+ Dysgraphia Facts from LD Online

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Dysgraphia is a learning disability affecting writing skills.  It manifests as

  • difficulties with spelling,
  • and/or   poor handwriting,
  • and/or   putting thoughts on paper.

Because writing requires a very complex set of motor skills as well as information processing capabilities, students with disorders in written expression will benefit from specific accomodations in the learning environment.   

They will also need additional practice learning the skills required.

Warning Signs

  • tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
  • illegible handwriting
  • writing/drawing avoidance
  • tiring quickly when writing
  • saying words out loud while writing
  • unfinished and/or omitted words in sentences
  • difficulty organizing thoughts on paper
  • difficulty with syntax structure and grammar
  • large gap between written ideas and what the student can express verbally

Possible Interventions

Strategies generally fall into three categories:

  1. Accommodations: providing alternatives to written expression.
  2. Modifications: changing expectations or tasks to minimize or avoid the area of weakness.
  3. Remediation: providing instruction for improving handwriting and writing skills.

Each type of strategy should be considered as you plan instruction and support.  Students with dysgraphia will benefit from help by family and friends as well as by specialists. 

Finding the most beneficial approach is a process; try different ideas and exhange thoughts with other team members on what works best.

Early Writers

  • Use paper with raised lines as a sensory guide to staying within lines.
  • Try different pens and pencils to find the most comfortable.
  • Practice writing letters and numbers with big arm movements (“sky writing”) to improve motor memory of the shapes.
  • Also practice letters and numbers with smaller hand or finger motions.
  • Encourage proper grip, posture and paper position.  Reinforce this early (it’s difficult to unlearn bad habits).
  • Use multisensory techniques for learning letters, shapes and numbers.  Write in shaving cream, sand or dry jello (yum!).  Talk about the movements: e.g. the letter b as “big stick down, circle away from my body.”
  • Introduce a word processor or computer early, but don’t eliminate handwriting.  Typing can make it easier to write, but people need to  write to function in the world.
  • Be patient and positive; encourage practice and praise effort. 

Becoming a good writer takes time and practice — lots and lots of practice.

Young Students

  • 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 drawings or speaking ideas into a tape recorder.
  • Alternate the focus of writing assignments — put the emphasis on some for neatness and spelling, others for grammar and organization of ideas.
  • Explicitly teach different types of writing — expository and personal essays; short stories; poems etc.
  • Don’t judge timed assignments on neatness and spelling.
  • Have students proofread after a delay; it’s easier to see mistakes after a break.
  • Help students create a checklist for editing work: e.g. spelling; neatness; grammar; syntax; clear progression of ideas etc.
  • Encourage use of a spell checker — speaking spell checkers are available.
  • 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.
  • Encourage practice through low-stress opportunities such as writing letters/postcards, or keeping a diary, or making household lists, or keeping track of sports teams.

Teenagers & Adults

  • Provide a student with a tape recorder to supplement note taking and to prepare for writing assignments.
  • Create a step-by-step plan that breaks writing assignments into small tasks.
  • When organizing writing projects, create a list of keywords that will be useful.
  • Provide clear, constructive feedback on the quality of work.  Explain both the strengths and weaknesses of the project; comment on the structure as well as the information included.
  • Use assistive technology such as voice-activated software if the mechanical aspects are still a major hurdle.

Many of these tips can be used by any age group.  It’s never too early or too late to reinforce these skills.

LD Online says that although teachers and employers are required by law to make “reasonable accomodations” for individuals with learning disabilities,  they may not be aware of how to help. 

Talk to them about dysgraphia and explain the challenges  facing a person in this situation.

How to Approach Writing Assignments

  • Plan your paper (pull together your ideas; consider how you want them in your writing). 
  • Organize your thoughts and ideas.
  • Create an outline or web or graphic organizer to be sure you’ve included all your ideas.  (You’ll need to practice doing these graphic organizers to get comfortable using them!)
  • Make a list of key thoughts and words you’ll want to  use in your paper. 

Write a Draft

Just get words down on paper.  Do not worry about spelling or grammar.  You can then add and mix and match and cut. 

(Computers do make later editing easy, it’s true, but paper and pencil create a nice static starting place to work from and get back to if needed.) 

Edit Your Work

  • Check your work for spelling, grammar and syntax; use a spell checker if necessary.  To check for punctuation and/or spelling only: some writers do a read-through from back to front — that way you have to focus on every single word. 
  • Edit your paper to elaborate and enhance content.  A thesaurus is helpful for finding different ways to say something or a more interesting way to make your point.

Revise Your  Work to Produce a Final Draft

  • Rewrite into the final draft.
  • Read it one last time before submitting it.

sole source: LDOnline.org.   I have added some thoughts and phrasing.  For this topic and much much more in the way of information, advice and resources, visit http://ldonline.org.

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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