Struggling with dysgraphia?
We struggle with Dysgraphia too. Broken pencils became a common sight in our homeschool room, right next to the crumpled paper. Signs of frustration kept popping up daily. Learning doesn’t come easy for all students, and when it’s hard, emotions surface in unusual ways. In our home, broken pencils were a manifestation of dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia, a learning disability, affects handwriting, however, it’s more than messy penmanship. There is a disconnect between the brain and the hand. Not only does the hand struggle to form correct letters, there can also be trouble with spelling, thought processes, sequencing ideas and remembering the full thought while trying to write it. As with other learning disabilities, there are similarities or overlap with them, such as elements of dysgraphia are also found in elements of dyslexia or executive functioning issues.
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When my daughter received a diagnosis of dysgraphia, the diagnostician also gave me another term to ponder – pencil anxiety. The learning struggles of my daughter lead to many anxiety issues. Whenever she had to pick up a pencil, the anxiety heightened. The diagnostician urged me, “Treat pencil anxiety as if it were written in the medical code.”
How do you treat pencil anxiety?
Put all pencils aside. Buy pens, markers, erasable pens, colored pencils, mechanical pencils, character pencils and pens, and whatever else would add novelty to schoolwork. The diagnostician also noted this accommodation isn’t easy to enforce in schools, but it’s perfect for homeschool families.
Other modifications for Dysgraphia
We also did away with regular lined paper. Each child has a line distance comfortable for him or her. Some don’t like lines at all. Asking a child with dysgraphia to write, start them with whatever is most comfortable. It might be markers and construction paper or mechanical pencils and college-ruled lines. Instead of only having notebook paper or notebooks available, I kept many different papers and allowed my child to choose. One time, she wrote an entire story on sticky notes. But SHE WROTE. An entire story!
Speech to text
Many children with dysgraphia use speech to text formats. I don’t buy fancy apps or programs for this as most devices now make this easy and accessible. I start assignments without speech to text and move to it when there is frustration or fatigue. Longer writing assignments start with speech to text technology. Editing comes after that.
There are some apps that create a document of the worksheets through the camera of the phone or iPad. You can write on the iPad, or use speech to text to answer the questions. However, there is nothing more frustrating than the work not being saved and that’s a mistake I don’t want to repeat!. Writing on and speaking to a computer, iPad, or phone can be fun, however, it adds more steps and sometimes more steps backfire instead of help.
When our story started…
I was a new homeschool mom, former teacher, and had no idea what to do. I became an educational therapist in order to help my daughter, which is now my passion and business. The advice of the diagnostician is something I carry with me to all the families I help. However, it’s only a start.
The goal is to begin with their comfort zone. Next, move towards what is appropriate for their age. This goes with all disabilities. For dysgraphia, each modification is made with the goal of being able to write grade level material without strain or modifications. Overuse of modifications make things easier but doesn’t help to overcome the struggle. Specific work needs to be done to target the areas of struggle. The goal isn’t to make things easier, but to learn how to overcome without frustration.
More about Kimberly
Kimberly A. Vogel is an educational therapist. She’s passionate about encouraging families and educating struggling learners. With one daughter graduated, she homeschools her remaining three daughters while running the Thinking and Learning Center. You can find her at her website as well as Facebook and Pinterest.
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