Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Seeing Things as They Are: Dysgraphia

Seeing Things as They Are: Dysgraphia


My almost 11 year old son also has Dysgraphia.  This has actually been as hard to deal with in educating him as the Autism.  I keep learning about it and trying new ideas.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

How to Approach Writing Assignments

  • Plan your paper (Pull together your ideas and consider how you want them in your writing.)
  • Organize your thoughts and ideas
  • Create an outline or graphic organizer to be sure you've included all your ideas.
  • Make a list of key thoughts and words you will want to use in your paper.

1. Write a Draft

This first draft should focus on getting your ideas on paper - don't worry about making spelling or grammar errors. Using a computer is helpful because it will be easier to edit later on.

2. Edit Your Work

  • Check your work for proper spelling, grammar and syntax; use a spell checker if necessary.
  • Edit your paper to elaborate and enhance content - a thesaurus is helpful for finding different ways to make your point.

3. Revise Your Work, Producing a Final Draft

  • Rewrite your work into a final draft.
  • Be sure to read it one last time before submitting it.

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