Tag Archives: Dysgraphia


This is an extension of a yesterday’s EFTI post in which I talked about my personal struggle with dysgraphia. I promised parents a bit more today.

Not if you have dygraphia.

Not if you have dysgraphia. Moreover, that is what makes this little known learning disability hurt so much. The sufferer only knows when criticized and or his or her brain decides to show the error.

The simplest way to tell you all about this learning disability is to quote the experts.  You can go here to read about what the National Center for Learning Disabilities says about dysgraphia, but I will also quote what I think is  most important here:

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. A student with this disorder can benefit from specific accommodations in the learning environment. Extra practice learning the skills required to be an accomplished writer can also help.

What Are the Warning Signs of Dysgraphia?

Just having bad handwriting doesn’t mean a person has dysgraphia. Since dysgraphia is a processing disorder, difficulties can change throughout a lifetime. However since writing is a developmental process—children learn the motor skills needed to write, while learning the thinking skills needed to communicate on paper—difficulties can also overlap.

Dysgraphia: Warning Signs By Age

Young Children

Trouble With:

Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position

Avoiding writing or drawing tasks

Trouble forming letter shapes

Inconsistent spacing between letters or words

Poor understanding of uppercase and lowercase letters

Inability to write or draw in a line or within margins

Tiring quickly while writing

School-Age Children

Trouble With:

Illegible handwriting

Mixture of cursive and print writing

Saying words out loud while writing

Concentrating so hard on writing that comprehension of what’s written is missed

Trouble thinking of words to write

Omitting or not finishing words in sentences

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:

Trouble organizing thoughts on paper

Trouble keeping track of thoughts already written down

Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar

Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech

What Strategies Can Help?

There are many ways to help a person with dysgraphia achieve success. Generally strategies fall into three main categories:

Accommodations: providing alternatives to written expression

Modifications: changing expectations or tasks to minimize or avoid the area of weakness

Remediation: providing instruction for improving handwriting and writing skills

Each type of strategy should be considered when planning instruction and support. A person with dysgraphia will benefit from help from both specialists and those who are closest to the person. Finding the most beneficial type of support is a process of trying different ideas and openly exchanging thoughts on what works best.

Although teachers and employers are required by law to make “reasonable accommodations” for individuals with learning disabilities, they may not be aware of how to help. Speak to them about dysgraphia and explain the challenges faced as a result of this learning disability.

Here are examples of how to teach individuals with dysgraphia to overcome some of their difficulties with written expression.

Early Writers

Be patient and positive, encourage practice and praise effort. Becoming a good writer takes time and practice.

Use paper with raised lines for a sensory guide to staying within the lines.

Try different pens and pencils to find one that’s most comfortable.

Practice writing letters and numbers in the air with big arm movements to improve motor memory of these important shapes. Also practice letters and numbers with smaller hand or finger motions.

Encourage proper grip, posture and paper positioning for writing. It’s important to reinforce this early as it’s difficult for students to unlearn bad habits later on.

Use multi-sensory techniques for learning letters, shapes and numbers. For example, speaking through motor sequences, such as “b” is “big stick down, circle away from my body.”

Introduce a word processor on a computer early; however do not eliminate handwriting for the child. While typing can make it easier to write by alleviating the frustration of forming letters, handwriting is a vital part of a person’s ability to function in the world.

Young Students

Encourage practice through low-stress opportunities for writing. This might include writing letters or in a diary, making household lists, or keeping track of sports teams.

Allow use of print or cursive—whichever is more comfortable.

Use large graph paper for math calculation to keep columns and rows organized.

Allow extra time for writing assignments.

Begin writing assignments creatively with drawing, or speaking ideas into a tape recorder.

Alternate focus of writing assignments—put the emphasis on some for neatness and spelling, others for grammar or organization of ideas.

Explicitly teach different types of writing—expository and personal essays, short stories, poems, etc.

Do not judge timed assignments on neatness and spelling.

Have students proofread work after a delay—it’s easier to see mistakes after a break.

Help students create a checklist for editing work—spelling, neatness, grammar, syntax, clear progression of ideas, etc.

Encourage use of a spell checker—speaking spell checkers are available for handwritten work.

Reduce amount of copying; instead, focus on writing original answers and ideas.

Have student complete tasks in small steps instead of all at once.

Find alternative means of assessing knowledge, such as oral reports or visual projects.

Teenagers and Adults

Many of these tips can be used by all age groups. It is never too early or too late to reinforce the skills needed to be a good writer.

Provide tape recorders to supplement note taking and to prepare for writing assignments.

Create a step-by-step plan that breaks writing assignments into small tasks (see below).

When organizing writing projects, create a list of keywords that will be useful.

Provide clear, constructive feedback on the quality of work, explaining both the strengths and weaknesses of the project, commenting on the structure as well as the information that is included.

Use assistive technology such as voice-activated software if the mechanical aspects of writing remain a major hurdle.

 For more on dysgraphia, check out these 10 dysgraphia resources.

Parenting thoughts and tips

All children want to do well in what matters to the adults in their world.  That means all children are motivated to succeed in school. Just look at the kids lined up to go to kindergarten or the first grade and 99% of them will have happy faces.

Fast forward and with every year more and more kids will not be eager.  Easy to understand.

Why because hope is dying and school is becoming more and more painful.

As Mark Twain says, “The cat, having sat upon a hot stove lid, will not sit upon a hot stove lid again. But he won’t sit upon a cold stove lid, either”

When it comes to children, all try lots longer than cats to figure out how to avoid pain. The younger the child, the more  s/he will keep trying to figure out how to please adults.  Hope of good results is part of the young child’s make up.  But in time what the expert calls “Learned Helplessness” set in.

In addition to dsygraphia, I suffer from dyscalculia.  That means trouble with math.  That is where learned helplessness has its hold on me.  I don’t do any math.  I’d rather trust the bank’s accounting than mine. No way I can balance books and even calculators do not help. Nine times out of ten, I punch in the wrong numbers. Hate when I have to punch in a telephone number or any other number beyond four digits. Four I can manage. Anyway onward with dysgraphia. I am less hopeless about my dysgraphia. Probably for a number of  reasons.

One, for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. My father was a newspaper reporter and also published his own weekly newspaper.  I adored him and that meant I wanted to do what he did.

Then as explained previously, many teachers saw not the mistakes but my content which was apparently in their eyes was worthier than many others students.  Also testing was not so mandatory.

I had a mother who pushed trying and worried less about success or  mistakes.

The computer’s spell and grammar check made becoming a writer possible.

I do not have dyslexia and I loved to read and am a fast reader. As the pundits about writing say, if you want to write: “Read, read, read, and read some more.” I still read two or three books a week in addition to all the reading I do on-line.

Finally, my life as a foster parent and therapist caught the eye of sales minded editors. I had something to say from a unique position.  Lucky me and luck does play a part in all successes.

Learned Helplessness did not rule me in terms of writing as it did with my math problems.

Read this carefully: Once a child decides nothing s/he can do will get good grades or compliments or even an internal “I got it right” message, the desire to keep trying decays and eventually dies.

The harder it is for the child to do what is asked, the more quickly the will to try fades. Then all sorts of diversionary strategies take over: withdrawal, clowning, running away, drawing negative attention to yourself, and aggressiveness are among the most common.

Jerome Kagan, human behavior guru sees the above strategies as ways to deal with the pain of uncertainty or not knowing and hence not feeling in control of yourself or the world.  He believes this almost as painful as unmet survival needs.

In my work with children, I saw three stages to reaching the decision that nothing you could do made a difference in meeting yours, another’s, or life’s  demands.

  • Stage one: Hoping and trying. Thinking as the pundits say, if you keep trying you will get there.
  • Stage two: Doubting you can “just do it”  but still a bit hopeful but doubt and feelings of shame start to intrude.  Trying becomes more and more painful if success is not part of the mix.
  • Stage three: Absolutely certain you will not succeed. Despair and anger set in as well as the need to defend yourself from the pain of failure. That leads to the strategies listed above.

This struggle with meeting societal or parental demands takes many forms.  I first spotted it when dealing with Good Kids Doing Bad Things.  Then the struggle was between being a good kid and a bad kid.  I think at least one of the kids engineering the Columbine killings had decided he was all bad, so doing the worse he could do became possible.

We all face that struggle for we all have thoughts and desires that lead to bad as well as god behavior.  Many of us gravitate toward religion to help us stay on what our hearts know is the right track. Most of us succeed, but when we hear about a fallen priest, preacher or rabbi, I think, s/he was trying to be good, but needed more help.

Back to tips about learning disabilities.

Parenting tip one: When a child begins avoiding school or homework with any strategy described above, worry.  Worry, but take the time to see if the problem is consistent and is eroding both school efforts and peace in the home.

parenting tip two: While taking the time to do the above, learn a bit about learning disabilities in general.

Parenting tip three: If the signs of a disorder last consistently for six weeks, talk to some experts. Make your child’s teacher one; make a trusted physician another, find some parent who have been there and done that. All will probably have different views.

Parenting tip four:  Be prepared for disagreement and easy assurances all is right particular when talking to relatives and friends about your worries but also from the professional. Often such assurances are valid, but also often they reflect the human need to be kind.

Parenting tip five: Get the child’s view of what is going on.  As children often think they are to blame for all and every problem in the world.  This makes it hard for them to share openly about concerns, so go slow.  In fact, a child or a teen make talk more openly with someone besides a parent.  An aunt or uncle might be an ally in your quest to learn what the child is feeling. Don’t forget youth leaders, advocates, or similar folk.

Parenting tip six: Think of finding a good  therapist or other source of support for you and the child.  Start with you and think carefully about what a good therapist means.  I think it means someone with knowledge I do not possess, who can relate to me and my needs, sets a clear contract using SMART goals, measures outcomes and  is not doctrinaire but has a wide variety of tools to help at his or her command.

Parent advocates were mentioned earlier as were youth advocates.  These can be extremely helpful, but also not helpful.

Parenting tip seven: Related to finding helpers that help.  You must be your own and your child’s best advocate. That means two things. Experimenting and keeping tabs on what is working and what isn’t working. Setting some SMART Goals is the way to do this .

Parenting tip eight: Be patient.  Nothing is going to happen quickly and that is okay. Children are resilient and usually  move forward with their lives despite  problems.  That does not rule out trying to help, good help always helps and improves things better and faster than no help.

Parenting tip nine: Remember the five to one rule; five good experiences as a balancing force for every bad experience.  With my own sons, I refused to get them tutoring over the summer. Almost got me reported for educational neglect, However, the only time each son was truly happy was when school was out and I could not bear taking that away from them.

This also means making the most of what the kids do well and want to do.

Parenting tip ten: Strengthen yours and your child’s self-soothing skills. 


If you like this post share it with another.  That is practicing deliberate kindness which is an  easy Emotional Fitness Exercise .

As always, thank you for your support.




Word Press  Aug 11, 2014 Daily Prompt   New Wrinkles: You wake up one day and realize you’re ten years older than you were the previous night. Beyond the initial shock, how does this development change your life plans?

How does this fit in with todays Parents Are People Too blog. In ten years the worries of today will be old hat. For many parents age and stage bring their own rewards and challenges.  Maybe you wake up having missed the perils of a disgruntled teens or in time to enjoy a wedding or to find you have some wonderful grandchildren.  When it comes for to the future, plan for what you can and then hope for the best.


smart goals

Struggles your learning style? Not alone!

Today’s Daily Prompt asked what is your learning style. Mine is mega struggle to write right. Drives grammarians apples and shames me.

Strongest drive? To edit another'sgrammar. Not #emotionalintelligence.

Obsessed grammarians and power players seek perfection when good enough is good enough.

Power seekers who think they might be losing, loosing, lossing, lost, loose an argument often resort to correcting the other person’s grammar. Pressed to write without having to use lose or loose, I would write:

Power seekers who thing they might be going down to defeat in an agrument often resort to correcting hte other person’s spelling or grammar.

And yes, I misspelled three words in that one sentence. Spelling check caught two. Did you catch the third?  I did not at first and that is part of the problem. I don’t see mistakes even if I know the right way to spell a work.

Being corrected when you cannot do better creates shame. I know for I have a learning disability called dysgraphia. As I discussed in this Emotional Fitness Training blog post Alone with shame.  all the criticism hurled at me about how I wrote created mega shameful feelings for me as I was growing up.  

Although brighter than the average bear, I struggle as I write to spell correctly, punctuate correctly, use proper tenses, pronouns, and all the other stuff that the grammarians expect for a writer.  I  also cannot do math.  That is a learning disability called dyscalculia. But as I did not aspire to be a math whiz that has not been so big a burden.  

I did not discover I had a learning disability until long after the psychologists figured out some of us have brain glitches. My to bright, happy sons both became depressed in the early years of their education.  The school wasn’t worried but we were and paid to have an educational psychologist test them.  Not only did he describe their learning styles perfectly, he described mine also. Live and hopefully learn. Lifted some shame from my shoulders.  Of course, I wasn’t happy this particular combination of genes had been passed down the line, but I was and remain grateful more is known now about how people learn and how to help those who struggle at school to struggle less. 

I was also lucky to have more teachers who valued my content  more than the  many errors. And yes, there was the one who kept me in during recess to re-write spelling lists.  Made no difference in my spelling, but made her feel she was doing her job. sigh.


If you have a child struggling in school, particularly as third grade is approaching, think about the possibility of a learning disability. Think very hard about this particularly if you child is ahead of many other children in other developmental tasks, was happy until started in school or pressured to learn to read or write.

Start to educate yourself about how children learn and how your child learns. Do not let fear of labeling, shrinks, or psychologists hold you back. Vision and hearing are routinely tested, learning brain clitches are not but should be.  You would not expect a blind or deaf child to learn without help, no one would. A child who stuggles to learn should be helped also.  

Psychologists have identified what they call multiple “intelligences.”   Children and adults learn best when what they are learning matches their particular learning style, their talents, and what adults applaud.

Moreover, many studies are finding what is called emotional intelligence outweighs intellectual intelligence when it comes to living the good life. Teaching a child good manners, to be kind, to share and care promotes emotional intelligence and is as much a learned ability as an inherited one.  Manners matter.

MEGA WARNING: Much pressure is being placed on parents and children to teach reading and math readiness. Not a problem for the brightest of kids who have no learning challenges. Not so good for those who struggle to learn one thing or another.  Moreover, most of us do well in some areas, not so well in others. 


The media and the schools can easily make us feel the only thing that matters is doing well academically.  And yes, that is important in today’s world.  But it is not the end all or be all of life. Far from it.  Visit my Daily Twelve Emotional Fitness Exercises . Learn them for you, and teach them to your children. Easily practiced each one was specifically designed to improve  emotional intelligence.  

Remember that liking, commenting, or sharing is an act of social media kindness.  It strengthens you and helps me and others.

As always, thank you for your support, it means a great deal to me.


DISCLAIMER: FORGIVE MY GRAMMATICAL ERRORS FOR I HAVE DYSGRAPHIAIf you need perfect posts, you will not find them here. 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.



IMAGE BY: Smashing Hub

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?

  1. Unusual pencil grip particular after the age of six or seven
  2. Difficulty staying within lines, may not enjoy coloring
  3. Forms letters slowly and with difficulty
  4. Letters are poorly formed
  5. Letter reversals
  6. Poor spacing.  Words may run into each other, sentences run off the page, double spacing for some lines half spacing for others.
  7. Mix of cursive and printing
  8. Mix of capital and lower case letters.
  9. When copying skips or leaves out words
  10. Incorrect words — “our” for “own” or “now” for “not”
  11. Common words such as “the” or “and” are mis-spelled at least half of the time
  12. Can’t follow along and read what another is writing
  13. Can spell or punctuate properly one day or for several sentences in a row, but not consistently.
  14. 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 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.

Stay strong

Life is a struggle, full of pain and suffering. Parenting intensifies the struggle, but also brings more joy to your life.


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.


All my books are available on Amazon, and readable on any tablet, laptop, Mac, PC, e-reader or Kindle device.

When Good Kids Do Bad Things. A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers

Parents Are People Too. An Emotional Fitness Program for Parents

Tame the Test Anxiety Monster

Coming soon from Metaplume: How to Hold a Successful Family Meeting,