This post is about one of the lesser known learning disablitites. If you read my posts, however, you know I battle Dysgraphia in order to write right
Dsygraphia is not just about bad handwriting, although that can be one of the symptoms. The bad hand writing seems to stem from a glitch in the brain that is like dyslexia. Many who have dyslexia also suffer from one or another of the symptoms of dsygraphia. At other times the two are totally separate.
Reading has been one of my life lines, I read quickly, and grasp multiple levels of meaning – why some of my professors thought I should teach English. When it came to putting words to paper, however, other professors wondered that I had made it through highschool. I do not have dyslexia, and I do have dysgraphia.
Here is a good description of dysgraphia from the National Center for Learning Disabilities.
Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult. It can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting, and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers, and words on a line or page. This can result partly from:
- Visual-spatial difficulties: trouble processing what the eye sees
- Language processing difficulty: trouble processing and making sense of what the ear hears
As with all learning disabilities (LD), dysgraphia is a lifelong challenge, although how it manifests may change over time.
If your child is having difficulty in school, you need to think about the possibility of dysgraphia. Particularly if she is an avid reader, can understand what she has read, and can talk clearly about the plot, and what she like, but is not doing well in spelling tests or writing assignments.
What to look for?
- Unusual pencil grip particular after the age of six or seven
- Difficulty staying within lines, may not enjoy coloring
- Forms letters slowly and with difficulty
- Letters are poorly formed
- Letter reversals
- Poor spacing. Words may run into each other, sentences run off the page, double spacing for some lines half spacing for others.
- Mix of cursive and printing
- Mix of capital and lower case letters.
- When copying skips or leaves out words
- Incorrect words — “our” for “own” or “now” for “not”
- Common words such as “the” or “and” are mis-spelled at least half of the time
- Can’t follow along and read what another is writing
- Can spell or punctuate properly one day or for several sentences in a row, but not consistently.
- Can dictate a coherent story or test answer, but cannot write the same answer
What can be done? accommodations range from concentrating on try to improve handwriting to eliminating the need for the child to write by having a scribe. Sometimes using a computer helps, sometimes not.
PARENTING ADVICE ABOUT DYSGRAPHIA
Parenting tip one: If worried, learn more. If you have not already read the earlier posts about school problems, read them now. Also go to the various links and read what each has to say. Browse the internet for other resources. Learn all that you can about learning disabilities.
Parenting tip two: Observe your child for signs.
Parenting tip three: As always make sure your relationship with the school and your child’s teachers are positive. It never helps a child with problems to have the parent seen as troublesome also. See what my guest blogger Jean Tracy had to say about that in her post Getting Along in School.
Parenting tip four: Ask if you can sit in on a class to observe your child. Most schools will allow some short parent visits to the class room. Make your request in writing. If you can email your teacher, great. Otherwise write a note and ask that it be placed in his mail box at the school.
If the answer to a class room visit is “No,” do not make a fuss, just send another note saying, “I am worried about the problems he gives me when I try to practice help him with written work. I wanted to see if he gave you the same trouble as well as what I could learn from how you teach him.”
That said, add, “Lets make a date to talk about this.”
Parenting tip five: Prepare for your face to face talk. Your goal is to arrange a proper evaluation, starting with the school’s resources. Begin by asking for the teacher’s ideas about what is going on. If she seems to know he might have a Learning Disability or is struggling. agree and talk about the symptoms you see, then ask for an evaluation.
If the teacher doesn’t seem to think your child is anything but a slow learner, talk about what you have learned. Agree he is struggling with written work, but point out he seems to be advanced in other ares and say that is a common sign of a specific learning disability.
Say you have been trying to figure out what is going on and have learned a bit about learning difficulties, but one thing you know is that it takes a professional evaluation to really figure the problem out and you want to know how to arrange this through the school.
Parenting tip six: Try to inject a bit of humor or self-deprecation into your conversation with the teacher. Doing so can defuse feelings he is being challenged. Teachers want to be seen as experts and in control.
Say something like. “Maybe I am just a hover parent, be patient with me.”
Then add, “I know we both want what is best for all the kids. Do you see a problem with asking for a professional evaluation?”
Parenting tip seven: Don’t rush your child, or the teacher. Rushing and pushing a child to learn what is hard for her, only creates frustration. Not helpful.
As for teachers, although more and more is known about various learning disabilities, most teachers do not yet have specific training. If you have followed my posts about school challenges, you may know more than the teacher. So if after doing the above, the teacher is reluctant to ask forga psychological evaluation at the school, suggest that you will work with your child at home, and you would like to meet again with the teacher in four to six weeks. If there has been no major improvement, then you feel it might be time to go up a level and discuss the problems with the IEP team.
What is an IEP team? Since 2004, all public schools in the United States have been required to have a team devoted to making certain all a children’s educational needs are met. The team is charged with creating what is called an Individualized Educational Plan for children not learning as they should be. Wright’s Law is a useful web site to learn all about the what a public school in the USA must do to make sure all children get properly educated. Other countries approach things differently. If you have a child challenged in school, you need to know what a school is required to do legally. A teacher may want to help, but may be limited in what she is allowed to do by legal restraints.
Parenting tip eight: Find support for yourself. In the past ten years in the United States at least, parents have demanded more inclusion when it comes to planning for their child’s education or when needed, mental health care. For many years professionals devised “treatment” plans without asking for parents’ ideas about what would work. These plans were announced to parents and a parent who did not agree could be referred to the child welfare authorities for educational of medical neglect.
The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health successfully advocated for the right of parents to sit with the experts when it came to making plans for a child. Their motto is “Nothing about us without us.”
If there is not such an organization near you, ask a friend to offer you support while you work out the best educational plan for your child.
Parenting tip nine: Tailor all advice, even mine, to your child and your need. Even the most learned researchers and theorists quarrel about much. Take their advice and mine carefully. Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think. Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you by others. As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.
Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle, but also brings more joy to your life.
DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS
If you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. As noted above, I have dysgraphia which means that sometimes my sentence structure is not that easy to follow or I make other errors. Still, most people understand me. All of my books are professionally edited, but not all of my blog posts are. Thanks for your understanding and reading my work.
FURTHER PARENT ADVICE CAN BE FOUND IN MY BOOKS
All my books are available on Amazon, and readable on any tablet, laptop, Mac, PC, e-reader or Kindle device.
Coming soon from Metaplume: How to Hold a Successful Family Meeting,