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Son getting very stressed out in class

Submitted by an LD OnLine user on

I have a 10 year old son who’s in the 5th grade. I have no doubt in my mind that he is dysgraphic according to the research I’ve done on the internet. My son receives special services from his school for reading, writing, and math. He has always struggled immensely in his writing class, and he has come to the point of just putting his head down on his desk and “shuts down”. He will not respond to anyone until the class is over. I asked him why he does it and he says he’s frustrated and he’s holding in his anger, but says he doesn’t know why. I have had meetings with his LD teacher and she thinks he’s just being naughty. When I tried to talk to her about the dysgraphia it seems like she totally discounted it. I tried to talk to her about some of the learning tools I’ve read about for dysgraphic students and her answer was that “he is getting help for his learning diabilities”. But I was also told that the school does not recognize dysgraphia per say, just LD in general. What am I supposed to tell my child to do when he just can’t get the work done in class? I did try the tough love (before I was aware of what dysgraphia was) and that didn’t work of course. I am beyond frustrated with his LD teacher, I know for a fact he is not being lazy or naughty. His attitude and stress level is just getting worse in his writing class and I am just not sure where to go from here. Can someone give me some direction?

Submitted by eoffg on Sun, 04/21/2013 - 11:52 AM


Hi Appygirl and welcome to the forum,

Perhaps you could write a bit about your son’s actual difficulties with hand writing, that led you to conclude that he has Dysgraphia?
Hand writing involves 2 processes.
Firstly being able to recall a visual image of letters from memory, as we go to write them.
Secondly, after we recall the image, the fine motor planning and control, to be able to form the letters on the page.

So that a difficulty with either of them, will make writing difficult?
Where main problem that schools have with the term Dysgraphia, is that it doesn’t define the underlying problem?
Though the more typical cause of Dysgraphia, is motor planning and control.
So that my question is whether motor difficulties are more likely the cause of your son’s Dysgraphia?
In which case, this needs to be diagnosed.
While the school wont recognize Dysgraphia, they will recognize that motor difficulties.
Which will also entitle you to an assessment for the provision and use of ‘assistive technologies’.
Such as your son being provided with a laptop, for doing all of his writing.

Submitted by appygirl2013 on Sat, 04/27/2013 - 5:00 AM


My son has always struggled with writing. It takes him a really long time to write any words down on paper, and when he does the letters are in poor form, inconsistent, capitals and lower cases mixed, no spaces between words, bad spelling, ect. He has never liked coloring with crayons and can not tie his shoes. He does not do well in any type of sports and is a bit un-coordinated. He has a very advanced vocabulary and can talk about very complex functions of mechanical type subjects. It seems that his intelligence does not match his learning skills in a typical school setting. He gets very frustrated with directions for assignments, it seems like he just can’t understand what’s being asked of him. Recently he has been acting out at school such as putting his head down on his desk and ignoring the teachers, talking loudly in class, raising his voice at the teachers and crying. I took him to a behavioral therapist and she felt he could be better served by an educational therapist. But our appointment is not until another week. So meantime my son is getting so stressed out at school and I just don’t know what to do until we can get some professional help. I am not an expert and I am trying to describe his issues the best I can. This is why I posted my concern for my son here, hoping to get some guidance. Thank you

Submitted by eoffg on Sat, 04/27/2013 - 11:37 AM


Hi Appy,
I would like to suggest that it more helpful to make an appointment with an OT occupational therapist. Where what you have outlined, fits more with Dyspraxia.
Which is officially termed as DCD, Developmental Coordination Disorder.
Where DCD will also cause difficulties with hand writing, Dysgraphia.
Though an important part of DCD, is a difficulty with Spacial planning and thinking. Which motor control relies on.
But Spacial thinking is also what we to organize and order our thinking.
Which directly relates to his frustration with directions for assignments?
Where he would have a difficulty with ordering the directions in his mind, and knowing what comes next as he works through them?
Though you noted that he also gets special services for math. Where spacial thinking is what we use to concieve of numbers, and gives them a sense of quantity.
Where it would be interesting to know if he thinks of numbers as a quantity?
Though people with a Spacial thinking difficulty, typically develop exceptional Auditory thinking to balance this. Where your son seems to fit this.
But with a diagnosis of Developmental Coordination Disorder, he would be able to get an accommodation to use a lap-top, and no longer need to hand write.
Also to use software for planning, so that he can use it follow directions for assignments.

Submitted by appygirl2013 on Sun, 04/28/2013 - 4:20 AM


eoffg, Thank you for your reply. Is there a professional that I can take him to that can give him an official diagnosis? Yes, he has struggles in math as well. He has trouble with memorizing facts and recalling concepts he’s previously learned. He receives special services for reading also, but he is actually a pretty good reader now. Interesting to note that his regular 5th grade teacher has allowed him to use the computer to type classwork assignments and the teacher told me it has made a huge improvement in his work. I have been trying to get his special needs teacher to let him use a keyboard so he can type instead of write and she will not allow him to because she says he types to slow. Two days ago was the worst day ever, when a teachers assistant from my son’s special needs class put him in a room by himself and tried to force him to re-write a paragraph that he apparently didn’t write correctly according to the directions they gave him. They kept him there the entire school day, except for lunch. He got as far as writing his name at the top of the paper and that was it (in a 6 hour period). The teacher told me at one point he stabbed his pencil into the paper and ripped it and was crying and raised his voice at the teacher.

Submitted by eoffg on Mon, 04/29/2013 - 1:14 PM


Appy, with getting a diagnosis, it can be done privately or through the school.
With a private diagnosis, it is best to first talk to the school and ask if them they will recognize a private diagnosis? As some will use this as an excuse not to do anything. So it’s best to discuss this with them first and find out if they will, and if their are any special requirements?
Where you might need to have it done through the school?

But I would suggest that you need 2 evaluations?
Where one is a general assessment of learning abilities/ difficulties.
Then another assessment of his motor abilities, which effects his hand writing.
Where the motor test, is the one that can be used to replace the pen with a computer/ laptop.
For all of his years of schooling.
Where his teacher has already recognized the ‘huge improvement’ that allowing him to do assignments on a computer makes.
Where he is being needlessly held back by being forced to use hand writing, which is now an outdated skill.
Which was highlighted by a recent survey of adults use of handwriting? Where most adults hadn’t hand written a sentence, since school.
I would suggest that by the time that your son is an adult, that hand writing will hardly ever be used?
What the teacher describes as a ‘huge improvement’?
Is rather that when your son is provided with the right tools, he can demonstrate his true potential.

But the ‘general assessment’ is also important, as this will identify his Spacial thinking difficulties. Under the term of ‘Perceptual Reasoning’.
Spacial thinking is perhaps the most important thing to understand?
Spacial thinking is what we use to order and organize thoughts in our mind.
So that this is what we use to order a series of directions in our mind.
Then what we use to keep track of where we are up to, as we work through them.
It also how we understand how all of the directions fit together.
So that when your son had his ‘worst day ever’, which I would rather describe as a traumatic experience?
Where he just got as far as writing his name at the top of the paper?
What needs to be understood, is why he was stuck a this point?
I would suggest that he sat there with a confused set of directions, without a way to organize them in his mind and work through them?
So that it all fits together?
Where I would highlight ‘fitting together’.

The main tool to help with this difficulty, is making use of what are termed ‘graphical organizers’, or ‘mind maps’?
Where the basic difference with this? Is that instead of ‘directions’ simply written down in a list?
They are spread out on a page.
So that you can see how they all fit together.
The problem with a ‘list’, is that it can’t for example show how item 5 fits with items 2 and 7 ?
In writing a paragraph, how the 5th sentence connects with the 2nd sentence, and will be support what is said in the 7th sentence?
So that after writing our name at the top of the page.
It’s not simply a process of writing the first sentence, and then thinking of what sentence comes next?
Rather, we begin with the final sentence?
Then think back to sentences that we will put in place to arrive there.
Perhaps you might consider this in terms of planning a journey?
Where you don’t begin planning from your front door?
Rather you probably think of the beginning and end points, and then consider all of the different ‘directions’ in between?
Which present different options.
Though I would suggest that your son ‘didn’t write correctly according to the directions that they gave him’?
Was because he had no sense of how all of these directions fitted together, to arrive at the end point?
So that he sat there lost at the top of the page?

Submitted by appygirl2013 on Tue, 04/30/2013 - 7:48 PM


“I would suggest that he sat there with a confused set of directions, without a way to organize them in his mind and work through them?”……I always felt that this was exactly the case, but his LD teacher saw it as a “behavioral” problem, like he was intentionally being defiant. I guess I will just have to wait for an official diagnosis so that they will see the real underlying issue with my son. Otherwise, they just don’t seem to “get it”. Thank you so much for you insight, you have been very helpful!

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