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My ds (13yo/8th) has terrible handwriting. We have worked on it for 8 years with little improvement. His organic state of writing is to have all the letters the same height, floating between the lines, with no spaces.He is sweet and compliant and not happy with the situation, but we have run out of ideas. Every Fall I have a panic about this.

I'm thinking that there is something in his brain or his eyes that is miswired and causing this, because nothing we have tried at home has made a significant difference.

Who would I have him see if we wanted to put a label on this?

His vision is corrected, and has been since he was a baby, but I've read enough posts on the Forum to understand that simply correcting the vision is not always enough. In the meantime, his typing skills are completely adequate for what he needs.

 

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My oldest went to a developmental opthomologist and had a couple things diagnosed, a convergence issue was one. We worked with an OT for vision therapy long enough for me to learn how to help her at home and things have improved greatly.

Some of the other symptoms she had included headaches after reading for long periods of time, even with corrected vision. Sometimes the letters and words on a page would "have a dance party" as she put it, and would swim around the page a little. 

It was basically a weak muscle issue that we did various exercises to help work on it. Now, she has improved and has no headaches but her handwriting is still terrible ? She just rushes too much. BUT her capitalization has improved greatly, now there are not random letters capitalized in the middle of words, and she is capable of writing better, just rushes too much. Honestly, writing with a slow metronome on her desk helps with that too... helps slow her brain down enough to allow her to write more carefully.

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Well if he were in the ps they probably wouldn't even give a rip. He'd type everything and move on with life. 

Yes, you could take him to a developmental optometrist and have them screen for convergence, focusing, tracking, etc. I can tell you having an *opthamologist* test for those things is not necessarily the norm. There's sorta turf war there. So the main thing is that the person checking actually be into it and experienced with it and not so much what their label is. But yes, sure get it checked. I always get my ds' checked and I only take him to optometrists who can screen that.

My ds has SLD Writing, and writing is just wicked nasty for him in spite of OT, vision screenings, you name it. So you eliminate the things, but at some point it's an SLD. And once you identify it as an SLD, maybe you'll just give yourself permission to do what we said initially and let him type and move on. At least he can type.

There are a couple reflexes that can affect dysgraphia. Babkin and maybe Palmer? I'm doing some work on the Babkin right now on my ds. I'm not exactly hopeful it will make a change, but it costs me nothing to work on. We had an OT who was genius with writing who made it fun. She told us to doodle more and she did lots of things like grid art where you would copy a picture using a grid. I think that stuff is universally good, not going to hurt anything. He got comfortable enough to WANT to write again, which was something. Now we've got this dragon OT who has a PhD and thinks she's hot stuff but hasn't got a clue. Yes, I'm ranting. Point is if you treat it as a behavioral problem, that he just needs to try harder, blah blah, might not get you far. But when you say what's physically underlying it, good luck getting anybody at $140 an hour who actually bothered to learn anything about underlying causes. OTs are totally random with what they know or do well or are trained in. If you're going to do OT for handwriting, maybe look for someone who actually says they have experience with handwriting and ask how they tend to approach it.

I would definitely do the vision eval btw with someone who is screening for developmental vision and visual processing. You never know what will turn up. It's just good to eliminate and doesn't cost a ton. But pretty soon you'll want psych testing to get the SLD diagnosed so you can have paper trail for college testing and accommodations.

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1 hour ago, mamashark said:

It was basically a weak muscle issue that we did various exercises to help work on it. Now, she has improved and has no headaches but her handwriting is still terrible ? She just rushes too much.

I have wondered if there are exercises we could do to help this, although from my layman's point of view nothing we have tried (circles, drawing class, coerced crafting) have seemed to have any noticeable affect. I don't see any signs of rushing at all (sadly). Giving more time has no apparent beneficial effect on the readability of the outcome. Even if I am spelling out a word, "Capital D-e-l-h-i", it will still often end up looking like "deini".

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25 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Well if he were in the ps they probably wouldn't even give a rip. He'd type everything and move on with life. 

Yes, you could take him to a developmental optometrist and have them screen for convergence, focusing, tracking, etc. I can tell you having an *opthamologist* test for those things is not necessarily the norm. There's sorta turf war there. So the main thing is that the person checking actually be into it and experienced with it and not so much what their label is. But yes, sure get it checked. I always get my ds' checked and I only take him to optometrists who can screen that.

My ds has SLD Writing, and writing is just wicked nasty for him in spite of OT, vision screenings, you name it. So you eliminate the things, but at some point it's an SLD. And once you identify it as an SLD, maybe you'll just give yourself permission to do what we said initially and let him type and move on. At least he can type.

There are a couple reflexes that can affect dysgraphia. Babkin and maybe Palmer? I'm doing some work on the Babkin right now on my ds. I'm not exactly hopeful it will make a change, but it costs me nothing to work on. We had an OT who was genius with writing who made it fun. She told us to doodle more and she did lots of things like grid art where you would copy a picture using a grid. I think that stuff is universally good, not going to hurt anything. He got comfortable enough to WANT to write again, which was something. Now we've got this dragon OT who has a PhD and thinks she's hot stuff but hasn't got a clue. Yes, I'm ranting. Point is if you treat it as a behavioral problem, that he just needs to try harder, blah blah, might not get you far. But when you say what's physically underlying it, good luck getting anybody at $140 an hour who actually bothered to learn anything about underlying causes. OTs are totally random with what they know or do well or are trained in. If you're going to do OT for handwriting, maybe look for someone who actually says they have experience with handwriting and ask how they tend to approach it.

I would definitely do the vision eval btw with someone who is screening for developmental vision and visual processing. You never know what will turn up. It's just good to eliminate and doesn't cost a ton. But pretty soon you'll want psych testing to get the SLD diagnosed so you can have paper trail for college testing and accommodations.

Thanks for your response, there are a few things I had to google so I may not completely understand all the implications.

He can type reasonably well, and we utilize that as much as possible. He doesn't love writing, but it isn't a nightmare either. It is a bit painful for him to turn anything written over to anyone besides me. They are inevitably a bit shocked and then have to spend time deciphering his response.

I've tried treating it as a behavioral problem and that, as you say, did not get us far. ?

How would I find someone to screen for developmental vision and visual processing? Is it reasonable to pick the closest person from the "visiontherapydirectory.com"?

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15 minutes ago, SusanC said:

I have wondered if there are exercises we could do to help this, although from my layman's point of view nothing we have tried (circles, drawing class, coerced crafting) have seemed to have any noticeable affect. I don't see any signs of rushing at all (sadly). Giving more time has no apparent beneficial effect on the readability of the outcome. Even if I am spelling out a word, "Capital D-e-l-h-i", it will still often end up looking like "deini".

That's stuff an OT can nail easily. They'll look at core strength, hand strength, how they're resting on their arms, all sorts of things. DEFINITELY the body impacts the writing! For my dd writing was painful, physically painful, and the OT was able to explain why and help her do things about it.

You can have a combo of things, like stuff OT will help, a part the vision work will help, and then an SLD. It's not probably going to be just one thing. I mean, maybe, sure, try everything, lol. But yeah, when he's having physical issues I would do the OT eval. Your insurance will probably cover it and it's usually something like $80 and two appointments if you self-pay.

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Does he put spaces between the words when he keyboards?

Have you tried different pen barrel sizes and different ink resistance?

How about paper line height and color contrast?

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COVD is the org for docs who do developmental vision, and they have a directory. I don't know the one you cited, but maybe cross reference it with COVD and see? Check them out, google, visit the practice. My advice is always start small. Like rather than plunging into some $$$ 3 hour eval, just start with a vision check-up and ask them to screen. When was his last optom appt? If it has been a while, that's where I would start, just small like that.

Total side note, but we had an optom at the mall do dd's eyes and then a few months later went to the dev. optom. We should have had the dev. optom. do her regular vision check to. The developmental optometrist was MUCH better, MUCH MUCH MUCH MUCH better at astigmatism, and dd turned out to have it. Many docs will, for whatever reason, use just amped power on astigmatism instead of using cylinders in the lens. Dd has had various kinds of optics over the years, but the deve. optom was really snazzy with options like bifocal contacts, etc. They were just able to have these discussions about function and what was happening where. So I really like the care we get through the developmental optometrist.

With writing, you have so many things going on. You have vision (actually getting it on paper), but you have this whole idea of thoughts to words, words into some kind of organization (your EF=executive function), and then getting those words onto screen/paper (motor planning, midline issues, etc.). So for my dd, at various times we've had to work on all those things. She realized as she got into college that she has synesthesia. She literally sees colors for the ideas and has to translate everything into words! No WONDER writing was so hard!!! Amazing things to say, just so hard. And then you have the EF stuff from the ADHD, like can you organize it (use Inspiration software and mindmapping), and then you have getting it from one side of the brain to the other and actually getting it out. For that you need working memory, have to cross the midline, etc. We did metronome work using Heathermomster's instructions (free) to good benefit there!

Has he had his growth spurt yet? There's a growth spurt that happens around this age. For my dd it really was in that late 7th, early 8th. We were doing metronome work and bringing in midline exercises and working memory and using lots of distractions, but it was also I think that growth spurt. So maybe take some hope that you have good timing here and that every thing you do now is coming together to merge with that coming growth spurt and bring him to some stasis of function. It may never be super stellarly easy, but hopefully you can get it a bit easier.

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25 minutes ago, HeighHo said:

Does he put spaces between the words when he keyboards?

Have you tried different pen barrel sizes and different ink resistance?

How about paper line height and color contrast?

Yes, keyboarding has correct word spacing.

We have tried felt tip and fountain pens at different times. No notable difference.

The only paper changes we've made were to go to smaller line size, which did help some, and to use graph paper for math. Actually we used graph paper for writing for a few months to emphasize putting a space between words. That helped some, although it comes and goes some.

He says writing doesn't physically hurt.

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2 minutes ago, HeighHo said:

Is he writing or drawing?

 

It looks like writing to me. Tell me if there is another criteria to use!

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You might distinguish what happens when he *copies* from a source (from handwriting, from printed text) vs. what happens when he writes from dictation vs. what happens when he just writes his thoughts (writing prompt, a note about going somewhere, whatever). These are all different types of loads. It sounds like his brain is just overloaded trying to do EVERYTHING in the process, so something drops. Like my ds might write half-way ok if it's one word he can easily spell or can see. But as you up the load and demands, then things will start dropping. Then you'll get upper and lower case and things off the lines and this and that and it goes crazy. So you want to see what effect the load of processes is having, maybe which ones are affecting it the most, and then target those processes.

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yes, decide by observation at different speeds with a light load, like writing his full name. Is he able to be more legible and fluent if he slows down? when he does, is he looking at the letter and controlling its formation? What happens if he writes without looking at what his pen is doing?

Also is he printing or using cursive?

Edited by HeighHo

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PS. You already know this, but work on his signature. He's going to do it a lot, and he'll want a nice signature. It's something to put some effort into. Usually what happens with typically developing writers is their writing develops some style, with manuscript and cursive merging, letters becoming more custom, etc. So if his writing is struggling enough that it hasn't gone through that stage, then at least doing it for his signature can be really satisfying. 

What we did was we inventoried every letter of my dd's full name and we found which letters were hard, what was holding her back. Then we said ok, what would you LIKE your writing to look like, how would it really reflect YOU? She was very into LotR, so she wanted it to be kind of gothic/medieval, with flourishes, sort of elven you might say. We actually worked on the important letters, adding flourishes, tails, really making it cute. Now she at least has a signature that is respectable, something she's proud of when she signs things.

A guy, I don't know. Maybe he wants efficient or boxy or something, lol. I don't know. Just saying it's something to work on. And it might get him some carryover too, because he might figure out ok why can I write my name with spaces but not the rest? That will go back to the load theory, but just the process might be informative. My dd was about the age of your ds when we did it. 

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Thanks all! I will have both my olders work on their signatures, great idea.

When he write-writes you are correct, it is a bit less legible. However, even with copywork it is still troubled. One issue is I think his brain sees upper and lower case letters as completely separate entities and doesn't always select the correct one for writing down, iykwim.

I just had him sign his name (which is apparently code for print really neatly) and he did his first name ok, but the picky side of me thought his last name might not actually have been capitalized (think O vs. o, so comparing to next letter) and the one letter with an ascender, was written similarly short.

He learned handwriting using an italic font. If I had it to do again I would use something more blocky and sans serif, but trying to change any of the formations, whoo-eee! that is hard. Lots and lots and lots of repetition. Like, he learned all the letter shapes in a year, but trying to modify them takes at least that long. As a result, we've only dabbled with cursive a bit to see if it might improve things, but it seemed doomed to complete illegibility to add more lines and marks into his writing.

@PeterPan I appreciated your comment that PS would probably not do anything. I can't completely decide if he has just rally bad handwriting or something else going on. Every other aspect of school is clearly in the realm of normal. This is the one thing I can't decide whether it needs special attention or not. I worry about running into an essay test somewhere (AP, SAT, something else) and getting burned.

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Well why not do some evals and let them decide if it's something more or not? I can tell you with my dd they blew it off early on, diagnosing ADHD and OT issues but not calling it an SLD. Her evals in high school were with the ps, and they just totally blew off everything and shoved her through. After a year of college we did some more evals (audiology, etc.) and time working on strategies, etc. but not full psych evals. Even with that, they were like hello, why were you not diagnosed?

Either way, she types everything and has documentation out the wazoo. The final label doesn't matter if you get enough paper trail and get what you need. And no matter what the final label, he clearly needs something and has issues. Have you ever wondered if he's on the spectrum?

Edited by PeterPan

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11 minutes ago, SusanC said:

I worry about running into an essay test somewhere (AP, SAT, something else) and getting burned.

Yup. It's gonna take psych evals to get that documentation. 

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26 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

The final label doesn't matter if you get enough paper trail and get what you need. And no matter what the final label, he clearly needs something and has issues. Have you ever wondered if he's on the spectrum?

I haven't. I don't have a lot of personal experience with people on the spectrum, but he has never made me think that.

He has had messy vision since he was a baby, so a problem related to those pathways would be no surprise at all.

I did find someone in my area listed with COVD, would that be the right place to start? 

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Sounds like a good plan! Let us know how it goes. They vary, like you might find a Fellow or someone really experienced or a big practice or a small practice. So just see what it is, how they're reviewing. Some will let you tour or they do info nights. Just see how this place rolls, take a small step, and look elsewhere. The more complicated the issues (having had surgery, unusual problems, etc.), the more you need to be willing to drive farther, get a Fellow, etc.

You might also try to screen him for retained reflexes. You can find videos online. I'm not very savy at it, so I used a PT and an OT to do it. Retained reflexes definitely affect vision too. How was he born? C-section can be a factor. How they crawled and developed reflects or affects how the reflexes that drive those processes integrate. Some VT (vision therapy) docs will check reflexes and some don't. It's something to ask.

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2 hours ago, SusanC said:

I haven't. I don't have a lot of personal experience with people on the spectrum, but he has never made me think that.

He has had messy vision since he was a baby, so a problem related to those pathways would be no surprise at all.

I did find someone in my area listed with COVD, would that be the right place to start? 

I would definitely look into the vision angle. My kids both had VT, and it was life-changing. 

45 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

Sounds like a good plan! Let us know how it goes. They vary, like you might find a Fellow or someone really experienced or a big practice or a small practice. So just see what it is, how they're reviewing. Some will let you tour or they do info nights. Just see how this place rolls, take a small step, and look elsewhere. The more complicated the issues (having had surgery, unusual problems, etc.), the more you need to be willing to drive farther, get a Fellow, etc.

You might also try to screen him for retained reflexes. You can find videos online. I'm not very savy at it, so I used a PT and an OT to do it. Retained reflexes definitely affect vision too. How was he born? C-section can be a factor. How they crawled and developed reflects or affects how the reflexes that drive those processes integrate. Some VT (vision therapy) docs will check reflexes and some don't. It's something to ask.

Our VT place worked on some reflexes, and it definitely helped. 

If your kiddo has a connective tissue disorder, there seems to be a bigger prevalence of ocular motor issues and motor issues in general with people who have one. The body/brain doesn't get the same proprioceptive feedback due to altered tissue structures/strengths. My son has a CTD that results in an overgrowth of the long bones. Well, you have a LOT of bones in your hands, so his fingers are extremely long in proportion to his palm. Extra long fingers plus weak connective tissue means hypermobility when he tries to write. Then add in proprioception and vision issues...no wonder it can be difficult. 

Besides c-sections, shorter labors are thought to contribute (and are also more common in women with connective tissue disorders!). Supposedly many of the reflexes are in place so that baby can participate in the birthing process, so a shorter labor means less use of/integration of those reflexes. 

A PP's mention of writing with eyes open and closed is a good thing to check out--if his vision is out of whack, he could be trying to write letters that match a faulty picture. Additionally, there are reflexes that when retained interfere with eye-hand coordination. You might have to have him write blindfolded and larger than normal (or on a vertical whiteboard) to see a big difference, but for my younger son, his writing was VERY different with eyes opened vs. closed. It took him 18 months (you read that right) to learn to write an 8. With eyes open, he wrote/drew a kidney bean. With eyes shut, he drew an 8. Every time!!! 

Also, the point about drawing vs. writing is huge. If the motor patterns are not automatic, you want to know why. A feeling that you are drawing, particularly drawing from a model, means that the motor patterns are maybe not established. It could be a motor problem, or it could be a vision problem. My DH still feels like writing=drawing. He's functional with writing, but it's not something he particularly likes to do.

So glad you have typing working well! You need a psych eval (if you suspect nothing else major, you might go the free public school route with a 504 plan) so that you can submit paperwork to testing agencies and colleges to get formal accommodations. 

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I don’t know. I pretty much decided a lot of work on penmanship was counterproductive and moved on. Quite a few people I know write like architects with all capitals, though they do leave a space between words. Sounds like some form of dysgraphia maybe. You could try an evaluation at local public school to start. 

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Susan I too have a son(11) who has significant dysgraphia issues. I have worked with him since kindergarten and also taught an italics handwriting after he failed Handwriting without Tears. His teachers can read his work but it still is not up to grade level. He struggles with both copy work and independent thought.  I apologize for not reading the entire thread but my best advice is to get him excited about drawing and cartoon work. Maybe find him a mentor like a college student to teach him to doodle.  The reason I suggest that is it helps to stimulate the limbic system in the brain. Exercising the different ways we use our eye and brains and hands helps to build neurons.  I give this suggestion because we bought my son something like this light up tracing board He uses it for artwork and all kinds of drawing and I believe it is a help. He now is more interested in taking a drawing class and drew a fairly decent drawing of Mario the other day. As for the handwriting deal I would strongly encourage getting this kiddo an ipad and having him use apple text to type and Myscript for his work . Get this kid typing. Have him dictate his rough drafts. There is more going on than dysgraphia but it is the fulcrum to him being successful in schoolwork. 

The odd thing is my son made huge growth in handwriting and his teacher thought his writing was improving. then suddenly work started coming home that had this popcorn effect of the letters straying from the line. Lack of capitalization and periods and spacing were a challenge but he regressed back to almost the beginning. I don't know what is going to happen when I go to parent teachers and I don't know how I am going to deal with this. In January we will begin working on typing again I just don't have time to do everything. I only have so much cooperation and to be honest I am at the end of my brain about this. 

I am planning yet another round of working on handwriting but I have no idea what I am going to do next. Right now I am doing intensive language, listening and pronunciation work along with guitar and soccer and regular school work. There just is not time to beat the handwriting thing like a dead horse another time. I will try again in march when I see how 5th grade goes.  

I will post an update if I figure something else. Also interactive metronome, balance boards and trampolines are another solution I feel good about because there is definitely a vestibular tracking visual challenge there. 

Edited by exercise_guru
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You might try cursive in an easier font, some dc find cursive easier than print due to the lack of start/stop.  I used Peterson Directed to get the remediation going, as I liked the help it gave me with letter formation to automaticity and it  being similar to what I learned https://www.pdfdrive.com/cursive-step-1-peterson-directed-handwriting-e11495168.html.  My son, though, as a 6th grader loved Essential Learning Products Handwriting Skills Simplified. It took what he had and focused on legibility, without me in the picture, which was fine as my goal was automaticity and his was legibility with sufficient speed.

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HeighHo 

I like the Getty and Dubay Cursive. It is an italics cursive that allows a slant and is highly legible. You are right the cursive is far more automatic and limiting the number of times we lift our pencil does help keep the process going. Unfortunately in my sons case his cursive regardless is almost completely illegible. Willing the hand to get our thoughts on paper is a tough deal here in our house. 

I know many people give up on handwriting but in general even if you homeschool the very nature of holding a pencil and "thinking with your hand" stimulates the brain and so if you can read their writing no matter how illegible or they can read it back then there is benefit. Especially with Math. 

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