Remediating handwriting difficulties

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zette
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28 Sep 2012, 8:18 am

(edited to change dysgraphia to handwriting difficulties, since DS's difficulties are not severe enough to be dysgraphia.)

Does anyone know if there is an OT textbook I can buy that will give me the scoop on the recommended techniques to help a child learn to write?

My son gets OT at school, but the therapist is stuck on the idea that it's all about sensory issues, heavy work, and reward systems. I've decided to work on handwriting for 5-10 minutes each evening as part of his homework, for instance practicing writing the letter "a" on a whiteboard instead of copying 10 spelling words. I asked the OT for tips, and she came back with have him cross the monkey bars before starting homework and let's add more stars and prizes to get him to finish worksheets at school.

What I want is details like:
Is it better for him to write single letters over and over, or to write 3 letter words?
Is paper or a whiteboard better?
Are there worksheets appropriate to his current level that are more fun (he liked the back of a cereal box where you found letter "clues" and copied them to get the answer)?
In class, is it better for him to trace over letters, or to do near-point copy of a something he's dictated?

She's struggling to get him to participate in the pull-out OT sessions that cover both fine motor and emotional regulation, and they are making very little progress. His IEP is in two weeks, and I'm going to fighting for push-in, direct instruction on how to write his letters, words, and sentences.



Last edited by zette on 30 Sep 2012, 8:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

musicforanna
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28 Sep 2012, 9:55 am

um... whoa, hold on, whoa whoa whoa.

So he's dysgraphic right? No matter what kind of OT he gets, no amount of practicing it to death is going to make his writing better and more usable in daily life if he's truly honest-to-god dysgraphic. I don't know how many people I've had to tell this in my life. I went through this nightmare personally myself as a dysgraphic 20 years ago, and would prefer your son not have to go through the same thing.

I can't tell you how many people have tried that non-useful trick with me and all it does is fatigue me while my writing is falling apart with every repetition.

1. repetition does not work if he really has dysgraphia. Doesn't matter what kind of repetition it is.

2. paper is inevitably what is turned in, but whiteboard isn't as glaring in a sensory sense unless you get a squeaky marker. One thing to note is that you might see false "improvement" if it's on a upright whiteboard though, if his problems are more spacial with his dysgraphia like his dominant hand and dominant eye don't match sides (i.e. like me being right handed, but left-eye dominant).

3. When you're dysgraphic, I hate to break it to you, but nothing is as fun as a kids typing program. ;) Any form of writing isn't fun at all but is a headache of letter that won't space or form correctly.

4. Tracing is not an automatic writing process. It'll probably pull the process in his brain for drawing. Which is different. A kid cannot "draw" notes in class and keep up (it also can blow your mind that because these two processes for drawing and writing are so different, that while my writing is dysgraphic slop, I'm quite talented at drawing). When a dysgraphic kid struggles with writing, even being dictated something cannot help them keep it up. Just get him typing already.

Also, there is a very good Dysgraphia group on yahoo.

I also elaborated on dysgraphia in another thread on this forum as well. If you want to read more, here you go.



Last edited by musicforanna on 28 Sep 2012, 3:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ravenmom
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28 Sep 2012, 12:57 pm

My DS9 is dysgraphic also. He can't even read his own writing (but he is very good at drawing). He does have OT pullouts at school for writing, but at home I am pushing typing. At the very least editing is so much easier (my ds has very poor spelling, so the spell check is a plus). We even use some dictation to text software for some of his take home projects, which he edits with the key board. He has really wonderful ideas, but can't get them on the paper by handwriting. In our school district, at the middle school, everything is basically on the IPad. He loves computer programming (actually he loves all things computer), so it is easy to push the typing. Right now, at school, he only really needs printing for worksheets, but those will be disappearing as he moves into higher grade levels. I personally rarely have to write by hand anymore.


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Darisey
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28 Sep 2012, 1:07 pm

my mom used to work with dysgraphic people. She did calligraphy with them and it did help a bit.



Mama_to_Grace
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29 Sep 2012, 9:54 pm

We used the program "Handwriting Without Tears". It uses blocks, mini chalkboards, and workbooks.

http://www.hwtears.com/hwt/why-it-works

We also used the writing claw-it fits around a pencil to support the hand in a static tripod grasp.



musicforanna
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29 Sep 2012, 10:12 pm

^^I've done HWT, and had no results from it except tears. Many others in the dysgraphia group I frequent have had the same results. Consider your results lucky and rare.



Delphiki
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29 Sep 2012, 10:47 pm

I possibly have dysgraphia, I can barely read my handwriting. It is nice once you get into highschool how major parts of writing you can just type. Typing is SO MUCH BETTER.


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29 Sep 2012, 11:30 pm

musicforanna wrote:
^^I've done HWT, and had no results from it except tears. Many others in the dysgraphia group I frequent have had the same results. Consider your results lucky and rare.

Have you considered that your case may be uncommonly bad? Its not terribly helpful to come here and basically tell people that there is no hope. Several people have posted here about success with HW/OT.



DW_a_mom
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29 Sep 2012, 11:36 pm

You have to consider that your child might have a little more going on. My son, for example, has disgraphia that is caused by hypermobility/hypotonia. When that is the case, it isn't just about making the brain to hand connection, but also dealing with how literally painful writing can be. You will have to work on hand strength with fun manipulatives like clay.

As far as working on the hand to brain connection, I would make writing "fun" in the way kindergartens do: writing in shaving cream, writing in finger paint, and so on. Those exercises are all about shaping the letters.

Many parents recommend the program Writing Without Tears, and that could be worth trying at home.

With my son, I have to admit, everyone gave up on his ever being comfortable writing fairly quickly. He did a large amount of dictating in elementary, and he was taught to keyboard in OT during 6th grade. He now has the use of an Aphasmart or Net book as a permanent accommodation in his IEP, which mostly works great. Still, I think he'd like to be able to read his own writing, not only for those times you want to make a quick note without pulling out a device, but also for fill in forms and applications (we scan them in and type in pdf) but most especially for math class, where he still struggles to tell his 6's from his 0's, etc. I think if he could have looked into the future and foreseen the times he would miss a question on a math exam because of his own poor writing, he would have insisted on figuring out how to write his numbers well, at least. We're pushing him to pay more attention now, but habits are habits.

It can be very very frustrating for a child who faces writing issues, so be careful of winning the battle and losing the war. You want your child to enjoy the process of putting ideas and thoughts onto paper, and not to permanently lose that joy in the effort to learn the skill. And, at least on that score, I think the process used with my son worked very well: he is a writer. He freely types out stories and scripts in his spare time. I always knew he had that side to him, and pushing the keyboard (once his hands were ready) allowed it to flourish.


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Last edited by DW_a_mom on 29 Sep 2012, 11:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.

DW_a_mom
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29 Sep 2012, 11:43 pm

musicforanna wrote:
^^I've done HWT, and had no results from it except tears. Many others in the dysgraphia group I frequent have had the same results. Consider your results lucky and rare.


I'm curious about the ages of those who are trying it, and what other conditions they may have. All those might factor into the level of potential success.

My son is 15 and I basically feel that ship has sailed; we didn't use that program, and pretty much jumped to keyboarding as soon as his fingers were developmentally ready. Nothing they did in elementary school through OT or resource lab seemed to make much difference.

But, as I posted above, there are some drawbacks to basically giving up. I don't know if anything could have made a difference, probably not since there are physical issues involved, but the process of trying is also one of making sure that the limits one thinks exist, really do exist, and that you haven't given up too fast.


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zette
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30 Sep 2012, 7:38 am

I shouldn't have used the word dysgraphia, as DS7 is truly not that severe. He can currently write in all caps, it is very legible but the sizes are inconsistent. He can write most of the small letters in isolation, and uses the easy ones occasionally. To me it looks like he is about a year or so behind his peers. Imagine if you asked a kindergartener to do all the writing they do in first grade!

My complaint is that the OT doesn't seem to be doing anything to work on it, and I suspect tracing is not the best accomodation. Heavy work has its place, but so does fine motor work. Where can I acquire the knowledge to help him if she won't?



Mama_to_Grace
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30 Sep 2012, 10:21 am

zette, my daughter just turned a corner with handwriting. While it still isn't pretty at least it's no longer in large caps. She's 9 and it just changed in the past year. I think introducing cursive helped and her cursive is better than her print. I think part of it is developmental but my daughter had horrible pain in her hands from writing and couldn't hold the pencil correctly (she still doesn't even after tons of remediation). She also has joint hypermobility and low muscle tone. The muscle tone seems to be improving. She is just now starting to keyboard which is slow going right now (peck, peck, peck) but I think long term it will be a nice solution for her.



zette
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30 Sep 2012, 3:42 pm

How did the school have her deal with all the worksheets and other written work in the meantime?



Mama_to_Grace
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30 Sep 2012, 4:51 pm

She struggled through. Many times she brought home worksheets that most finished in class. Her teacher let her pass on the journal work---where other students were to write 2 pages she would write a few sentences. For spelling sentences, the teacher let her combine multiple words in one sentence. So, with 18 spelling words she would only write 7-8 short sentences where the other kids wrote lengthy sentences for each word. My daughter is pretty smart about self-limiting her writing. She can make the shortest sentences imaginable using particular words! I am not a proponent of reducing work for my child but for writing it has been absolutely necesssary.



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30 Sep 2012, 5:19 pm

To show you how much her writing changed in one year:

beginning of third grade:

http://flic.kr/p/dfyNXk

beginning of fourth grade (the best sample of her writing I have ever seen!):

http://flic.kr/p/dfyzpv

Each year it has gotten progressively better but this past year it really improved.



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01 Oct 2012, 11:27 am

Keep in mind that there are several types of dysgraphia as well - processing based and fine motor based. I have a processing based dysgraphic kid whose writing structure hasn't changed since Kindergarten. He's now in 6th grade and I bring writing samples to every IEP meeting.

If dysgraphia is fine motor based, yup, things like more practice, OT and programs like Handwriting (with or) Without Tears would probably help a little, but I don't think true dysgraphia is that simple. Be very, very careful how teachers are approaching this as well - more that a few times my son has come home from school upset, because he was told, "You just have to WRITE!" even when he was asking the teacher for help.

Every time this happened, I asked for another accommodation for his IEP. I'm not a big fan of lowering written work expectations in school, but if that's what it takes to keep a kid excited about learning and participating in school, excited to express and share his thoughts in any form of writing, then I'm going to (and did) ask for it.

Writing is not a really simple task - it's a set of fairly complex things that all seem to operate as one thing. Being able to automatically write the letters, then combine them into words. Remembering how to spell those words, sentence structure, proper grammar, capitalization, punctuation. Remembering what you are writing about and not getting lost in the details of all of the above. Being able to process and organize your thoughts so that they make sense. If you struggle in any of these areas, writing will be a challenge.

If you're a perfectionist like my son, it's even worse. - "Those letters don't look like they should. And they don't look like everybody elses." (and this gets more apparent the older they get). "I know that word isn't spelled correctly, but I can't remember how to spell it so I'll erase everything on the page and start again.".

Writing, copying and drawing are completely different skills. My guy is an amazing artist, can easily copy a sentence or two, but if you said, "Write a short paragraph on what you did this weekend" he is completely unable to do it. In 20 minutes time, he would probably be able to write (or type) one short sentence. If you asked him to orally tell you, he would produce several hundred words in the same amount of time. We have a scribe as a school accommodation for longer assignments and our great ESE inclusion teacher took lots of data to support this need. He was scoring 0 (unscorable) on the standardized writing tests when left on his own with a writing prompt. With her as a scribe he scored a 5(highest possible score).

We've tried typing several times, which is just now finally getting easier. Dance Mat Typing (google it) is really fun for kids. He's still slow, but at least he's gaining some independence.

Thank you for posting the link to that yahoo group, musicforanna. I didn't know that it existed. It sounds like a great resource. I didn't see anything in your posts proposing that there was no hope for people with dysgraphia and that any intervention was useless, only that one of the more popular interventions doesn't work for a lot of people. Maybe it's because I have discalculia, but I know what this kind of processing disorder "feels" like and no amount of intervention (that I've tried in my 42 years of life) has helped me to be able to process numbers any better than when I was a young kid - unable to understand algebra and unable to even express why I had so much trouble then, I thought I was just stupid. No one should ever feel that way.

I also can't read music. I've tried to learn. My husband has tried to teach me. It feels like there is a roadblock in my head, when I try to process that kind of information. In spite of this, I write very intricate complex, odd meter music by ear that my husband then translates into notation, because once I complete a song, I usually forget it.

This is what my kid struggles with every day, every time he's asked to write. I would do anything I could to make this part of his life easier, to give him the tools to unlock that part of his brain to enable him to communicate more easily in writing, but from my own experience, I know that it can't be forced. That just makes it worse. No matter how many interventions (most of ours have been minor, no HWT) we've tried, nothing has made a difference to his writing and for the most part the interventions have caused more stress and anxiety (and stimming) than any positive outcome.

Our greats intervention has been understanding and openness - he will struggle with this the rest of his life and he will have to explain why he has a hard time writing to almost everyone. So we give him those words and those tools and the confidence to know that there are a million other things that he can do, even if he can't write.