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My younger boy composes well but writes very slowly.  I've read a bunch on dysgraphia and I'm not convinced that he has it.  I'm working on getting an evaluation, but the fancy stuff available in the US seems not available here so I'm not really expecting too much help.  Also, in contrast to the US, if he needs accommodations on exams, the testing must be done within a year of the exams and we can delay all exams until 11th grade, so I have time.  


What I'm after is really how I can help my son.  Here is a run down on what he can and can't do, and what I have done so far:


He struggles to write quickly, when he tries it is simply illegible.  This past year we did 25 minutes of dictation 4 days a week.  We with 2 minute chunks and an easy book and when the buzzer went off we counted the words.  He started at 6 words per minute (he is 11) and built up to 12.  At that point we increased to 3 minutes sustained, then 5, then 10.  He is now at 15 minutes sustained and then another 10 minute session. We also increased the difficulty of the material over this period of time from Narnia up to the Hobbit (but he found the Hobbit’s sentences too long, so we switched to Magician by Feist). We have played around with writing instruments, and settled on a fountain pen to reduce the force he uses and because it has a grip built in. So at age 12 going into 7th grade, he is still at 12 words per minute for 15 minutes sustained and has been for months.  


We have worked on his typing speed.  He types up all of his compositions (2 per week, each about a full page long).  He types about 15 words per minute, but is getting faster, just very slowly.  He does touch type.


He really struggles to spell, even very easy words.  For years we focused on learning the rules, but the problem was that nothing was ever automated.  He was still sounding out ‘with’ at age 11.  So we switched to sequential spelling last year, and it did help him, but the dictation is helping more. ( we were doing 15 min dictation and 15 min spelling, but then switched to 25 minutes dictation)  He simply needs to think the word and write it, and not sound out every little thing.  So this year we will be doing Spelling Wisdom, which is a dictation based program.  He does not need more rules, he just needs to write.  I sit next to him and he spells each word outloud as he writes, and I correct him as he writes.  This is working, but he is probably 2 years behind on spelling. At the beginning of the year he was probably 4 years behind, so we definitely made progress this year.


Because of this physical writing trouble, he struggles to remember what he was going to say. So I have him use the dictaphone app to compose and then sit at the computer to type it.  I started at the end of last year (we are on a calendar year here) to wean him off of it, and get him to do a key word outline to type from, but this was not going super smoothly.


I have found that his organization for essays was poor, so we have been doing oral compositions every day, sometimes just outlining, other times composing the whole thing.  This is moving very fast. I think he is definitely grade level.


His composition skills for fiction and his insight into literature are high school level.   


He plays the violin, so works everyday on auditory processing, metronome skills, working memory etc.


My goal is to get him up to a decent writing speed (30 WPM) by the time he is in 10th grade, meaning I have 3 years.  And if it is not possible, then to get accommodations.  Here in NZ he can get a reader/writer to sit with him in exams and write down everything he wants to say.  I’m hoping that won’t be required, but it is our backup.


Seems to me that his print will not pick up speed, so I am considering teaching him getty dubai italic.  I’m pretty nervous about this because I know we will slow down before we speed up, and I don’t know if it will really help, and it might confuse him. I also really like the idea of the swipe type from the other thread. But I don't know if it will help for exams. 


Also, there is a possibility that the exams will all be online in 3 years (but definitely not certain), so I’m uncertain how much effort I want to put into speed of handwriting.  Kind of frustrating.


So if you have gotten this far, I would love some advice.





Edited by lewelma
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Dysgraphia is a funny thing and it is often misunderstood. It affects both sequencing of thought and legibility. No one told me that when DS was little and we had to figure that out for ourselves. I was told to hand the boy a keyboard and he would be fine. Early on, I was very reluctant to give up handwriting practice and surrender to the keyboard, but the keyboard has afforded DS independence and the ability to grow. I have met at least 4 boys my son's age that are unable to complete regular high school writing work because they can't write or type. They are hobbled in science, history, literature, and logic. It is a hot mess. 


DS learned typing in the 5th grade. We took about 4.5 months to learn typing when he was 11yo. DS practiced 5 days per week at 20 minutes per day. He started typing for every subject except math in the 6th grade. He uses an Echo SmartPen and laptop in all of his classes. 


In your situation, you will need to experiment. Maybe have him use a speech to text sw for essays. For essay organization, maybe look at mindmapping sw. DS uses Inspiration on the Ipad for outlines and papers. I have found that students are resistant to learning how to type as they get older. For that reason, maybe have your DS practice typing now and get his proficiency up to 30 wpm at 95-98%. For essay, you need to scaffold until he internalizes the process. Work in shorter time periods and spread out the work over a couple of days.  DS used IEW and I feel like the KWOs benefited him.  He also used Elegant Essay which was helpful, but we have moved on from IEW because I feel like his writing needs more depth and maturity and IEW wasn't teaching that. We currently use EIW because it feels like it misses gaps left by IEW.


I taught DS cursive using HWT and later Getty-Dubay Italics. He never suffered any confusion with either font and he practiced cursive while copying his spelling words. As soon as we stopped practicing, he stopped cursive and reverted back to print. He was slow as molasses while performing copywork and then I couldn't read it afterwards anyways. I just found the entire handwriting exercise pointless.


My son's spelling has improved with age. Maybe practice spelling using some visualizing strategies.


I don't how to advise college entrance exam accommodations. Remain flexible and keep your eyes open for internships. I am presently deep into applying for ACT/SAT accommodations myself. Good luck! 

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Thanks so much for such a detailed response.  I'll get on the typing right away.  Part of the problem is the encoding of words into letters that slows him down.  So I think I'll separate those skills out, and have him type from a script to get the fingers connected to the brain.  And then continue to work on the spelling.  He has already told me that he thinks he will have to do spelling throughout highschool, so he is owning the goal which is great.


As for handwriting, I think I will teach him the most basic of linking techniques for his print.  His handwriting is nicely formed at 12 words per minute, so my thought is to continue dictation for 20 minutes per day throughout highschool.  I can mix this with spelling by doing dictation.


I'm not sure I was clear, his composition skills are quite good, even with nonfiction.  In fact, I'm sure he is 2e.  IEW would never work for him because he is too natural with composition (I used IEW with my older).  So I think I'll continue with the dictaphone method until I get his typing speed up. 


I'm thinking that all this will come together one day.  I always knew my dh had writing trouble when he was a kid, but the more we talked about it, the more I think he had the same issues as my ds.  His mom bought him an electric typewriter in 1979 when he was 11 and he took classes at a night school for secretaries! He remembers dictating to his mom and having her write down his papers, and he remembers typing from her handwriting.  Now in his career he writes massively long strategic reports.  So I think I just need to work hard and be patient and not expect ds to follow the standard timetable.


Here's a rewrite of a passage by Irving that ds wrote 6 month ago to give you a feel for what I'm dealing with.  All of his other reports have been edited, so I don't have a record of the spelling trouble. Starting today, I will keep a draft and final version because it sounds like assessors like to see the drafts.


As I walked into the Hufflepuff common room, I saw a large ornaint fire plaice on one side giving the room a warm and cozy feel.  I thought for the hundredth time that who ever designed this comfortable, relaxing plaice must have been a geous.  The walls were of a deep mohogany polished over centuris to a lustrous sheen.  Hanging gracefully over dimend paned windows, gold velvit curtens, embroydered richly with gold thread and decerated with long tasells, fell to the floor.  Illuminating the room, several candels, filled with unwavering magical flame, hung from the cealing; a painting of Helga Hufflepuff wispered ceaselessly to its self, and a grandfather clock ticked in one corner.  A number of plush chairs were clusterd round a low table set with strawbery tarts and coucanut pasterys over which several botles of butter bear stood like watchful out posts over the rest of the meal.  Students back from the quiditch game were sellibrating loudly over this stout repast, while others were studiding inifectively in a cold corner.  Several black cats were scufling under the table while owners were desperately trying to seperate them, but the felines still had anough time for a strong paw and a playful slap.

Edited by lewelma
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Your son's writing is beautiful.


DS uses the spell checker with his word processor for everything except Spanish. Some dyslexics and ESL people use word prediction software like Ginger that works within their word processor. I do not know whether a spell checker is allowed alongside typing accommodations for university entrance exams.  You may want to explore that now if you think you might go the accommodated route. 


We wound up using IEW because I hired an O-G and IEW certified teacher that works with dyslexic kiddos.  As long as appropriate scaffolds are in place, I expect most writing programs would work with tweaks.  Dr. Haynes gave a writing webinar last year that discussed scaffolding for young kiddos that struggle with written output.  


Some kids with motor issues seriously struggle to type. Watch your son and explore alternative touch typing methods is he continues to struggle. Good luck and please let us know how everything works out.





Edited by Heathermomster
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Thanks guys. I'll tell him.  :001_smile:   He actually considers himself a good writer which is why he gets so frustrated when trying to get it down.  The one time I scribed for him this past year, he turned to me and said "well, that was easy." And this made me think that perhaps if I continued to scribe, he would not want to do the hard work of learning how to encode his ideas. I'm very torn because I am of the opinion that if he can do it, he should try because it is an important life skill.  I don't think his dysgraphia is severe like some of the kids I have read about here.


One of the things my ds wants to do is the "A- essay in an hour." His cousin was able to do this by the end of 8th grade, and it is very motivating for my ds. So given that this is *his* goal, I'm thinking he outline and type for 50 minutes, and then at that point I come in and scribe the rest.  He could see his skill level improving.  If he can only write 1 paragraph in an hour at first (which is about where he is at), then that's where the starting point is and we build from there.


I really appreciate the heads up on the typing.  A lot of people told me that if he typed his essays that it would speed up naturally, and I am not finding this to be true.  I think it is the encoding that slows him down. He can spell ok-ish, but until our huge push this year, no words were automated and he was sounding every single one out. One of the online free programs focuses on the 100 basic words.  And I think I will have him do that section over and over until it is really automated. Sad to say, but dh and I agreed to have ds drop mandarin to make room for typing and more English.  Luckily he loves Language arts.  Just not physically writing/spelling.   I really don't want to get so caught up in remediating that I don't feed the soul. So I want to find the time to do poetry, and play with tropes/schemes as he is already dabbling with them on his own. 


I think in the end, I need to trust that I am doing all I can.  And he will learn at the pace that is right for him, slow as it might be.  If my dh is any guide, my ds can get through this, it just might take him a decade.  I didn't read a novel of any kind until I was 12 and wrote my first essay at 13.  So he is doing better that I did at that age.



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Ok, here is a non-fiction piece.  He did type it and it took at least 2 hours.  This essay he did not use the dictaphone first, but even though he had outlined what he wanted to say he just. could. not. get. it. down.  So he would orally compose the first paragraph, orally repeat the entire paragraph 2 more times,  type it up, and then move to the second paragraph.  This seemed to work, and helped him not to lose his place and forget what he was going to say because he had composed it first and said it over and over.  All this even though he had an outline.


We use spell check, but I have him try to fix the highlighted words himself before asking for suggestions.  I'm hoping this will keep him fighting for spelling, before relying on technology. I will say, however, that I do believe he is a sight reader, and just like those paragraphs with jumbled up words that you can still read, he can read misspelled words so easily that he just does not see them as misspelled unless the spell check underlines them.  I'm thinking that we might do some every-day-edits to practice this skill on a much smaller paragraph.  I just seems like there is so much we are working on that he should have master already that it is really taking up time that should be spent on content subjects by this age.  


On Blue Dragons



To my fellow D&D gamers: I have serious reasons to believe that Blue Dragons are significantly more powerful than their Red Dragon counterparts even though the Red Dragons are of a higher level than the the former.


Firstly, the Blue Dragons have a ranged at-will attack which does half damage on a miss. This is incredibly useful against enemies with higher than normal Reflex, meaning that Blue Dragons are effective even against ranged combatants, such as, archers, warlocks, and wizards. This makes it feasible to take down the controllers leaving the defenders helpless to its ranged attacks. Overall this power is incredibly useful.


Secondly, the Blue Dragon deals lightning damage. And unlike the Red Dragon’s fire damage, few characters are resistant to lightning damage allowing the Blue to massacre its opponents with impunity using its breath, gore, and lightning burst attacks to great effect. The outcome of this is that the net damage coming from the Blue Dragon, including the resistance, is higher than that of the Red’s.


Of course, many would disagree with these arguments on the grounds that Red Dragons are of a higher level and have a significantly more AC than the Blues. I would respond to these doubters by bringing to light the fact that most dragons have kobolt servants almost all of which are melee. These servants would be able to engage attackers long enough for the Blue Dragon to deal a large amount of damage. In contrast, the Red Dragon’s servants would simply get in its way because it is a melee combatant.


Finally, even if the Blue Dragon was forced to the ground, it can still muster a formidable defence. Its dragonic fury can keep anything at bay long enough for it to escape. This is especially easy for Elder and Ancient Blue Dragons, because they have thunderclap which can stun any creatures around them, making escape effortless. These are my reasons why I think Blue Dragons should the most feared dragons of all.

Edited by lewelma
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