay off.


May I pass on a brag too? Nothing as great as a wonderful paragraph, but my children's handwriting is much better this year. My husband even looked at something our son wrote and said, "His handwriting is better than mine!"


We focussed on handwriting last year. We used a program called Calirobics every day and also worked on many of the ideas mentioned already above and in the links. Some of my favorites ideas were hand tools and various children's toys to develop hand strength. Our Christmas stockings last year contained gifts like wind-up music boxes, wind-up toys, squeezy toys, play dough, etc.

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Vision therapy, the First Strokes handwriting program, and learning to type. Lots of workbooks that require only minimal writing. Allowing copywork to be typed. Doing math and spelling with the computer to lessen the handwriting load. Sometimes I scribe for him on writing-intensive worksheets if he's been at it for a while. And since his goes beyond just handwriting and extends into all written expression as well, lots of narration and dictation with WWE. It really is helping.

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For my dd(12), we:


1) taught cursive first (Kindergarten)


2) taught typing early (2nd grade, I think)


3) began using IEW in a group setting (I actually became an IEW registered instructor, and now offer classes in my home and at 2 different co-ops. She is in one of my classes--and she is one of the strongest writers. I am rather relieved that she is writing so well!)

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We started typing ASAP (..today at 12yo our DS types around 30-40 WPM)


We switched to Italic Cursive (Not having to lift the pen/pencil from the paper is huge for helping prevent hand strain, yet at the same time the Italic cursive is much more simple in construction than other forms)


We save writing for when it counts (Writing/Language Arts) Everything else is done orally or visually with a whiteboard.


We allow him to choose whether he wants to type/write his writing for assignments. Since 99% of the time he chooses to type, we still assign daily copywork taken from Historical primary sources to prevent any loss of skills. (There are lots of copybooks out there you can purchase that tie directly into history studies)


Allow using a pen instead of a pencil if they prefer the "flow" more, even with math. (Pencils can create alot of drag on the paper.....very uncomfortable to many with dysgraphia...That said some dysgraphic students are the exact opposite and NEED the drag when writing for stability...It all depends on the student)


Use graph paper for math. (Helps dysgraphic students keep their columns in order)


Most importantly, separate the creative writing process (if you teach it or if your child is naturally inclined) from the mechanical process. By this I mean allow your child to tell you a creative story while you write it down for them. Don't let their lack of mechanical ability stifle any creative composition skills they may have.

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Yllek, I just have to stop now, before I even read the rest of your post, and tell you again how BRILLIANT your SLP is. I mean MAN she gives me the tingles! See this is EXACTLY what our np wanted us to do. Well he didn't tell us *what*, but that was the principle, that we needed to separate out motor control to work on it and get it automatic so it stops eating up her processing. But *how* to do it has been the question. And you know how it is, you always want to work SMARTER, not just harder. Hard work can be just plain hard, not therapeutic or changing.


So now I'll read the rest of your post. :)

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Ok, so does writing with *non* alphabetic stuff for these processing tasks improve his ability to *write* in words? It does because it's stretching his OVERALL working memory and processing, rather than just focusing on the ability to form the letters? See that's the thing. On a given day of the week, dd CAN write a beautiful whatever. She doesn't need more of that. She just can't process and write neatly AND spell AND go fast AND... Then back comes her pet rooster to do the writing for her (chicken scratch). But just every so often the planets come together and you see this writing that makes you wonder who did it. So it's *in* there.


Ok, I need to chew on that. Told you this all blows my mind. The np was leading us there. It's just that it's not his JOB to do the therapy to make all that happen. He just tells you what the problem is, and you have to solve it yourself. So you're saying make her process auditory and language and use working memory and write something but that it DOESN'T HAVE TO BE letters. Wowsers, that would change her world. Now how to translate that into something cool for a 12 yo. Me and my great ideas. I dig holes deeper and deeper, eh? Well you've blown my mind. I'll have to chew on it.


BTW, lest anyone get the wrong impression, my dd's issues are NOT of the same level as Yllek's ds. I'm just taking what Yllek is learning (that in principle is similar) and applying it to my older, different child.

Edited by OhElizabeth
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Well, it's a bit mystifying to me, to tell you the truth. It doesn't seem like these exercises would do much of anything, but the jump in writing that I'm describing coincides with doing them.


Our SLP isn't asking ds to write so much as motor plan while holding auditory information in his head. Elizabeth, you've seen that picture sheets that she gives us, so keep those in mind while I try to describe the exercises.


Ds is supposed to choose his favorite writing instrument and review all the pictures on the sheet. Then I say something like, "Write two lines to the left of Car on Star and one circle to the right of Star on Jar." I'm supposed to mix up the directions and number and shape with each repetition. There's also the auditory discrimination component and a certain level of visual processing involved too. We've been doing variations of this type of exercise for the past six weeks or so. Now, the directions have just become more complex, and he has to do reasoning exercises between each "writing" exercise.


Her explanation for this approach is that ds doesn't just need help with the physical, motor side of writing (he's getting this help from PT), but he also needs to work on juggling the motor planning aspects of writing along with the language tasks. She is not asking him to actually write, because he already has hang-ups about writing, so she is getting at all these processes through a back door, so to speak.


As with our previous exercises, she started with a level that ds could barely manage to do. When we first started, this was HARD for him. Now he's managing his homework exercises smoothly. I've noticed this jump in his academic writing only in the least two weeks or so. I can't help but feel that there is a strong correlation between our speech homework and the improvement that I'm seeing. When we saw our SLP today, she believed that ds had turned a corner with these exercises too.


The other thing is that ds is doing gymnastics, PT and lots of exercises at home that work his core, arms and hands. I'm sure all this physical work is helping to improve his stamina too.

Kelly, I just need to copy and paste all this into my lesson planning. Either that or I need to take my son to see your son's slp. :)


Ds started with really messy writing, a weird pencil grip and insanely hard pressure. His grip and pressure stayed unusual but writing got a better and then it got worse--and stayed worse for a while. I wondered what had happened. I realize now with your post that coincided with when I expected him to process more information. Anyway, we worked on strokes, pressure (he used a weighted glove for a while), letter formation, and hand muscles last year. His writing improved.


Dysgraphia often accompanies the whole dyslexia/language processing conglomeration of problems. My ds never had a formal diagnosis of dysgraphia, but when I read about the dyslexia/dysgraphia connection and recognized signs of handwriting problems, we addressed the problems. I set aside other writing assignments to focus on handwriting, (plus reading and spelling.)


He writes neatly enough now, but I'm the one with a fear of writing--or rather of teaching writing. I separated the teaching of handwriting from other academic writing assignments, but eventually the pen must meet the paper to create more than just squiggles and letters. I've focussed more on writing rather than just handwriting this year, but it's been difficult. I probably need to do similar to what your slp did to help him develop his reasoning skills so it becomes easier for him to coordinate his thoughts with his hands.

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Merry, it's completely baffling to me why our SLP's approach should lead to ds's brain being more organized with respect to writing, while just writing didn't seem to get us very far. I try to describe this stuff, but I'm not even close to being able to understand it. :tongue_smilie:


It sounds VERY cool, though! My ds now has neat enough handwriting that it is quite legible when he takes enough time with it. But it is still much slower than average. Motor planning is probably part of the equation for him.

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