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Remediating handwriting--older child

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My 12 year old has always struggled with and resisted working on handwriting. I can get him to do small amounts of copywork but it is not pretty--with the model in front of him his words tend to run together without spaces.

 

When he writes independently he mixes upper and lowercase letters randomly. His words do not run together then.

 

Any ideas for remediating with a child who really hates working on this? I think mostly he finds it boring. He is very artistic and draws excellently, I've wondered if he is trying to draw rather than write his letters--either resisting or somehow not tapping into automaticity.

 

I really don't care that his writing look pretty but it needs to be legible and generally follow capitalization rules!

 

He has flawless spelling, that part of writing is not a problem.

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Are you sure he doesn't have an SLD?

He's had evaluations; he does have ADHD, which may be relevant.

 

He may very well have dysgraphia; the neuropsych who did his evals did diagnose one of my other children with dysgraphia but not him, but the other child is also dyslexic so they may have been looking more closely for similar issues.

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Well excellent drawing and spelling skills will help you very much. To change a 12 year old's handwriting you are going to have to get into some major bribery for consistent effort.  I had a coin jar that I put pennies in everyday he practaced and then swapped them out for silver until he finished the process. Then he cashed in the jar and it was like 35 dollars. Instant reward for daily effort that adds up to longterm reward for success is definitely going to be needed because 12 year olds won't do it to please you that is for sure. 

 

 Could you get a white board and hang it on the wall. Look up shoulder writing. Once a kid draws on a white board for a few weeks it builds their muscles and the arm movement. Then have him write the alphabet a few times. go and highlight any letters that are very legible. keep those.  For the rest have him do Getty and Dubay Book C and do most of the work on the white board.  the whiteboard forces a good grip and a proper alignment. A chalkboard with tiny chalkbits hung on the wall would be even better. Then once the letters look good work on the spacing. Only work on the lower case. I have found that if he knows the uppers they can come in later but separate them in his mind so he doesn't think of them while he is building automaticity. 

 

G&D flows and boys naturally want to write that way. Its a bit angled and not curvy very legible and very forgiving.  If you add in shoulder writing with G&D  you can write for hours without your hand getting tired ( do a google search)

Bonus If he moves on to cursive G&D is legible because you only change two letters and add joins where it is most helpful. Writing without tears is hell on kids with dysgraphia issues IMO.

Then just build automaticity any way you can have him just put a slash through a mistake and keep going.. no erasing.  do dictation of letters not words and say "a space a space" "a-d-d space" don't do word dictation because it takes away from just getting the letters down quickly and neatly. G&D is worth the investment because they teach this style to doctors who have terrible handwriting. It will help him all through college and life. 

 

 

Once the automaticity is there work on spacing by having him take some of his previous work and see if he can fit a tiny dot sticker in between the words or a pencil eraser with an ink pad. It will help him to go "AHA a bit more space" at that point he might add too much space but too much is better than too little.  Also you can just turn a paper sideways and slide it underneath so he can see it through the one he is writing on and tell him to go to the next line when he needs a space. It will automatically work. 

 

Also these mechanical pencils will improve his legibility right now because they give better pencil control. They were recommended by a handwriting expert. They are huge and easily lose their erasers so that annoys me but they work so well it is all I let my son use. 

 

 

 

I have looked into frixion pens but never gotten them. 

 

If he was not a good artist I would recommend having trace zelda symbols or latin symbols and then reproduce them at first. that would help build pen/eye control so you can skip that. I do think you are right that he is taking pictures of the letter and probably forms it differently each time. Since he draws he can probably easily do Dot-Dots etc so its probably not a tracking issue. Since he can spell it isn't a phonics issue. This is a letter formation-hook it to the hand issue. 

 

 

 

this method works. Take it from a mom who went through Two OT's and quite a few handwriting methods even consulting handwriting specialists . Thankfully a wonderful specialist gave me this method and it took 6 months but was well worth it. 

 
 
Caligraphy is a great idea G&D take there formation from Caligraphy that is how I learned about shoulder writing. 
 
 
OH and also look up rotating the paper and using the helper hand. It really matters. We did white board and then a sloped board and then moved to shoulder writing on a desk that was the correct height with a correct chair that really matters. Keep practace sessions intense and short. Look up warmup handwriting exercises like zig zags etc here is a good link. 
Edited by exercise_guru
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DS9 is similar; we've been remediating it for approx. 3 straight years.  What has worked, marginally: teaching him cursive.  His cursive is better than his print by a mile, I think because once you start a word you don't have to stop and then start again for each letter, so there's less disruption involved.  It also helps with capitalization, because it's quite difficult to flow from a lowercase a to an uppercase R, for instance - harder than it is to just go on to lowercase r.

 

Other things we've tried: small motor development (with: paper folding, various pointless Waldorf stuff, lego classes, etc.), Handwriting Without Tears - we went through the book I think 4 times, handwriting exercises set to music, forced practice (long, painful, recriminatory swaths of meaningless printing), etc. ETA: also different types of pencils, fountain pens specifically for left-handed kids, those gripper things (several different brands and types), writing sitting up, writing lying down, re-positioning paper, starting again from the beginning, whiteboards, blackboards, chalk, crayons, markers (never again!), different types of paper - lined, unlined, specially lined for people who have poor handwriting

 

None of it make a bit of difference.  You still can't read his handwriting.

 

So: I am teaching him to type.  He loves it.  The process of learning to type, not so much - but the finished product, after he's copied his handwritten "book" (he's writing a book about cats) onto Google Docs and printed out a page just really impresses him.

 

 

What I did about writing other than that was give up completely.  We do Classical Writing and I scribe about 1/4 of the time - the rest of the time he does it, and can't read it later, and I don't much care.  I also got him a nature journal and Nature Explorer Paraphernalia (binoculars, sword, magnifying glass, whistle, walkie talkies, etc.) and he and DD6 have Nature Adventures which he records (illegibly) in his nature journal.  Sometimes instead of Adventures they have Nature Battles and he records those.

 

I also got him some plain notebooks, smallish, to write books in.  So he writes probably 200 words a day, all of it mostly illegible.  When I was forcing handwriting and esp. when I was forcing or even encouraging good handwriting with his Writing and History and Science and Math work, he wrote maybe 50 words a day and there was a lot of drama about it.

 

 

So I guess I don't really have much advice.  I have no idea what we'll do when he's 12 and old enough that school must be more serious and directed than it is now.  I am hoping he can type well enough at that point to be willing to do it for all subjects, but I have zero idea how I'll be able to convince him that he's not doing schoolwork then.

Edited by eternalsummer
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I should also say, re: the printed-out version of a typed item - when he handwrites something, he has trouble reading it later.  He certainly can't edit for punctuation or capitalization or spelling or word choice or anything.  It's a burden just to figure out wth he wrote down.  But when it's typed, he sees it much more clearly (I guess this is obvious, but it was a revelation to me) and can self-edit.

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If you have an ipad and you homeschool you can install myscript stylus and use it with notes plus. They can do all their work in that and just write with their finger. It really does teach automaticity and mysript can read some pretty heinous handwriting and turn it into text. Notes plus has a feature where you can write directly on the screen and then convert it to text but I don't think the  conversion is as good as the myscript.  my son didn't use this until after I had already gotten through the process but I am using it to get him forming the letters faster and have him write his stories using myscript. I am looking into a bluetooth stylus to work with it since we don't have the ipad pro but really the letters with the finger are getting him faster and faster.  His math is lovely so I haven't had that problem but I have heard of Panther graph, mathpad and mod math. The talk to text for the ipad is the best I have used for my son I plan to try dragon eventually.  If I homeschooled I would have more options and use his pad a lot but he really needs to be able to write well in a brick and motor school. I taught the method at home last summer and it worked. 

 

OH and I truly truly hate handwriting without tears. I cried more over that then anything ever. Getty and Dubay all the way!!!

Edited by exercise_guru
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:grouphug:

 

Trying to get buy in from a 12 year old that hates the physical act of writing may be asking for a miracle.  Although there are some good suggestions upthread so perhaps you can find a carrot to get him more involved and MAYBE it will improve the situation. 

 

I will say, though, as someone who had a child with similar issues, forcing a 12 year old to write to improve his writing when past attempts have not helped may tank your relationship, at least temporarily, and may make him LOATHE writing, without actually improving his handwriting.  It sounds like he might very well have dysgraphia.  There are a lot of neurospychs who don't really "get" the various forms of dysgraphia so may miss the signs, especially since that diagnosis is not actually saying what is wrong, only what the outward manifestation of the underlying issue is.  Many underlying issues can cause dysgraphia.

 

FWIW, while legible handwriting is really helpful, it is not the be all and end all of existence.  My dad, my husband, one of my nephews, and others in my family have truly awful handwriting.  My nephew's is utterly illegible, even to him.  I mean utterly illegible.  I've never seen worse handwriting.  His mother is a teacher.  She worked with him for years.  His school teachers worked with him for years.  He also got outside interventions.  It never improved. Is that kind of a pain?  Yeah.  Having legible handwriting can be helpful.  Certainly in the school years it can be tough not to have that skill.  It was hardest when he was in Middle and High School because the school didn't want to provide accommodations and really believed if he just tried harder his handwriting would miraculously improve.  Well he'd been trying harder for YEARS.  Hello!  Lack of effort was not the issue.  Did he develop a bad attitude and not want to do it anymore?  Of course.  Why beat one's head against the same wall over and over if it nets nothing at all but a bloody head and a massive headache?  Did this cripple his opportunities?  Not one iota.  Once Nephew got away from that mindset, he thrived. Nephew graduated college with a 4.0.  

 

My dad had really bad handwriting but ended up doing well in college and had a highly successful military and then civilian career.  DH has chicken scratch for handwriting.  His signature is a squiggly line.  It takes him ages if he has to print something semi-legible.  He is a very successful engineer.  Frankly, typing skills ended up being a far more useful skill to work on than trying to improve their handwriting.  DH and Nephew type.  Nearly everything.  

 

If working on handwriting is still something you feel he will benefit from, find the carrot, keep lessons really, really short, and change the approach.  There are some good suggestions up thread.  Find what might work.  Focus on improved letters, spacing, etc. not on what he still isn't doing well.  And focus on one skill at a time.  Maybe spacing between letters.  Maybe capitalization.  Maybe punctuation.  Whatever you are doing, focus on only that one skill.  Ignore the rest.  Then add in another skill.  And focus on editing.  My kids improved with capitalization and punctuation once they were able to walk away from the concept that everything must be written perfectly the first time or they are failures and shouldn't even bother trying to fix anything.  They needed to learn that writing can take a lot of fixing after the fact and that is o.k.  Go back and check for punctuation, check for capitalization, check for spacing between words, etc..  Have a checklist of maybe three things to look for (0nce those three things have been worked on) and get him used to proofreading his own sentence.  

 

But more than anything I would be focusing on solid typing skills, preferably with a program that will help him track progress without penalizing for slow typing.  It can take a long time to get typing skills accurate enough and fluid enough for it to be really smooth and quick enough for content output.

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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Even though my ds is diagnosed with SLD writing, I still don't quite understand what it means or how it was decided. We'll see what the fresh psych eval says. I can tell you he does that, mixing the upper and lower caps. I'm also not a huge praiser of neuropsychs. We've had our share of errors and discrepancies.

 

Remember, to get his thoughts out, he needs working memory, organization, and midline connections. So working on any of those and making them stronger can support weak points in other ways. Like maybe his fine motor sucks but you improve hs working memory so he can slow down without losing his thoughts. Or you do midline work (metronome, free, yes awesome). 

 

Typing is good. We had an awkward stage where typing wasn't working AND dd's handwriting was rooster. When to an alternate keyboard layout (Dvorak) and paid her an outrageous sum for progress. If he *can* type, it's worth pursuing. If not, dictation.

 

Where he is now doesn't decide where he'll end. We did metronome work with working memory, and really a lot just came together for my dd to make her more functional. Keep working on stuff and don't beat dead chickens. There's always another one crossing the street you can try to slay.

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I'm taking two of mine right back to second grade Handwriting Without Tears because they get sloppier the older they get. I'm hoping that helps or else I'm apparently going to be looking into Getty and Dubay as recommended above! 

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I know peter pan how many times do we beat a dead chicken or whatever and at what point do we move on and figure out an accommodation. I look at that for a lot of stuff. The thing is there is a link between the brain and the hand. It really matters foe math and I think differently when I type vs when I write. But I know it only goes so far. I am teaching my son to type and use dictation software I am sure in junior high he might need a brave writer pen or maybe we will homeschool.

 

He wrote me a note the other day since he had to leave before I got back from a meeting. The note was perfectly legible and had punctuation. I mean a silly note but my husband and I just were so overjoyed about it.

 

I will warn you guys Getty and dubay is just common sence writing no fancy rhymes about starting the letter at the top. I started just letting my son do the letters 2 feet high on a whiteboard or in sand or shaving cream or whatever. The key is fluid and legible ,lifting the hand in a fluid motion and gliding to the next letter. Moving the arm and elbow across the page instead of all in the fingers. I even switched to this style so I could teach him properly and you know it's not fancy and loopy but it's clear and fluid and legible.

 

You might find your kiddos don't hate it like you think after like 3 weeks this summer my son was so angry we had wasted time with HWT . We worked at it all summer but now he tells me his hand doesn't get tired writing at school. He uses his helper hand, mechanical pencil and rotates the paper. The teacher doesn't understand that he ever had problems and she can read his writing fine. I am fighting to keep his 504 accommodations because he is making great progress buy its not overnight. We are still working on spacing and automaticity but it's coming fast.

 

We might actually make it. I still feel like we have a bit farther to go but its happening. If I can I will post some pictures because before his writing popcorned up and down everywhere and was upper and lowercase . It was little drops in a bucket but it added up.

 

Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk

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It seems that the issues are limited to, confused use of upper and lower case letters.  As well as a problem with spacing between words.

But you also wrote: "When he writes independently he mixes upper and lowercase letters randomly. His words do not run together then."

 

This suggests that when he isn't concerned about upper or lowercase.  Then he can use spacing correctly.

So that he doesn't actually have a difficulty with spacing?  

 

Where the basic issue, is that lower and upper case letters, aren't stored separately in his memory?

So that either might come up when writing.

 

But this raises a question of whether this wont be a problem when Typing?

As typing an upper case letter, requires physically pressing the Shift key at the same.

Where the Shift key clearly defines letters as capitals.

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It seems that the issues are limited to, confused use of upper and lower case letters. As well as a problem with spacing between words.

But you also wrote: "When he writes independently he mixes upper and lowercase letters randomly. His words do not run together then."

 

This suggests that when he isn't concerned about upper or lowercase. Then he can use spacing correctly.

So that he doesn't actually have a difficulty with spacing?

 

Where the basic issue, is that lower and upper case letters, aren't stored separately in his memory?

So that either might come up when writing.

 

But this raises a question of whether this wont be a problem when Typing?

As typing an upper case letter, requires physically pressing the Shift key at the same.

Where the Shift key clearly defines letters as capitals.

You know, I hadn't thought of it that way but you may be right--the primary issue may be that he somehow doesn't differentiate between upper and lowercase letters.

 

Hmm.

 

I'll have to go look at his writing again; it is not pretty or fluid but it may be primarily the mixing of cases making it seem super sloppy.

 

Typing is definitely one area to focus on, but the other issue is that I've been putting off teaching him cursive thinking that I wanted him to master manuscript writing first.

 

Maybe I need to rethink that.

 

I really appreciate everyone's suggestions! The white board writing and Getty Dubay I will definitely be looking in to.

Edited by maize

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Well does your chicken smell? Sometimes it won't smell right away. Like maybe it's dead and dying but it's not quite to the really obvious WOW THAT SMELLS HORRIBLE AND IS DEAD phase.

 

That line on when to transition, when to accommodate just varies with the dc. Honestly, for my ds it was obvious almost immediately. I actually had workers saying please, can we drop handwriting, it's just not working. Age 7. My dd, straight ADHD with no SLDs, she was ok to work on it through about 12-14, I forget. Then for her it was obvious that it was time to say ok, what is important to you, let's do that and drop it. It transitions over to what THEY want and what THEIR goals are.

 

I think it's easy to take things personally as homeschoolers and feel like it reflects whether we did a good job or tried hard enough or did enough to help our kids. We should not take it personally. If this is a teen, say 12 and up, at some point developmentally it switches over to their goals and what they want.

 

I also think there's this unrealistic ness of tell someone wth ADHD to slow down and function a certain way to be just so, when their whole bent is a different way. They're going to revert to their bent at some point, whether we like it or not.

 

The lesson of teenage parenting is that you're helping them become their best version of themselves, not what YOU wanted them to be.

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You know, I hadn't thought of it that way but you may be right--the primary issue may be that he somehow doesn't differentiate between upper and lowercase letters.

 

 

Or that, in the moment, when he's trying to process AND hold his thoughts AND organize his thoughts, it's just all getting jumbled. So it's too hard for him to remember all the letter formations AND organize his thoughts AND not drop them AND andand...

 

Play around with it and see. See if he knows upper and lower case. He probably does. That's just what I see with my ds, that if I were to correct him in the moment, he would be overwhelmed and flip out. It's too much to process all at once. That's where the cognitive work can help or working on automaticity or meds or...

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Has he been evaluated by an OT yet? An OT that evaluated pincer/core strength, motor planning, visual perception, vestibular, and developmental motor?

 

We quit mild handwriting practice by 8th grade. DS handwrites his math and some notes. He’s typed full on since 6th grade. I was told last year by CBT that DS will likely loose the SLD for written expression during his next np eval. I didn’t believe it, so I handed my 11th grader a pencil, paper, and book, and DS copied an entire paragraph easily. DS will be np tested in about 4-6 weeks, so we’ll get an answer then.

 

Accommodating while teaching essay/writing, brain maturity, and intense physical exercise with a ped PT and football seems to have corrected son’s handwriting issues, not penmanship practice.

 

Eta: I like the LOE handwriting materials. I’ve become a cursive first gal or a least a person that prefers New American Cursive or italics. You want a font that transitions easily from manuscript to cursive.

Edited by Heathermomster
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I would give typing a try - it would be interesting to see what happens with the uppercase issue.  And I wouldn't wait on cursive - it's been a few years for me now, but the OTs recommended cursive even for young handwriting strugglers, something about not having to pick up the pencil off the page.

 

(And if we really wanted to get into it, there can be a connection between handwriting and neuroinflammation... handwriting is a listed symptom in my pans/pandas world, although the rest of my kids also have bad handwriting, as I do.  At this point, my middle and high schoolers are typing most school assignments, just the nature of the schools - computers/ipads.)

 

Eta, I'd also mention it at next vision checkup

Edited by wapiti
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With regards to waiting on cursive, FWIW, if you want him fluid in cursive that can take time.  A lot of time.  And a lot of practice.  He is already 12.  If he has interest in cursive and you still want him to learn it I would start now.  Manuscript can be worked on separately.  DD and DS worked on both.  It doesn't have to be either or. 

 

Also, though, he may do better with cursive but it probably won't be fluid enough for consist output for quite a while.  Starting it now, maybe with very short lessons that are introduced as just for fun, may give him some time to build up fluency without pressure.  The issue is that it will be yet another form of writing to try and master while also having to process thoughts on grammar/punctuation/word choice/spelling/sizing/spacing/letter height/capitalization/etc. etc.  There is a lot that has to be done to write.  If none of those systems are well integrated and automatic, or if even a few of those are glitchy then ANY physical writing could be challenging, right at an age when output expectations are a lot higher (than say Kindergarten or 1st grade).

 

Frankly, I would try out cursive right now as a fun side thing.  Just a bit each day for fun.  Keep it going as long as he is interested but I would not make it a big deal.  If he takes to it and wants to continue then maybe even switch to that as your primary focus.  If he hates it, drop it.  As he gets into the teen years you will almost certainly have others areas to draw lines in the sand over that will matter far more in the long run.

 

Good luck

 

 

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Sure do just look at the G&D charts because the are more natural for the hand but I didn't do any work on upper case. What I did was focus completely on the the lower case. I also kept any letters that were fluid and legible. So for example my son has a very good k if he writes a chain of them they are very legible so kept it.  I also decided the G&D letter t was not worth the effort  So I didn't bother with that. I only worked on improving fluid motion with the letters that needed it. Then I worked on posture and position and shoulder writing. You may be able to get there quickly if you just define the expectation way back and start by figuring what you have to work with. It takes some detective work. 

 

 

I just found this link last week. It was very interesting I could have used it with G&D. I personally don't like the idea of angular straight ball and stick handwriting like in this video but I like the idea he had about using the line the way he does.  I also always turn a paper sideways and put it under the other paper so my son can see where to move if he needs a space without having to think about it. In any case it has some good ideas LINK

 

 

As you can tell by the number of responses I have that I have studied and puzzled this thing 10 ways to Sunday. I feel like this is my Moby dick and I am Ahab. The whale hasn't got me yet.

 

To comment on the cursive. My son really likes cursive but some of the letters just lose their legibility in the tradtional HWT cursive. I also tried Logic of English cursive before I tried G&D. Now I have to say I love the G&D cursive because it is the best of both worlds.  It is a very easy transition and very legible. You lift where its not worth your time. His teacher would probably be annoyed though because it isn't curvy enough and they have drank the HWT kool-aid at his school. I actually had to put it in his 504 that he could write with G&D print rather than HWT and take a note from the handwriting specialist. GRRR. that was once really nice thing about homeschooling my oldest two. 

 

I am hoping this summer we can do a bravewriter class and just focus on WHAT we are writing and not HOW we are writing it. 

 

 

Edited by exercise_guru
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