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Writing hurts my hand and encouraging speed - worth it in the long run?


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I'm getting slightly frustrated at this (again).

 

I usually don't mind writing for him when he does his work, or doing things orally, but he's getting older and starting to take more outside classes where writing is necessary. 

 

He writes very slow, and has very neat handwriting when he writes slow, but for taking notes in one of his classes, he needs to be able to finish more than one 8 letter word per minute (exaggerating, but only a little bit). His hand is DONE after writing about 20 words (that's with breaks.) Interestingly enough, he CAN draw for hours. Just not write words. I wonder if he's gripping the pencil differently while writing vs. drawing.

 

For the time being, I've told him to "write as fast as you can, don't worry about spelling correctly, and don't worry about having neat handwriting" but I wonder if this will be harmful (encouraging bad handwriting, and discouraging proper spelling). He takes a 2x weekly class, where he has to take notes, but the teacher doesn't have time to write for him or spell words for him. And I don't expect her to! But he needs to write down what she asks them to write. And when he attends other classes, the teacher can't write or fill out worksheets for him.

 

Another layer to this is when my friend was around when he was doing his work today, she basically said "you need to write, if you went to school you'd have to do it yourself" so, that was discouraging. It came off a little as "you can't be learning if you don't write." But one of the major bonuses to homeschooling is that he doesn't need to write when writing is so hard for him. That he CAN learn orally, and will still be able to both learn, and demonstrate that he knows the material. 

 

He's in 3rd grade. Is this something that gets better with time? Practice? Does anyone who has been through this have any tips? Do some sort of hand exercises help? Painting? Will I be sitting in college classes scribing for him? That last one was tongue in cheek..

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Have you looked into the possibility of dysgraphia?  Handwriting can be legible when written slowly and meticulously (for some dysgraphics) but can be painful and if they speed up then letter formation/spacing/spelling etc. can get really off.

 

You might look into a LiveScribe pen or other technology support for in class notes.  Also, if you got the number of a classmate with good notes maybe they would allow him to get copies of those notes.  I would start working on his typing through a good typing program, too, if he isn't already.  It can take a long time to get proficient enough at typing to actually be able to use that medium for output/notetaking/etc. but the sooner he starts building up muscle and procedural memory the sooner he will get proficient enough to use it for output/notetaking. Also, you might look at an evaluation by an Occupational Therapist to make sure there isn't anything off.  Finally, have him work separately on hand strengthening exercises and improvement of his handwriting speed but work hard not to make him feel bad about his handwriting issues.  Not everyone is going to have speedy handwriting.  

 

FWIW, with most on-line classes, the class is also recorded so he could go back and review the recorded class and take notes at his speed.  Just something to think about as an option for the future.

 

As for your friend, well her response shows a lack of understanding of how hard the physical act of handwriting can be.  Also, if your child actually has dysgraphia then in a school setting he would likely qualify for accommodations through an IEP.

Edited by OneStepAtATime
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Although it could, of course, be some kind of disability, it could also be that you have not required him to write.

Does he hold his pen/pencil correctly?**

Does he have good posture when he writes?

Does he know the correct formation of all the letters?

Does he have his paper turned properly?

The answer to all of these questions should be "yes." If any one of them is a "no," it could cause problems. And he needs to write, write, write. Everything, not just Official Penmanship Lessons--history, science, whatever you have for writing, letters to Grandma, everything. It is not enough that he learns orally. The more he writes, the more he will be able to write. He will not magically be able to write on his 12th birthday, or when he's 18, or when he's 25. Not being able to write effortlessly will be a problem for him as an adult; it is why you require him to write as a child.

 

**You might consider having him write with a fountain pen. It is not possible to grip a fountain pen with a fist and press down so hard it makes your hand ache. :-)

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I agree with Ellie.  I didn't have my son write enough when he was younger because I was tired of the constant battle, and it was a huge mistake.  I now have a 16yo whose handwriting is atrocious and who will avoid writing like the plague.  It literally affects just about everything he does in one way or another.

 

My 21yo, on the other hand, had similar issues, and when he was doing dual enrollment at the CC suddenly was able to take copious notes and other things.  So I have no idea.  I do know that even though older one is the one with the dyslexic dysgraphia diagnosis, the younger one with no diagnosis (even though I've had him evaluated at least three times) struggles far more.  

 

So I don't know what to tell you.  But I suspect that Ellie's advice might be the way to go.  Also, eventually you'll want him to be able to keyboard effectively so starting that now might be good.

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I think you're on the right track with encouraging him to write quickly when he has to take notes and to not worry about spelling. He should just do his best to record what he needs to in that situation. (As an adult, I often use my own form of shorthand.)

 

I wouldn't do all scribing for him, but I also wouldn't suddenly say he has to do all the writing. You do need to have him practice writing daily, and you need to gradually scaffold him to being able to do all of his own writing. That might take time, depending on whether he just doesn't like to write (fairly common for young boys) or whether he has a pencil grip issue or something more significant like dysgraphia. 

 

I had a student with significant handwriting struggles along with reading and spelling issues, and I scribed for at least some assignments into junior high. Just to give you a bit of an "extreme" perspective! However, I didn't *only* scribe--I set writing goals each year. I remember my goal for his third grade year was to get him to the point where he could copy a short, 4-sentence paragraph without too much angst. We worked on it all year and he did indeed get there. In 5th grade, I started having him copy more of the writing that I scribed for him. Sometimes it took a few days--but he copied every word over so that he could see his words in his own handwriting. Because of his language issues, he wasn't yet ready to both decide what to write, hold the information in working memory, and actually pen it himself--but we gradually worked toward that goal. We went through the stages in a somewhat Bravewriter style, from me scribing to faltering partnership until he was gradually able to take more on himself. I was gentle but firm--and I explained to him that I wanted writing to be easy for him. Would he like that too? (of course!) Then I explained that the only way to get to that point was to practice. 

 

My end goal was for him to be a fully functioning writer. To be able to go to college and take notes and write papers and do assignments in class and take essay tests. So, each year I looked at where he was and decided the next step, and we just kept plugging away at it. 

 

Your son doesn't need to go zero to sixty right now, but you do need to think through how to scaffold him to being an independent writer. Make the next step reasonable and doable. It won't always be easy, but it will be to his benefit. My son came back and thanked me for all the writing I made him do after his first semester in college. 

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I always feel, in situations like this, that it's a good idea to get an evaluation. Your child could have a disability, or he could be non-disabled, and what you wrote can go either way - so if you get him evaluated then you'll know and it won't be hanging over your head.

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I always feel, in situations like this, that it's a good idea to get an evaluation. Your child could have a disability, or he could be non-disabled, and what you wrote can go either way - so if you get him evaluated then you'll know and it won't be hanging over your head.

 

Find an OT and get him evaluated. The eval should take an hour, and the OT will examine pincer/core strength, motor planning, visual perception, handedness, developmental motor, and balance.

 

If any issues are noted, the OT can assign exercises that will make handwriting more comfortable. BTW, wheelbarrow walking is helpful for core/pincer strength.

 

Both of my children experienced motor issues so worked with an OT and later a ped PT for 8-9 weeks total. DS is diagnosed with dysgraphia and started typing by 5th grade. My DD performed several exercises with a stability ball and gained automaticy with cursive handwriting by late 3rd grade. I used StartWrite software and made copywork sheets for DD. Over time, I adjusted the font size down as DD grew more comfortable, and my daughter writes on her own now.

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I know this isn't what you asked, but is it age appropriate for 8yos/3rd graders to take notes quickly?  I would think if they needed to take notes it would be from a board.  

 

ITA. I don't know why an 8yo needs to take notes at all. However, she did say that he's DONE after only 20 words. And 8yo should be able to easily write 20 words, KWIM? Especially one who can *draw* for a couple of hours at a time.

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It has always hurt my hands to write with a pen or pencil and paper. I did eventually build up endurance for it but it always hurts and is getting worse and worse the older I get. I have always had arthritis since childhood. I rarely write on paper anymore due to pain. Typing and certain styles of drawing cause less pain than the controlled movements needed for writing. I would rule out anything like arthritis as well as having a OT look for dysgraphia. 

 

I would also question the age appropriateness of 8yo third grader taking notes without a model to copy. Is he about to be 9yo any time before next school year? Either way, I would consider him a young third grader if isn't already 9 at this point in the year. Most third graders, regardless of age, are just learning how to take notes and copying from a model to do it.  I wouldn't expect a third grader to be able to take notes from dictation only. They just don't have the skills and experience necessary to even have a chance to be successful at it.

 

All that aside, I would have him start competing with himself to build his endurance. Set a reasonable goal for the number of words to copy at first in a single sitting. Praise him like crazy for getting closer to the goal and doing more than he did last time. Once he can copy a reasonable number at a reasonable speed consistently, start doing it from dictation. If it is found that he is dysgraphic or has another reason for handwriting problems, make sure to adjust your goals for him to account for that.

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I know this isn't what you asked, but is it age appropriate for 8yos/3rd graders to take notes quickly?  I would think if they needed to take notes it would be from a board.  

 

By "notes" I mean the teacher dictates a sentence or a couple of words to them to write in their notebook. If this were a science class(it's not, so the following is just an example), the expected written product of the entire hour would look like this:

dictated student generated

 

We learned about Newton's 1st law of motion. 

 

An object at rest stays at rest.

An object in motion stays in motion.

 

 

_______Rule ________|______example_____________|____Picture____________

                                   |                                                |

an object at                |            my shoes stay where  |

rest stays at rest         |            I leave them                |        [picture of shoes]

                                   |                                                |

                                   |                                                | 

an object in motion    |              if I throw a ball, it       |

stays in motion           |           will keep going forever |      [picture of a ball flying in a straight line through the air]

                                   |                                                | 

                                   |                                                | 

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Although it could, of course, be some kind of disability, it could also be that you have not required him to write.

Does he hold his pen/pencil correctly?**

Does he have good posture when he writes?

Does he know the correct formation of all the letters?

Does he have his paper turned properly?

The answer to all of these questions should be "yes." If any one of them is a "no," it could cause problems. And he needs to write, write, write. Everything, not just Official Penmanship Lessons--history, science, whatever you have for writing, letters to Grandma, everything. It is not enough that he learns orally. The more he writes, the more he will be able to write. He will not magically be able to write on his 12th birthday, or when he's 18, or when he's 25. Not being able to write effortlessly will be a problem for him as an adult; it is why you require him to write as a child.

 

**You might consider having him write with a fountain pen. It is not possible to grip a fountain pen with a fist and press down so hard it makes your hand ache. :-)

 

I'll observe his handwriting next time he writes. Maybe he's slipping. 

 

The last time I checked, he was holding his pencil correctly, and he knows(and uses) the correct formations of the letters. We use the WRTR scripts for letter formation. I'm pretty sure he turns his paper. He holds the paper down with his non-dominant hand when he is writing (unless he's trying to show off/be silly)

 

What constitutes good posture? I learned feet on the floor, straight spine, arms resting on desk. He doesn't like posture. At home, he usually sits on his knees in the chair, and leans over the desk. He didn't want to try the way that "will make it not hurt so much when [he] writes" as I put it, and I actually think he's more comfortable the way he's been doing it.

 

 

ETA: missed a question mark

Edited by Dust
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:thumbup1: I'll observe his handwriting next time he writes. Maybe he's slipping. 

 

:thumbup1: The last time I checked, he was holding his pencil correctly, and he knows(and uses) the correct formations of the letters. We use the WRTR scripts for letter formation. I'm pretty sure he turns his paper. He holds the paper down with his non-dominant hand when he is writing (unless he's trying to show off/be silly)

 

What constitutes good posture. I learned feet on the floor, straight spine, arms resting on desk. He doesn't like posture. At home, he usually sits on his knees in the chair, and leans over the desk. He didn't want to try the way that "will make it not hurt so much when [he] writes" as I put it, and I actually think he's more comfortable the way he's been doing it.

 

Yes, that could definitely be a problem, especially leaning over the desk. Does he have a table small enough to sit at properly?

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I'm actually glad so many people are telling me to get him writing more. Scaffolding him into doing more writing (with a written plan/goals) is doable. I was already sort of doing that, but maybe I need to keep my expectations firmer. 

 

I have always been against letting him write with misspellings and sloppy handwriting. I want to advocate good penmanship, and not reinforce bad spelling. 

 

We haven't completed cursive yet. I've had some pushback on it, but maybe that will help too? Cursive "hurts" less than printing I think. 

 

We did try fountain pens. They were great when they were a novelty, but when the novelty wore off, he wanted pencils. Mostly for the erasability factor, I think. He uses his eraser way too much. I teach cross it out or ignore and move on, but the mistakes seem to bother him. 

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Yes, that could definitely be a problem, especially leaning over the desk. Does he have a table small enough to sit at properly?

 

yes. and he has a chair short enough to get his feet flat on the floor. But it's a hydraulic lift chair, and the first thing he does when he sits in it is to lift it all the way up. Chair ends up almost level with the desk, and he goes into the knee sitting. 

 

But in the class, they are at a regular sized kitchen table/chairs. Sometimes he does schoolwork on the floor with a clipboard. Or at the coffee table on the couch or ottoman. In any setting he doesn't have much stamina for writing. 

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By "notes" I mean the teacher dictates a sentence or a couple of words to them to write in their notebook. If this were a science class(it's not, so the following is just an example), the expected written product of the entire hour would look like this:

dictated student generated

 

We learned about Newton's 1st law of motion. 

 

An object at rest stays at rest.

An object in motion stays in motion.

 

 

_______Rule ________|______example_____________|____Picture____________

                                   |                                                |

an object at                |            my shoes stay where  |

rest stays at rest         |            I leave them                |        [picture of shoes]

                                   |                                                |

                                   |                                                | 

an object in motion    |              if I throw a ball, it       |

stays in motion           |           will keep going forever |      [picture of a ball flying in a straight line through the air]

                                   |                                                | 

                                   |                                                | 

 

To me, that's an even better reason for the instructor to use a board.  She's setting up a chart for them to fill out.  Why not write the red part on the board to copy?

 

But I understand that doesn't solve your problem and it sounds like you're getting good advice here about building endurance, etc.  

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I have always been against letting him write with misspellings and sloppy handwriting. I want to advocate good penmanship, and not reinforce bad spelling. 

 

This is my preference too, and one reason why we didn't do outside classes. But I think you have to adjust the expectation/desire if you are wanting to make the class work for him. A lot of 3rd graders wouldn't even know how to spell a number of the words in your example, and if the teacher doesn't have time to spell things and isn't writing it on the board, it's really not fair to expect him to try to figure out the spellings when he has to try to remember what she said and write it down. But I think the best you can do in the situation is continue to work on spelling and handwriting as separate subjects from what he has to do in class. Work on the skills he needs. As he gets older, more of this will come together (though honestly, my "note-taking" handwriting is messy compared to my "I have lots of time to make this look nice" handwriting--I'd expect that to be even more exaggerated for a little one. 

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I'm actually glad so many people are telling me to get him writing more. Scaffolding him into doing more writing (with a written plan/goals) is doable. I was already sort of doing that, but maybe I need to keep my expectations firmer. 

 

I have always been against letting him write with misspellings and sloppy handwriting. I want to advocate good penmanship, and not reinforce bad spelling. 

 

We haven't completed cursive yet. I've had some pushback on it, but maybe that will help too? Cursive "hurts" less than printing I think. 

 

We did try fountain pens. They were great when they were a novelty, but when the novelty wore off, he wanted pencils. Mostly for the erasability factor, I think. He uses his eraser way too much. I teach cross it out or ignore and move on, but the mistakes seem to bother him. 

 

How about erasable pens? 

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I've just started working on building up my son's endurance (and tolerance!) as well. I have him do 1-2 sentences of copywork, 10 minutes writer workshop (which has been mostly drawing so far) and at least one other subject such as science that he has to write for, even if it's just one word.

 

Does your son resist writing in other subjects? Mine does so I've started by encouraging him to draw first. So for instance yesterday he was doing a science lab and he asked me to scribe his results for him. I said I'd like him to try and if he didn't want to write words he could draw a picture. So he did and then I said I couldn't quite understand what it was showing, maybe just one word would help clear it up. He did, and I hope in this way he can gradually build up to writing more.

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For a time, my DD used a dry erase board sold by LOE and a pencil sized dry erase marker for spelling. We also used speech to text sw on my Andoid phone and the iPad/iPods. We took pictures of her work and saved it to a free Evernote account. On occasion, we use Inspiration mindmapping sw on the IPad for story element, history, and science.

 

My DD’s cursive handwriting is easier to read, so we dropped manuscript practice completely and started cursive. After experience with my DS, I selected one font and stuck with it. Penmenship is difficult for my DS whether he uses manuscript or cursive.

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DS13 was accommodated in public school from K to 4th grade. He started homeschooling in 5th for academic reasons. For 2nd and 3rd grade, state testing was color the bubbles on the scantron sheets for English and Math. For 4th grade the state testing was computerized.

 

My kid’s problem was stamina. He could write fast but not a lot before his hand hurts. He even used his left hand sometimes when his right hand hurts. Teachers let him take home incomplete classwork for him to finish at his leisure.

 

Both my kids didn’t have any physical activities they really like so they tried out swimming, gymnastics, tennis, golf, table-tennis, badminton and somehow by 6th grade his writing stamina has caught up with his age peers. He also played on my piano and his cello which I think did help with muscle tone.

 

My DS12 didn’t have a problem with stamina but with speed. He is so laid back he looks like he is drawing instead of writing his letters. When we need him to write faster he could if we sit next to him and redirect whenever he drifts off.

 

One thing we had problem for a while was with homework for outside brick and mortar class. He couldn’t copy down fast enough and the janitor had to lock the classrooms about 15mins after class ends. One teacher just email a weekly homework reminder probably because my kid isn’t the only one who could not copy down on time. The other teacher just wrote down the weekly homework on the whiteboard during break so kids can copy that down when they come back from break.

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