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3rd grader with major handwriting issues, wwyd?


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My 8 yo 3rd grade dd has big handwriting issues. She holds her pencil incorrectly, she starts everything at the bottom or on the wrong side. She will repeat the circle of the g 3 or 4 times before she drops to make the hook. Then she'll lift her pencil and add the little stem at the top. She has similar lengthy procedures for forming all of her letters. Consequently, writing anything takes forever, her hand gets cramped, and she melts down.

 

I posted about her problems with writing as a subject a while ago and now, after implementing a lot of the suggestions, writing is one of her favorite subjects, as long as I scribe for her. I'm realizing that our problems are just down to handwriting at this point.

 

She learned with HWOT but likes to write with the three line mid line dashed layout (still...uggh).

 

I was planning on starting cursive in 3rd grade but haven't had the nerve to try it. Would you go for cursive just to try something totally different? Would you go back with a letter formation program to get print right first? Our children's librarian (she knows dd well) suggested we keep moving forward. She says dd is "artsy and loopdee loopy" anyway and she'll end up with her own unique handwriting by the time she's an adult.

 

But doesn't pretty much everyone go back to print at some point? I did. Dh did. I just want to help her have a shot at being able to write without it taking forever and her hand cramping up.

 

Any insight is much appreciated. :)

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I would start cursive and do it slowly- copy a letter, analyze it, do another. Build up to three. Then to a word. It sounds like she developed unchecked bad habits in her print. Stay with her and stop her immediately if a letter is begun wrong. Don't let her continue. Start fresh and do a clean start.

 

I don't know if everyone goes back to print. After learning two distinct alphabets and starting with d'nealian, my writing has a distinct blend of everything I've learned.

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For many kids who struggle with the physical act of writing, cursive is easier as it does not require so much lifting of the pencil. OTs often recommend cursive for dysgraphic kids. So yes, I would start cursive.

 

In the not too distant future, you can also start typing.

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I would go ahead and try out cursive. My oldest son taught himself to write when he was 3-4 and his writing sounds a bit like your daughter's. He forms his letters from the bottom or goes over them too many times and it's quite sloppy. I tried to remediate it for two years and I still haven't seen much improvement but he wanted to learn cursive when he was 7 so we did. His cursive however is beautiful, clean, quick and legible. I think he finds it much easier and now in his personal writing it's a mixture of both. I do not print really so I've just decided it's not the hill I am willing to die on. 

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Well, I took my kid in for evaluations. He has dysgraphia, as it turns out.  We did OT for six months----half of the time on handwriting, half of the time on primitive reflex integration/rhythmic ball bouncing/gross motor stuff.  It worked.  He now has a legible hand.  Because of his dysgraphia, though, he will always fatigue quickly and his brainpower is entirely sucked up by the act of using a pencil.  Therefore, we are working on getting him to type fluently, and we'll provide a lot of supports as he ages like Dragon Dictate.

 

 

I'd spend an intensive 4 week time period of working on proper letter formation 3x a day for 10 minutes each session and see what happens. If you don't see immense improvement, I'd think she falls outside of the range of normal issues and I'd go in for an eval.

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I would start cursive and I'm not a huge fan of cursive as a must, but it sounds like it might actually help. She needs to start anew. Don't do HWOT - it didn't work for her the first time.

 

And I'd also start a typing program. She may never be great at writing. May as well start her on the compensation plan early.

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Well, I took my kid in for evaluations. He has dysgraphia, as it turns out. We did OT for six months----half of the time on handwriting, half of the time on primitive reflex integration/rhythmic ball bouncing/gross motor stuff. It worked. He now has a legible hand. Because of his dysgraphia, though, he will always fatigue quickly and his brainpower is entirely sucked up by the act of using a pencil. Therefore, we are working on getting him to type fluently, and we'll provide a lot of supports as he ages like Dragon Dictate.

 

 

I'd spend an intensive 4 week time period of working on proper letter formation 3x a day for 10 minutes each session and see what happens. If you don't see immense improvement, I'd think she falls outside of the range of normal issues and I'd go in for an eval.

Where do you go for an evaluation? Is that set up through the pediatrician's office?

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Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. This is very helpful.

 

Anyone have a cursive program to recommend?

 

We are doing New American Cursive at my kid's request.  He really enjoys it.  We set a time limit, not a page limit, so he may work on one line and be done or 2 pages if he wants to keep going.  I sit there for 10 minutes and observe, correcting as needed.

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We like Pentime cursive with the caveat that my kids both initially leared cursive with ABEKA at a private school (1 year). So I can't speak for how it works teaching a kid initially.

Edited by UCF612
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Another possible option might be 5 minutes a day of Callirobics, which is about practice in repeating the basic forms and lines required for handwriting success.

 

The age 4-7 program is geared for manuscript/printing.

The age 7-14 program is designed for preparing for cursive

 

While we didn't find Callirobics until DS#2 was in high school, it really helped improve his handwriting and comfortableness with a pencil. We also discovered Dianne Craft's writing 8s exercise at that same time, which also seemed to help with his focus and concentration; don't know if that helped with the actual physical act of writing in the way the Callirobics did...

Edited by Lori D.
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Our children are the same age and grade. My DD worked with both an OT and ped PT. We used LOE's dry erase board, the HWT app for manuscript, and then moved over to StartWrite sw to make both print and New American Cursive copy work sheets. DD now writes all spelling words in cursive, and I plan on having her write completely in cursive after the new year.

 

My DD's hands are too small for our pc's keyboard, so I don't expect she will begin formal typing instruction until late 4th or 5th grade.

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HWOT has cursive too and the cursive looks exactly like the print letters for a lot of them. My dysgraphic DS has enjoyed it a lot. We also are learning to type and continue with print. OT can eval for dysgraphia, but cannot diagnose formally (you need a specialist for that, ranging from a developmental pediatrician or Neuropsychologist and sometimes others). I'd recommend the eval no matter what because a lot of dysgraphics have underlying issues that cause problems by themselves (fine motor weakness, reflex, coordination, etc) and can be helped separately. Just ask your doctor for an eval for handwriting/coordination/upper body strength. Go to a pediatric OT.

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Our children are the same age and grade. My DD worked with both an OT and ped PT. We used LOE's dry erase board, the HWT app for manuscript, and then moved over to StartWrite sw to make both print and New American Cursive copy work sheets. DD now writes all spelling words in cursive, and I plan on having her write completely in cursive after the new year.

 

My DD's hands are too small for our pc's keyboard, so I don't expect she will begin formal typing instruction until late 4th or 5th grade.

I bought a mini keyboard to use with the mini iPad, on Bluetooth. It's super small and DS loves the size. We use an internet based typing program as typing apps plus keyboards tend to fail.

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My 3rd grader really struggles with this. I could see him testing for dysgraphia but we've never gone the testing route. He still writes on the kindergarten ruled paper with dashed lines down the middle and I had to get the embossed kind to help him figure out how to actually stay in the lines. His total handwriting assignment daily is 5 words, 3x each at this point and it is very hard for him. I've been sitting next to or across from him for a year correcting his posture, correcting his grip, correcting the shape of the letters. I tell him that those are far more important than the assignment. Just in the last week he *finally* figured out how to write lightly without crushing his fingers holding the pencil and all on his own started writing smaller so I am switching him to smaller lined papier tomorrow. We do cursive. He still can't print but we will practice that after fixing all the other things that need fixing.

 

I can't believe how much time and effort it took to teach him but I am really happy I have figured out how to meet that need. The biggest thing I realized is that handing him a curriculum and saying "Write this shape like this. Start on this part and go." was completely not possible for him. I had to teach each shape bit by bit, how to connect a lower case U to a W or to an A, how to make tall loop letters by slanting up, then making the hook, then pulling straight down. When to go up on a slant, which lines are the connector that can be modified and which are part of the letter. I used the section on cursive from Spell To Write and Read to learn how to teach it but there are probably better sources out there (rather than buying a whole set for 2 pages).

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Cursive is good but it sounds like your daughter needs more.  I recommend Diane Craft's Brain integration therapy her figure 8 exercises work really well. 

 

Seriously, drop everything and do the Diane Craft writing 8 exercise (also called the lazy 8 and figure 8). It seems like a wonky method when you first look at it, but it really, really works. My son still had to think about how to make letters as he wrote them and then go back and fix them, just like your daughter is doing. I ended up deciding to stop looking for the perfect handwriting program to try out the writing 8, since no handwriting program or method was working. In a few weeks, he no longer had to remember how to make any of his letters, he just automatically made them. It really helped with the speed of his writing.

 

Callirobics and Brain Gym are also supposed to be good for struggling writers, but I don't have personal experience with either. You can also look at Lexercise if you think the handwriting issues are related to dyslexia.

 

Also, do some research on dysgraphia so you can decide if your daughter needs to be evaluated by an OT.

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For many kids who struggle with the physical act of writing, cursive is easier as it does not require so much lifting of the pencil. OTs often recommend cursive for dysgraphic kids. So yes, I would start cursive.

 

In the not too distant future, you can also start typing.

 

I believe one of my kids may have dysgraphia, though he is undiagnosed.  Cursive is much easier for him than print, and it's so much easier to read (his print is atrocious). We will likely start a typing program soon.

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I believe one of my kids may have dysgraphia, though he is undiagnosed.  Cursive is much easier for him than print, and it's so much easier to read (his print is atrocious). We will likely start a typing program soon.

 

This post caught my eye and I may start a spin-off.  I have a similar child whose cursive is actually really nice but his print is awful, so he just writes everything in cursive.  But what do you do with math?  The printing problem has carried over into his numbers and I'm seriously going blind trying to grade his math papers!  He loves math.  It's probably his favorite subject but he is heading into Algebra and the illegible handwriting is becoming a serious issue.

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I like the look of the lazy 8 exercise. I have two children who struggle with handwriting one who especially has trouble with integrated movements. I found a YouTube video that explained his to make each letter but I am a unsure about how you teach the kids the formation and how they are suppose to remember that or if you start the 8 for them.

Edited by MistyMountain
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This post caught my eye and I may start a spin-off. I have a similar child whose cursive is actually really nice but his print is awful, so he just writes everything in cursive. But what do you do with math? The printing problem has carried over into his numbers and I'm seriously going blind trying to grade his math papers! He loves math. It's probably his favorite subject but he is heading into Algebra and the illegible handwriting is becoming a serious issue.

Mod math, a free app made by a family with a son who has dysgraphia. You can type all math stuff, line it up, have algebraic equations, etc.

 

The free app may not have algebra but you can at least try for free and upgrade if you like it. Traditionally kids will use graph paper to help line things up too.

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I like the look of the lazy 8 exercise. I have two children who struggle with handwriting one who especially has trouble with integrated movements. I found a YouTube video that explained his to make each letter but I am a unsure about how you teach the kids the formation and how they are suppose to remember that or if you start the 8 for them.

 

You do make a chart for them. I used a poster board from the Dollar Tree and cut it in half so I could make two 8s that were the right size. Draw the sideways 8 for them and the vertical line down the middle in black marker so they have lines to follow. Fill up most of the paper. I used one chart for a week before throwing it away.

 

Post the paper on the wall or window so that when your kids hold their arm out, their arm is parallel to the ground. They should also be centered straight in front of the paper. (Tip: put the paper on a sliding glass window so they don't accidentally draw on the wall! Glass is much easier to clean!)

 

At first, have them trace the 8 by starting in the middle and going Northwest first then looping down and around the other side to complete the 8. Once they get the hang of the 8 add in the lowercase a  Basically, they will do the 8 three times then when they get to the middle, they will bring their pencil straight up the vertical line, then down, then they will loop around the left loop of the 8 to finish the a. when they get back to the middle, they will do the 8 three times and then they will go up and down the vertical line again and loop around the right side of the 8 to finish the b. For the c, they will skip the vertical line and just loop around the left side.

 

Some of the key things to remember are to practice the 8 until they are comfortable with it then add in one letter at a time until it is automatic enough to add in to the next one. Never pick up the pencil or crayon unless dotting an i or j or crossing a t or f. When they do the exercise in its entirety the pattern is three 8s, a, three 8s, b, three 8s, c, and so on. It will take a while until they build up the endurance to do the whole alphabet.

 

After they do know the alphabet, you can have them spell their names or their spelling words to mix it up a little.

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I don't know if mine had dysgraphia specifically but it's taken a long time to get rid of letter inversions, weird formations and random capitals. Also dd had some bad habits from an iPad handwriting app. It sounds annoying but I've had best success with sitting and watching them write and stopping them as soon as the start wrong and making them start again. Often handwriting is one of those things that is easy as a homeschool parent to just hand over to them and think they can just figure it out.

 

I also find my kids have done better when I reduce the quantity of writing required and focus on quality for a while.

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This post caught my eye and I may start a spin-off.  I have a similar child whose cursive is actually really nice but his print is awful, so he just writes everything in cursive.  But what do you do with math?  The printing problem has carried over into his numbers and I'm seriously going blind trying to grade his math papers!  He loves math.  It's probably his favorite subject but he is heading into Algebra and the illegible handwriting is becoming a serious issue.

Mine also loves math.  He likes to abbreviate any writing he needs to do for math (when making a bar diagram, instead of writing out words, he'll use one letter for each). His numbers are a bit awkward, but clear enough for me to read them.  He also prefers to show as little work as humanly possible, doing most of the work in his head (because it's easier than wielding the pencil).  He needs constant reminders and direct orders to show any work at all... constantly... sigh.  I really do think it's related to the writing struggle... Hmmm...

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