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Dysgraphia questions
Author Message
Posted: Mon, 26 April 2004 18:43:30
Subject:

Dysgraphia questions

A friend of mine has a boy just dx'd with dysgraphia. Any who have experiences to relate to her, please feel free. I do not know how much she knows about this already.

What should she look for in a 504?

What should she look for in an IEP?

What was very helpful?

What was completely useless?

My thanx to all the good people on this board!

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 26 April 2004 19:56:08
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

Dad,

I rarely post here any more, but I did want to offer some advice for your friend. My son was diagnosed in first grade with dysgraphia. The very best thing we ever put in his IEP was that he would learn to type. We were very specific about the typing skills he would master. For example, one early goal was that he would type 5 words per minute with unlimited spelling errors using correct touch typing form. We specified the software that would be used to teach him and changed the goals as he progressed. By fifth grade, he was typing 50 wpm with 90% accuracy. That's better than I can do. Learning to type freed him from the tyranny of the pencil and allowed him to actually learn how to express himself in writing. Its hard to learn how to write a proper sentence or a proper paragraph or to use correct grammar when your mind is focused on which way the "d" is supposed to go. We specified that handwriting would be fine for short answer and fill in the blank type questions but that any assignment that had as its goal learning how to convey thoughts in writing would be done on the computer or an alphasmart. As a 7th grader he now is an excellent writer, although he still doesn't like it very much. His handwriting is not very pretty to look at, but he can write fairly automatically. Often people are reluctant to introduce typing to young children, especially those who already have problems with motor skills. My son's DCD is quite severe, almost to the point of fitting the cerebral palsy diagnosis, but he was still able to learn to type well (and a whole lot better than he was able to handwrite).

Andrea

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 26 April 2004 20:05:06
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

Some dysgraphia is related to physical issues, so occupational therapy is definitely worth a try. Some dysgraphia seems to be neurological in origin and is not very responsive to anything, in which case assistive technology becomes very important -- keyboarding skills, use of an AlphaSmart, word prediction software, etc.

Strengthening hand muscles can help dysgraphia that is related to physical issues. A good exercise for this is to have the child crumple a piece of paper into a small ball using only one hand and then, using the same hand only, undo the crumpling and straighten out the paper. This should be done with each hand. It's a good idea to start out with an easy paper, such as a single page torn out of a phone book. Gradually increase the number of crumplings, then increase the number of pages crumpled at one time, and work up to crumpling a piece of typing paper. An older child (upper elementary or middle school) can probably start out with a piece of typing paper rather than telephone book paper.

Another exercise involves rolling a "grape" (large bead with raspberry-like protrusions all over it for tactile stimulation) first between the thumb and index finger, then the thumb and middle finger, then the thumb and ring finger, then the thumb and pinky, and back again. This stimulates neural activity at the fingertips, which are sometimes rather insensitive, and helps develop finger differentiation.

Some dysgraphics are helped by the program Callirobics (http://www.callirobics.com ).

Especially if the child is on the younger side, the parents might want to check out Handle (http://www.handle.org , I think) in addition to occupational therapy. With an older child I would probably focus more on keyboarding, although Handle certainly wouldn't hurt.

Some dysgraphics have difficulty with keyboarding. The best program I have found (and that seems to get around this problem) is "Keyboarding Skills" by Diana Hanbury King, available I think from http://www.epsbooks.com

Nancy

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 26 April 2004 22:40:21
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

Read anything by Regina Richards.

Dysgraphia is not just difficulty with formulation, legiablilty( etc.) of writing letters on paper, it is also the language/content piece.

I too agree if you can teach your child to keyboard do it, but DO NOT FORCE THEM to if they do not want to. Just setting up 10 min's a day on a keyboarding program, you will see progress. There are several good programs out there for young kids. Go to Closing the Gap website and try Richard Wanderman's site LdResources.

Keyboarding will come in time with experience and repeated exposure to the keyboard. But, like any accommodation the child needs to be invested in it. Pencil to paper will be quicker now, use the accommodations and low tech options that work. Sometimes just a larger space to write in and a line to ground them on can help.

I find teaching them young works better, because they are more open to it, no peer pressure. In the older grades, especially middle school most will not want to pull out a laptop etc. if all their peers are writing with pencil and paper. Keyboarding will stay with them just like riding a bike. I have taught many children to keyboard in 1st grade and now they are in 7th and 8th and they pretty much only keyboard at home. WHY? PEER pressure. Not many classes with laptop carts or classes where students are using a lot of different tools to write. A dream world - it is rare to see the middle schooler who has the self esteem and confidence to be different. So catch them while you can, get a good OT who knows what they are doing and a slp - chances are you will see progress overtime.

But remember, dysgraphia is not just difficulty with handwriting, it is the combination of handwriting and language.

victoria
Posted: Mon, 26 April 2004 22:46:39
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

Keyboarding is definitely *not* the one and only answer. Some kids do well with it, and others of us are even more stymied.
If you can teach typing over five years of effort, in a *lot* of cases (not all, but more than many people think) you can equally teach writing over five years or often less.


I have posted repeatedly some notes on how I teach handwriting to kids whose teachers have given up on them; one present Grade 3 student was judged "severely dyslexic" by a school psychologist, and now less than a year later is doing above-average work in most areas and passable in math. I have to admit he read well before coming to me, but he could not write at all, not one word.

Email me at advance.tutors@sympatico.ca for copies of the other notes. I send out a batch on request every couple of weeks.

In general -
- pitch the yellow pencils and use a decent tool that actually moves over the paper without killing your hand
-Stop erasing. This is a writing lesson, not an erasing lesson. I see "good" students spend 50% of their time on erasing and others 80 to 90%. If you just use pen and ban erasers, writing output more than doubles instantly. Added bonus, it's cleaner, neater, and quieter.
- work on large, fluid motions, never leaning on the desk and doing tight little wrist twists
- start with flowing lines and circles and repeated patterns
- when you do get to letter forms, make them large and loose. You are aiming at form and smoothness; neatness comes later. Overstress on neatness and especially too small at first is highly counterproductive; the stress makes it less neat
- strictly enforce directionality, left to right and top to bottom; entry circles are counterclockwise which does left side - right side properly. Consistent directionality is vital because (a) you learn the letter as a kinesthetic pattern; multiple patterns make chaos rather than learning. (b) you track left to right in order, allowing for development of spelling and reading decoding; writing backwards messes up both reading and spelling learning patterns (c) The goal is to write smoothly, easily, efficiently, and readably; this is NOT torture class, but assistance in doing things the easy way. A smooth automatic rhythm without pressure digging through the paper is easy.
- insist on a reasonable relaxed posture with the weight on the chair, the non-writing hand out of the way, and the head up above the paper. A lot of kids work out a system of half-crawling on the table and staring at the pencil point so they can drive their weight through the writing hand. Of course it is exhausting and inefficient!
- when the student says "I always do it this way" "this is easy for me" "I like it better like this", you have to be the horrible old-fashioned meanie and insist on your way. It's called teaching. Like any physical activity, from swinging at a baseball to skiing down a hill to driving a car, people over the years have worked out efficient ways to do things and 99.999% of the time the kid's inventions are not new, but re-inventions of approaches that have been tried many times and discarded. You don't let your driving learner put the left foot on the brake and the right on the gas no matter hos "easy" it looks to him; same applies to handwriting.
- most of the time when dysgraphia is mentioned it means several years of bad babits and failure come first. So you are in the business of changing habits and attitudes. This is never easy and never fun. The payoff comes later. Get ready to do some hard teaching and repetition for a couple of months and a lot of supervision and review for at least a year more, maybe two or three. Be reasonable about the time scale -- kids who follow the regular program are learning to write for at least four years, from K to 3 minimum before the whole system is supposed to be known, and a couple of years more for mastery. You can't expect to catch up overnight, and unreasonable expectations lead to more failures.
- be honest and positive with the kid and the parents. Yes, you *can* improve, and yes, it's going to take some time and work.

des
Posted: Mon, 26 April 2004 22:47:41
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

Not all dysgraphics have weak hand muscles. I know a couple who are quite advanced in fine motor skills unrelated to hand writing (ie legos, use of tools, etc.). Most dysgraphics have a strange grasp.
Handwriting without Tears is a good handwriting program (at least the manuscript one is), and uses a lot of OT type proceedures at the same time as learning a skill. It also specifically targets grasp, posture, etc. However, I also think that they need to work on typing. I think even 10 minutes can be hell.

Another good typing program is Type to Learn which is a computer program vs the EPS book with several features that make it good for dysgraphic kids. Unfortunately I read here that they have gone from $40 or so to something like $140. :-(


--des

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 26 April 2004 22:57:57
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

oh I forgot

"What was completely useless? "

Having children pulled out of academic classes to go work with an OT. Missing class time means more time to fall behind. Get the OT in the class if they are younger, and save the OT for before or after school and make sure it is someone who knows what they are doing, likewise for the slp too. Otherwise you could see your friends kid missing class instruction time to spend time with a group of other kids doing ???
Learn how the brain works, some say a good OT and OT eval can be very worthwhile.

What else is useless?
Listening to teachers who have no idea what they are talking about and not acting sooner to advocate for a child.

Last useless?
Joining the bandwagon of people who think people with dysgraphia etc. etc., should be excused from X Y and Z. Well I have dysgraphia so I can't do this.... It is not the real world - teach the child to compensate (spelling??) and self advocate.

Chances are a 504 is not the way to go if compensatory skills are not mastered, and an IEP is - and IEP is needed for specialized instruction. A 504 only provides accomodations, which is fine for the people who only require that.

Anonymous
Posted: Mon, 26 April 2004 23:07:06
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

Victoria's approach might work for some, but not everyone - you can push all you want but I hope you have a good handle on where that kid is from a visual motor, visual perceptual, language etc. etc. , before you do all that pushing! I know many kids in which you would be overload. It depends on the kid.

victoria
Posted: Tue, 27 April 2004 12:20:12
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

I think you mistake my direction. I spend a very large amount of my tutoring time getting students to *stop* pushing. *Stop* hurrying. Stop trying to do perfectly neat cursive writing overnight. Stop forcing teeny tiny forms. Stop pressing your whole weight on the pencil. Stop trying to do everything at once. And definitely stop punitive aproaches to writing and spelling.
Yes, you do have to push for change. After kids have been trained for a couple of years that you are supposed to be in a state of high tension, physical and mental, in order to do schoolwork, it takes some hard work to get them to go in another direction (and then you have the joy of Type A parents who cancel tutoring just when it's starting to work because the child is enjoying the lesson and therefore, they think, not learning). Pushing someone to relax and do things the easy way may seem weird, but any sports coach has the same experience.

des
Posted: Tue, 27 April 2004 13:29:11
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

I really like a lot of Victoria's ideas. I do think that one should teach keyboarding, given the world that we live in. But one still has to be able
to write legibly to some extent.

I love the NO erasing rule. I use that one already. We have limited practice. One of the things that they say in Handwriting without tears is this that you don't practice the wrong stuff over and over and over. You do it right a few times. I like that as well. I also like the ink idea. I have noticed my dysgraphic kid's writing is MUCH better when he writes on a white board. I think a couple things come into play. It is impossible to push down so hard; there is no worry about whether it is "right" or not (maybe I have seemed to contradict myself but kids do spend LOTS of time erasing), etc. I think a pen would be good but a felt tip might be even better. A softly made line puts down a very dark line.

One of the exercises in HWt is to write lightly with a pencil, say filling in shapes. It was the first time my student could fill anything in without making a huge mess. I didn't realize what a big deal that was.
I think a pen or felt tip is such a great idea.

Practice GOOD habits and you don't need to practice them for hours and hours and hours at a time. I don't see Victoria out there with a bullwhip (but maybe I'm all wrong about that :-)).

--des

Anonymous
Posted: Tue, 27 April 2004 14:10:23
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

In my view, you absolutely must teach both typing and handwriting but the more important skill is typing. No matter how much better a dysgraphic child's handwriting eventually becomes, the time spent getting there is time that child is not able to effectively learn how to communicate thoughts in writing. Granted, there are some children who have difficulty learning to type and some who don't want to appear different. All the more reason then to start early, even as young as kindergarten or first grade with teaching typing. My seventh grader attends a school for gifted children and is one of the top students in his grade. He consistently receives As on his writing assignments. In first grade, however, he could barely write his name. Until third grade, he had difficulty composing a full sentence, even on the computer. After lots of OT and Handwriting Without Tears he can write legibly and with reasonable speed, but he can't express himself nearly as well as he does when he types. Handwritten work is filled with spelling errors and left out words that don't appear when he types. He carries a laptop at school for taking notes and essay tests and it has not been a problem socially or otherwise. I think that if we had waited until later to teach typing skills, however, he may well have been resistant. As it now stands, he's been doing it so long and with such good results that he accepts it as the normal course of events. Learning to type did not affect his mastery of handwriting to any significant degree. He learned to do both to the maximum effectiveness of which he is capable. We met plenty of resistance to the notion that he should learn to type. Some teachers thought that handwriting was the gold standard and that he would never be a good student if he did not master it. They seemed oblivious to our concern that focusing on handwriting was interfering with his learning how to express himself via the written word. The odd thing about all of this is that by the time children enter middle school, most teachers require that reports, etc., be typed. I'm not sure why they are so resistant to teaching a skill that is essential in middle school, high school, college and most professional occupations.

Andrea

KTJ
Posted: Tue, 27 April 2004 15:24:55
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

Andrea,
Thanks for your post as you confirm my own experience as a parent of a child with learning disabilities as well as a educator who is an assistive technology consultant.
The life skill is being able to sign your name (doesn't have to be legible, just consistent) and in this day and age to be able to word process for school, college and beyond. When we empower students to use the incredible features built into word processors and computers, we enable them to be independent, demonstrate what they know in a "mistake tolerant" environment and be successful. 21st century literacy is very different for this generation of students and requires different teaching methods.
We must remove the obstacles to learning for all students. Good for you for advocating for your son. (We bought our son a Dana which he takes to all of his classes in 8th grade. Doesn't care if he looks "different," he sees himself as independent and the teachers ask him for help when they have a computer problem in the classroom!)

Anonymous
Posted: Tue, 27 April 2004 22:01:33
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

KTJ wrote -
"We bought our son a Dana which he takes to all of his classes in 8th grade. Doesn't care if he looks "different," he sees himself as independent and the teachers ask him for help when they have a computer problem in the classroom!)"

This has not been my experience at the middle school level. Peer pressure is huge, most kids at this age do care about looking "different" and that includes pulling out a Dana or a laptop to write. The reality is no matter how hard we try to wipe out the sped label, the other student's know if you have one your sped. I know many students who used laptops and AlphaSmarts, etc..., and then hit middle school and their usage went down the drain in class. Why? Over and over again I hear the same thing from them, peers and fitting in. Yes, most of their teacher's have been more than encouraging and always have them open for their use. It is very tricky, I do believe you cannot force them to use it, but yet they then need to be accountable for their output.

Although, if our classes all had these tools available for everyone, that might help.

Assistive Technology is just that, assistive. It is very important that the person you are trying to assist is comfortable and invested, otherwise it will not work!

victoria
Posted: Tue, 27 April 2004 22:49:39
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

One time I was teaching a math class for a college, at a center distant from the main campus. One of the students wanted to borrow a book from the math center but was worried that as a part-timer he would have difficulty. So I stood there at the table (no chair), leaned over and wrote a note to the head of the math center, whom I knew, verifying his bona fides.

As I wrote, the class was leaving, packing bags, holding conversations, etc. The student in question waited for the note and chatted to a classmate. I heard him complaining bitterly about his English instructor who insisted that they write an essay right there in class. He was going at length about how "everybody knows" that writing is not something you do off the cuff, but something that you do with outlines and editing and correction and re-editing.

I finished the note and pointed out to him that writing a persuasive letter immediately, with someone standing impatiently waiting, with all sorts of noise and interruptions, completely off the cuff, was *exactly* what he expected me to do, and is a very important life and job skill.

Yes, we use computers all the time, but that quick handwritten note or memo or list is still very useful. If you have to get out the computer each and every time, it does limit you. OK if that is the omly way to cope, but not the first choice whn you have a choice.

By the way, although I did learn handwriting, slowly, with an excellent teacher giving me a good grounding, I could not type at all until university and not effectively until my late thirties or forties. Not a question of resistance to learning, but a major fine coordination issue. I now type quite fast but with six fingers; my little fingers are pretty much useless and ring fingers not so hot. I also have to keep my eyes on the keyboard because I cannot judge those fine motions without also watching. And the backspace key gets worn out. Keyboarding class would be a refinement of torture. It simply isn't the answer for everyone.

*********************************************************

Des -- the bullwhip is reserved only for certain Canadian-granite-headed members of the family. After them, dyslexic students are a piece of cake.

Anonymous
Posted: Wed, 28 April 2004 21:11:30
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

Quote Dad:

A friend of mine has a boy just dx'd with dysgraphia. Any who have experiences to relate to her, please feel free. I do not know how much she knows about this already.

Quote Dad:


What was very helpful?

Quote Dad:

Allowing my son to dictate his answers to teachers and to willing typists was very, very helpful.

Quote Dad:

What was completely useless?
Forcing him to write. Assigning lengthy writing tasks was less than useless - it was harmful.

Quote Dad:

My thanx to all the good people on this board!

Anonymous
Posted: Wed, 28 April 2004 21:47:15
Subject:

Re: Dysgraphia questions

I really enjoyed reading these posts as I am just starting to get OT for my preschool aged son who is dyspraxic. For my younger child, it has been recommended to use easles. To encourage him to lie on his abdomen and prop up on his arms to immobilize his upper arms and stregnthen his wrists. To ball up paper as was mentioned (we do basketball this way). My son loves the callirobics program. We also used heavily lined paper and make boxes in which to place the letters. We color in circles and not just back and forth lines. We use convertible self opening scissors. He also started using a key board at age 3 1/2. I have learned all of this in just a few weeks. The best part is that my son loves to do it. I am encouraged by his desire to learn and to try. I hope he never looses it!

Anonymous
Posted: Sun, 02 May 2004 10:01:26
Subject:

Dysgraphia

I think the term doesn't really mean much because it means different things to different people. Is it just handwriting, is it language and writing, is it fine motor or graphomotor or visual motor?

You need to understand the deficit. For my son it was visual motor and he is doing much better since having that addressed.

For other children it might be something else. Understand the deficit and address the real issues.

Great thread with great people as usual.