Is your child struggling with handwriting? The cause may be more than just laziness or lack of motivation; it could be a neurologically-based learning issue called dysgraphia. This post explains the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia and the steps you can take to help your child succeed in reading and spelling.
A child with dysgraphia has handwriting that is worse than you would normally see in a child of his age, intelligence, and education level.
But dysgraphia isn’t just about messy papers. A child with dysgraphia may also appear to be unmotivated or lazy, or what we sometimes refer to as a “reluctant writer.” Because he has trouble expressing his thoughts and ideas in writing, he may avoid writing altogether.
Dysgraphia can also make your child avoid seemingly normal situations. For example, does your child avoid Scouts or clubs because he may be asked to fill out forms? Is he hesitant to participate in any activity that involves writing, even something as simple as signing his own name? Has he been teased because of childish penmanship?
If so, you have probably experienced firsthand the frustration, anger, and anxiety that dysgraphia can cause.
As with most learning challenges, the symptoms of dysgraphia can range from mild to severe, and the symptoms may vary in the way they show up in children of different ages.
Simply put, dysgraphia makes the process of writing quite difficult, so a child with dysgraphia often has a much easier time expressing ideas verbally than in writing.
If you recognize some of these symptoms in your child, read on!
Compensation means helping your child “work around” his handwriting issues so he can still continue to learn.
You may be surprised to hear me say that. After all, dysgraphia is a serious issue, and surely we don’t want to just “work around” the problem, right?
Well, at first we do want to work around the penmanship issue.
This doesn’t mean that you aren’t eventually going to tackle the problem—that step will come next—but it does mean that you are going to reduce the stress that your child is likely experiencing, and at the same time make sure your student can continue to learn.
But exactly how you compensate will depend upon your child’s age and the subject areas being studied.
Once the pressure is off and your child is learning in other subject areas without pen and paper, it’s time to work on penmanship skills.
Since so many kids with dysgraphia have incorrect writing posture and pencil grip, it’s important to establish proper handwriting position before attempting to address specific penmanship concerns. The graphic below is a handy guide for evaluating your child’s handwriting position.
Once you have checked and corrected your child’s posture and pencil grip, it’s time to actually put pencil to paper and start writing.
Please keep in mind that it’s important to allow your child to acquire writing skills at his own pace. Don’t get caught up in the comparison trap. Your child has a special need, so let him progress naturally and not at the pace recommended for his age, his grade level, or his curriculum.
Also, as you work to improve your child’s ability to write, continue to reduce the amount of writing that is required to complete his schoolwork. Allow learning to happen without pen and paper.
Try these tips to help make penmanship lessons more productive and enjoyable for you and your child.
For a child with dysgraphia, the very act of writing takes so much energy that it actually interferes with the process of learning, which can then negatively impact his ability to learn.
Because your child’s dysgraphia affects the way he learns to read and spell, it’s important to remove the handwriting barrier from both of these subject areas. All About Reading and All About Spelling are designed to do just that! In fact, both programs can be completed without requiring any handwriting at all.
But what do moms who are in the trenches with their struggling learners say about overcoming dysgraphia?
Helping a child who is struggling with dysgraphia takes patience. Change may not come quickly, but trust that it will come! And to encourage you during this process, I’d like to share a few success stories from our community.
“My daughter has dysgraphia and she is thriving with AAS! We just finished level 4 (starting 4th grade). The tiles are great for spelling when writing is just too much.
I like that the lessons are at our own pace, and that she can master the material in a way that works best for her! Thanks!”
“Although we haven’t pursued an official diagnosis, our eight-year-old son has all the characteristics of dysgraphia. The best thing we ever did was back off from writing for a while. He still struggles, but it’s getting easier. He loves his AAR, and we will be starting AAS soon. Things are finally clicking, and I am so thankful that spelling, reading, and writing no longer involve tears!”
“My son used to feel defeated, but now he has so much more enthusiasm for reading since he doesn’t have to write. He doesn’t dread school when his hands don’t hurt and get tired. He also doesn’t waste erasers from erasing so often!
“He uses his magnetic letter tiles to build his words now, and he’ll often ask to handwrite the words he has built. The tiles help him tell his b, d, p, and q apart, which make writing and spelling easier. Being able to look at the letters while writing has helped his handwriting improve, too!”
Handwriting may seem like a small part of education, but it affects your child’s ability to express ideas. It’s important to address dysgraphia, and to prevent it from stealing your child’s motivation, his joy of learning, and his self-esteem.
Starting today, you can help make learning easier for your child with dysgraphia by implementing three simple ideas.
If you have any questions about your child’s dysgraphia and how it affects reading and spelling instruction, please feel free to call or email us. With All About Reading and All About Spelling, your child can continue to learn without frustration, and we’re here to help!
Does your child struggle with dysgraphia? What has helped? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!