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Handwriting/copy work for dyslexic student

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My 4th grade son was diagnosed with dyslexia last fall.  We are soon to start on the 3rd level of Barton.  He really balks at any type of writing and completely quits if it is more than 3 words.  He handwriting is good and he doesn't have any letter reversals. I feel like he just needs to up his stamina. Do you have any suggestions for copy work for someone with dyslexia?

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I am an Orton-Gillingham trained tutor (although admittedly behind on the latest research), and I never require my students to complete copy work. Since writing is such a chore for them, I only require that they write the words and sentences that I dictate to them.

I require my students to type papers once they are ready to write them.

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He's probably balking because it's mentally challenging, even if his handwriting is fine. Does he have to write sentences during your Barton lessons? In my Wilson lessons, I have kids write 1-2 sentences. For my 4th graders, 2 sentences is enough to wipe them out. Maybe I'm being a softy, but after they've written their words and sentences for the lesson, I scribe for any more writing.

My students do better when I set them a certain limit, like 1 or 2 sentences per session. They eventually get used to that workload and don't protest. Theoretically, you could get to a place where he's doing fine and working without an issue, and then veeeerrrry gradually increase the writing.

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Consider this website about dysgraphia.  Even someone with neat handwriting can have dysgraphia.  

Apart from that, here are some things to think about.

How does he do with copying letters, or writing letters of the alphabet from memory?  Can he do more this way?  Is this less stressful?  If he is fine with writing just letters of the alphabet from memory, I think you might start with something like All About Spelling, which can start with writing a letter after a letter sound is named, and work up from there to writing a word as each letter is sounded out.  Like -- you would go from learning to write m for an mmm sound, to sounding out mmm aaa nnn for man, and writing each letter as you sound it out.  

If he is copying, how exactly are you asking him to do it?  Possibly the easiest will be if he is copying directly below the model.  This means there is less looking back and forth.  My son that has dysgraphia is capable of copying neatly this way, but he gets *nothing* out of it, because he isn't thinking as he copies.  He can copy cursive this way but he doesn't actually know what most of the cursive letters are.  So just to say -- hopefully this isn't the case in your situation, but being able to copy isn't necessarily going to transfer to other writing situations.  

If you are asking him to compose in some way, this is increasing the demands a huge amount.  It is much, much, much harder to concentrate on forming and remembering a sentence, while also writing it down.  This is a much higher demand than copying.  It is also a much higher demand than spelling a word, word by word, that someone else supplies.  

Something they look at with my son is how easily and how long it takes for my son to write the alphabet from memory.  They can compare this to how well he does copying a model of the alphabet.  There is a difference for him.  

These are just some things you might think about.  Don't get hung up on thinking "well he can write neatly, he would if he wanted to."  It is not necessarily the case.  

I think he is also a pretty beginning reader in the scheme of things though starting Barton 3 is AWESOME.  Congratulations on getting through Levels 1 and 2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  While he is still on the beginning side, he does not have all the reading skills automatic that will make it easier for him to write, as far as thinking of spellings or just being familiar with words.  It's a big difference to see a word in a "letter by letter" way compared to seeing "chunks" and I think that just takes time.  It's the difference between seeing a word as mmmm aaaaa nnnnn, okay, sound it out, okay, man..... and just seeing "man," and knowing it's the word "man."  

A good idea for increasing stamina, too, is to "end on success."  That means end *before* fatigue, don't end *at* fatigue.  It's better that way.  

A good idea of increasing confidence is to do something that is easier for the child where the child is having more feelings of "hey, I can do this."  

Two good things to keep in mind 🙂 

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My 2 cents: Spend time and energy on typing.  http://Www.talkingfingers.com can be good to start with.  

Much dyslexia overlaps with dysgraphia.  Hand writing needs eventually to be enough to fill in forms, and similar, but he is likely not to get all that much out of practice with hand written work as compared to the time and energy expended.  

Half a sentence isn’t probably doing much for him either for composing, nor for hand writing practice.  And WWE2 is probably too hard for him right now as a dyslexic probably dysgraphic student.  

He may be better off waiting for his reading to be farther along and then working on Zaner Bloser lowest or nearly lowest level book for printing and or Getty-Dubay for italic writing, again at a lowest or close to lowest level book.  

For composition work (and WWE is fundamentally a composition program, not a handwriting program) you could scribe for him when he is putting things in his own words and let him speak sentences to you as “copy” practice rather than struggling with a pen/cil.

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Maybe seek out an OT evaluation.  The visit should take one hour and evaluate core/pincer strength, vestibular, balance, visual perception, motor planning, handedness, and developmental motor.  

For handwriting practice with my DD, we used the LOE handwriting white board, and I printed up copywork sheets using MP’s Write Start software.  I adjusted the font to a size that was the most comfortable for her.  She also uses the Inspiration iPad app with speech to text and mindmaps material that we read across science, history, and literature.

Edited by Heathermomster
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Also, just to say, my dyslexic son got quite good at the composition part of writing with a couple of pieces published in the children’s magazine Stone Soup.  However, WWE was not a good fit for him. And even now as a teenager, copying is a struggle for him.  

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  • 3 weeks later...

I would help work on the motor visual tactile system by adding an art time during the day where he uses a tracing board like This. My son had stalled out with handwriting so we added this tracing process each day of pictures or shapes or little avatars. Over six months I did see a huge improvement in his fine motor skills and his ability to remember words while he was writing them. The tracing board we have runs on the same chord as our android phones so rather than plugging it in my son just runs it off of a small cell phone battery . It makes it very portable and has an adjustable light level. 

Now I am working to break some of his bad formation habits and help line up his hand with the line to make the letters stop popping up and down. 

My son does not have dyslexia but another idea I developed this month is having him rite repetitive sentences each day ( so let him pick 5 sentences that have meaning to him and have him write those everyday on level 1 paper) I use raised line therapro paper but I also highlight paper so he writes every other line if needed. 

Next month we are going to work on doing copy work exclusively focused on common words, site words and words that come up in his writing all the time. This will help him build confidence in the motor and brain system by building up repetition. 

Edited by exercise_guru
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