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Looking for help.


After talking to a writing teacher that my son has been taking classes with, I'm starting to suspect that he may have dysgraphia.


I don't know much about it at all. I'm trying to read as much as I can about it.


In the meantime, I'm wondering if there are any specific curriculums that would work for him? Any particular strategies that you have found helpful. 


He is 9 years old/ 3rd-4th grade level. 



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Are you going to get evals?  You would need a psych eval for that, or the ps can do evals and diagnose.  The *reason* you would want a diagnosis, and not just to proceed on assumption, is because you could be guessing incorrectly and because you want a paper trail.  The more common alternate explanations for those symptoms would be developmental vision problems (for which you would get an eval with a dev. optom., found through COVD.org) and working memory/attention/processing speed issues.  Not all kids who have writing challenges get SLD writing (dysgraphia) labels.  Happily, if there are developmental vision problems, there is effective therapy for it.  For the working memory/attention/processing speed, there is software for scaffolding, better instruction techniques, things you can do to work on WM itself to increase it (to make it easier to deal with the other deficits), etc.  


My dd was in that latter camp.  She used to SHED BLOOD with writing, I kid you not.  She has been eval'd twice now, no dysgraphia.  She just has some really nasty ADHD, low processing speed, and working memory issues, and writing is HARD for her.  My ds pushes over to an SLD writing label, but my dd does not.  Evals let you sort all that out and target how to intervene.  With my dd, I did significant metronome work using heathermomster's instructions and bringing in digit spans for working memory.  That was around age 12 or 13, I forget.  It was after our vision therapy, etc.  Anyways, that was when her writing started getting more comfortable.  Does your ds type yet?  For my dd, typing is important to being able to get her thoughts out.  If she hand writes, she's usually going to use some form of self-created chicken scratch shorthand.  Typing is HUGE for these kids.  She types with a bluetooth keyboard with an ipad or with her regular desktop computer.  She uses Inspiration software.  She requires extra time and a quiet space (no distractions).  There's also a growth spurt that occurs around 13, which I think worked together with the things we were doing for working memory and metronome (executive function).  


So with a 9 yo, I would be working on typing, get Kidspiration, choose engaging writing projects, and get evals to see if you have vision, working memory, or other factors playing in that you can actually work on.  Even kids with dysgraphia CAN WRITE with enough supports and they may become more independent with interventions.  If the dc's speech is good enough, I would use text to speech (on the kindle, on macs, on cordana/microsoft, whatever) and get them able to get their thoughts out.  You can use apps like Toontastic or make videos together.  Use the technology to bridge the gaps.  Scaffold with Kidspiration, mind-mapping, etc.


Fwiw, some kids are also really picky about what they're writing about, that they actually have something they want to say.  I got the Bravewriter Jot It Down to try with my ds at some point.  With dd, Writing Tales was particularly good, but she also did a lot of personal interest writing, like writing out her recipes.  Any time you can harness their interests and help them write things that matter to them, it's good.

Edited by OhElizabeth
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Is it more handwriting, or is it more the content/organization?


Or both?


If it is more handwriting, I would really think about seeing an OT at least for an eval and a few sessions.  When my son went to OT, after the eval and working with him for 2 sessions, his OT did use a program with him, and it was the kind of program that I think a lot of parents could use/supervise with just some initial guidance from the OT.


But ----- I asked her, and she has 5 (5!!!!) different programs along these lines, that she uses with different kids.  That is not getting into other things she does for individual kids, either.  But she does have some programs she uses. 


Well -- there are different programs that are going to be more effective and appropriate for certain kids, b/c of how they do on the eval.  There are just different things sometimes, and they are not all going to respond well to the same program.


Generically ----- HWT is considered very good.  Well, it is good.  My son used HWT.  The OT said, "yes, HWT is good, but b/c your son has these certain needs, he does need a program to address these certain needs."  That does not make HWT bad, or the 4 other programs she uses bad.  But they do make the one she picked for him to use, the one that is right for him.


So ---- I really think it is worth it to talk to an OT.  It doesn't mean you have to make a huge commitment -- I think it is still worth it. 


There are also people who find out their child has a core weakness that can be worked on with some exercises ----- these kids can make rapid, major progress sometimes.  Like -- it is very worth it. 


But separately, at a certain point, for my son to have "functional handwriting" it is not realistic.  Typing is what is realistic for him.  What is functional changes depending on the situation.  He does have functional handwriting now for some situations -- he can write when there is no time constraint, and it can be readable (it is still not great, but it is readable). 


Well, in real-world needs for handwriting ---- that is just not good enough, for being able to take notes in a class, or do school work in a reasonable amount of time while also legible.  Like -- it does need to be a certain speed or it is just taking too long to be practical for a lot of situations. 


There is another issue, which is having a lower level of content b/c of the difficulty of writing, when it could be higher quality with dictating.  (In my case this has been more of him dictating to me while I write or type for him.)  That is not helpful to kids feeling good about themselves, when they know they could be doing better, but are held back by their handwriting.  Also, when they are judged as "not caring" and "not bothering" because "why else would they be so sloppy" so that it gives a bad first impression to their content. 


This is a website about dysgraphia: http://www.handwriting-solutions.com/dysgraphia.asp I have not ordered the book, I have just looked at their website.  This quote:  "While Occupational Therapy and Vision Therapy can sometimes help to improve a Dysgraphic student’s letter and number formation in isolation and/or in short writing samples, this improvement is, 99.9% of the time, not able to be sustained when kids are actually using their handwriting to complete their written schoolwork." is from this website. 


I have accepted this on some level.  Even though my son has improved a lot, and OT has helped a lot, and I think it is all worthwhile.... as he has gotten older, there is just more and more of a mismatch between how quickly he can write, and how much he needs to be able to write (as more writing is expected).  I also see that as content is expected to be at a higher level, as he is concentrating more on his content, his legibility just decreases a huge amount.  So, he can try to have good content and his legibility is really bad, or he can try to have good legibility and his content is not as good.  At this point, typing is going pretty well for him.  For a while, though, he was not picking up on typing very well, so I was scribing for him a lot. 


In the meantime, since OT, he can do things like write a beautiful spelling practice (b/c he is only writing words, he is not thinking of content) and he can also write okay for a short, simple note, like in a card.  This is great, great stuff for him.  It is just not equivalent to meaning he can write a 5-paragraph essay in a reasonable amount of time that is also readable and has the content that he is capable of. 


I had thought before, that if he could write a spelling list so much better, that meant everything was going to be fine, and that would transfer to his other work over time.  Well, that has not happened.  But his handwriting is still better than it was, and it is good he has good handwriting for a lot of situations. 





Edited by Lecka
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Options for figuring out dysgraphia:


Most thorough eval that will get you a real diagnosis...neuropsychological...not covered by insurance unless there's another issue.


Practical and least expensive if you have good insurance...Occupational therapy eval. OT's are the handwriting specialists, but pick the right one.


Developmental optometry eval with a COVD optometrist. These evals cost about $200 where I live. 


I think we did OT first and then took the COVD route for dealing with the writing issue. In our case, I found vision therapy much more helpful for handwriting that OT because my kids really needed their eye muscles fixed first, and some OTs are great, while others are not.


I'm not sure what to say about educational evals for this issue. The one we used did not address the issue but an np picked it up years later. But I know other people who got a dysgraphia label through educational testing with an educational psychologist.


Disclaimer: None of mine have an actual dysgraphia label. My oldest was told by a neuropsych that she would have been given a dysgraphia label if she were younger. My second tested very low in visual-motor integration. VT helped her a lot. My fourth has a "lack of coordination" diagnosis from an OT. A sensori-motor problem is the explanation. She did VT, too, and it helped with handwriting to some degree. Most of all, it helped with stamina for writing and school work in general.

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My son had an eval from a vision therapist, too.  We had him tested by a neuropsychologist last year.  The OT could suspect dysgraphia, but not give the diagnosis.


Also, there is overlap between OT and vision therapy, depending on exactly what issues an OT has background in, and exactly what issues a vision therapist has background in.  There are overlaps and some things where either one can address the same things. 


We were advised by OT to have vision-only issues ruled out, though, but for him they were ruled out. 


(But this was more b/c my son was having some vision tracking issues when he was younger, with his reading.... I was not concerned about his handwriting, at that time.) 

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Type. Teach typing, swipe typing, dictation on iPad, etc. I have two with pretty severe dysgraphia and if that is what you are dealing with, it just doesn't get better. They get better at accommodating themselves as they get older, but it just. never. goes. away. or gets remediated. I have a dh with dysgraphia also and he *adores* his smart phone. He has learned that swipe typing system and even though he is in a profession with loads of notes and paperwork, he does all notes and work on his phone or computer very, very successfully. That is going to be the reality in adulthood for nearly all dysgraphics. The faster they can get the diagnosis & paperwork for accommodations and the faster you can get them to accept and use those accommodations, the better. They have to have a system to get around the blockage that is dysgraphia.

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FP, can you tell us why the swipe typing is so good?  It would not have occurred to me.


Dh (stealth dyslexic/dysgraphic) says it is because it transfers a more verbal/phonemic task into a spatial one, which works better for his brain to process. He no longer thinks about typing letter by letter, but swipes by shapes and is able to think in whole words instead. It also allows him to type much faster than his slow processing normally would and speeds up the entire task. It effectively transfers a writing/typing task that might be more difficult for a dyslexic into one that works with his spatial strengths. :)

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Thank you for your replies. I have to read a lot of the replies over again...slowly...since I'm still gathering info and all the replies are a bit overwhelming! :-) but I am grateful for the info to try to figure out.


I'm going to start with a OT and see where that leads us. 


He has trouble with both handwriting and also with content and organization. 


Typing is something we will definitely be focusing on. 



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