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Classically Minded

Dyspraxia - Handwriting Without Tears?

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My 6yr old son is gifted, he taught himself the letters and numbers, multiplication, piano, etc a few years ago.  However, he has delays, which I recently found out are most likely dyspraxia.  He can't pedal a bike, use scissors or hold a pencil correctly.  He writes very neat but he doesn't use the pencil correctly, despite much teaching, therapy, etc. the past 2 years - he reverts back to a grip hold if he doesn't use his pencil grips.  So, it isn't that his handwriting is illegible - it is very legible!  He doesn't use the correct strokes to form each letter - is this something I should worry about?  For instance, with e, he starts at the end of e and goes around and then finishes it at the middle.

I'm wondering if Handwriting Without Tears would be beneficial to him in forming his letters correctly?  Or should I not worry as they look great, despite being formed opposite and holding the pencil incorrectly?  I hope someone can understand what I'm trying to explain lol!

*To add - I did go through all the letters and teach the proper way to write each one last year, despite him already teaching himself prior.  He either doesn't remember the correct way or prefers his way.

Edited by Classically Minded

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Honestly, if he's been forming for a couple years, it's going to be really hard to change it.  And if he's legible and fast enough for what he needs to accomplish, I wouldn't worry about it.  I would maybe wait a year and teach him cursive.  Going to be more efficient to teach something new than to try to fix old habits.

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Even if he has had OT, they may not have checked for retained reflexes. Those could explain the grip. My ds did the starting at the bottom of letters, and I'm not sure what improved it. Can't remember if it was midline or reflexes. Either way, you'll end up working on both. 

For what remains (DCD, dyspraxia), this book claims that 80% of the symptoms can be improved by improving strength. Beating Dyspraxia with a Hop, Skip and a Jump: A Simple Exercise Program to Improve Motor Skills at Home and School Revised Edition

I agree with Terabith and that's what I've read in print too, that once the dc has been writing 3 years, that window has closed for radically changing how they write. But I think you probably have layers going on and that working on reflexes might get you somewhere. There are at least 2-3 reflexes that affect the hands. Here's a list and then you can google each to find exercises. https://blombergrmt.us/reflexes/  Pyramid of Potential has videos as well.

As his need to write increases, he's going to hit some functionality walls. You're probably going to need to start saving for evals. If you have other indications, it wouldn't be too soon to eval now. Usually if there's DCD/dyspraxia, there's more going on. Hoagie's Gifted has a list of psychs you could start with.

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Pencil grip is hard to fix, so maybe teach him a new one such as the adapted tripod grasp.  You could also play with pencil grips and try the PenAgain.  Some links follow:

https://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/correct-pencil-grasp.html

https://www.amazon.com/PenAgain-Pencil-Learning-Writing-Assorted/dp/B01E90Z8UI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544190610&sr=8-1&keywords=penagain+twist+n+write+pencil

Your child will need to work with either an OT or specifically trained ped PT to address reflexes, bilateral coordination, pincer/core strength, visual perception, and/or any vestibular issues. Don’t allow him to form any cursive letters alone and insist upon correct letter formation when you teach him.

Edited by Heathermomster
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First keep him with a pencil grip until he is in college if needed. Keep that grip correct no matter what. there are triangular mechanical pencils ( see the other thread that says "best pencils started by Peter Pan) that might work but he is still young. I would put the effort in constantly to keep that grip correct. 

Now as far as letter formation, some of that depends on whether having him write quickly and efficiently with good legibility is important to you. I mean important enough to work on it 30 minutes a day for years. I say that because this is the effort I have put into my son with many issues for years ( since 1st grade and he is now in 5th) We do a lot of work on a whiteboard on the wall because that builds shoulder strength. Handwriting is like that scene out of Karate Kid ( man I am old I hope you know the movie I am talking about) where Daniel has to wax the cars for hours to learn the proper muscle memory. Well, that is what it takes for some kiddos to get the right grip and the right formation. 

If you are going to try to work on formation I strongly strongly strongly would recommend a white board nailed to the wall or a chalkboard or even have him write on the glass door ( hopefully that won't destroy it because you are going to be doing it for hours and hours and years ) It also requires good grip and shoulder writing. If you don't know what that is, it involves moving your arm across the page not just using your fingers. Also, he needs to use the opposing hand as a helping hand to slide the sheet or rotate it. When doing school work he needs a slant drafting desk or a slant board and the seat and table need to be the correct height. 

Next, I would recommend italic print. I work with a handwriting specialist named "Kate Gladstone" she needs to write a book because she has an awesome system that really works. She also uses Getty and Dubay and has trained me and my son to use it for the last two years. Doing that has made my sons handwriting more fluid. 

For us Handwriting without tears created a lot of problems. It produced slow, stick figures that were almost illegible. Now my son has legible handwriting. It needs to improve but it's on the right track. In my opinion, Getty and Dubay is the way to go. 

In the past schools focused intensely on handwriting, for example, my mother and my oldest sister have beautiful handwriting. It has become a lost art and sadly HWT has made things worse IMO not better. They sell their kits to the school at an extreme discount but they require every child to only use that method. It is written in the contract so if that method doesn't work for a child ( like my son) he is SOL and also forced to use a method that does not work.  We did Getty and Dubay privately and now he is past the grade school instruction so he can write any way he wants including the italics cursive way. 

Many many kids can learn legible handwriting with any technique and require far less instruction but that was not my youngest. I never remember working this hard with my two oldest girls ( homeschooled and now in college) I also noticed his gifted sister developed her own version of italics handwriting. She joins when it makes sense and is fluid with a slight slant. I am actually taking a picture of her handwriting to send to Kate Gladstone because she often points out that italic handwriting is the natural flow of the hand and when surveyed most people write a combination of joins and script naturally. 

My son uses Getty and Dubay but does not join anything. If he does in the future I will encourage him to only join something if it makes sence and is more fluid. I also encourage him to disregard cursive capitals and just go with the print versions because they are far more legible. 

Edited by exercise_guru
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That was my two cents on handwriting but I also agree with everyone above about retained reflexes and cross body work .  Also the suggestion to try some other alternative grips is a good idea. My son uses an  alternative grip but I have him use a 1.3mm triangular pencil to keep that grip working so his fingers don't slip and he maintains good contact with the pencil. 

Edited by exercise_guru

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