Homeschooling A Child With Dysgraphia: A Behind The Scenes Look
In all my years of public school, the only bad grade I ever received on a report card was in handwriting.
I got a ‘D’ – straight A’s in every other subject and a ‘D’ in handwriting. (My cursive tends to go straight up and down, and this was back in the day where cursive wasn’t cursive if it didn’t slant perfectly to the right.)
I was devastated. I begged my teacher to help me improve my grade. He was kind and took pity on me. He handed me a set of worksheets with lines to practice and told me, “If you work hard and complete these, I will raise your grade for your diligence alone.”
I think I cried with pure relief.
Last week, my high-schooler and I once again sat down together to practice his signature. At this point, it’s the only thing I require him to hand write – and even this, some days, is too much.
I am not dysgraphic. I just don’t have very slanty handwriting. You can easily read what I write (most of the time). I actually enjoyed practicing my swirly signature when I was my son’s age. For me, completing those worksheets in fifth grade was boring but achievable. It was simple.
For my children however, there is no simple solution. A handful of worksheets would never be beneficial for their needs. In fact, most of the time, it would be counterproductive.
Both have dysgraphia and it is a part of how we homeschool every single day.
What Is Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia, according to AdditudeMag.com can be described in the following ways:
A learning disability that affects handwriting and fine motor skills.
It interferes with spelling, word spacing, and the general ability to put thoughts on paper.
It makes the process of writing laboriously slow, with a product that is often impossible to read.
When the act of forming letters requires so much effort that a child forgets what he wanted to say in the first place, it’s not surprising that children with dysgraphia often hate to write, and resist doing so.
In real life, this translates into very specific and ongoing issues with writing, including basic handwriting and spacing as well as the actual ability to compose phrases and sentences in a coherent fashion.
What Does Dysgraphia Look Like In School Aged Children?
Although this list is not inclusive, here are some of the signs of dysgraphia in school-aged children.
Illegible writing (even with no time limit given)
Inconsistencies between print and cursive, upper and lower case, or sizes, shapes, and slant of letters
Unfinished words or letters, omitted words
Cramped or unusual grip, especially holding the writing instrument very close to the paper, or holding thumb over two fingers and writing from the wrist
The child talking to himself while writing, or carefully watching her hand that is writing
Slow and labored copying or writing – even if it is neat and easily read
Expression which does not reflect the student’s other abilities in language and vocabulary (choosing words that are easy to write vs. words that most accurately communicate thought)
If your child is dyspgraphic, you are probably nodding in recognition and agreement right now.
The truth is, most of the time, dysgraphia looks like a combination of all of these.
Homeschooling A Child With Dysgraphia: A Behind The Scenes Look
When I really stop to think about it, I realize how complex writing really is. So many things need to happen, almost simultaneously, in order for us to effectively express ourselves in written form.
We need to think of the words we want to say, recall the letters to spell them, use our hands and fingers to write them, all the while maintaining the overall thought of what we are trying to express.
Accommodations For Dysgraphia
Because of the complexity of the processes involved in writing, there are multiple accommodations that can be employed to help a child with dysgraphia – all focused on targeting a different element of the writing process.
In our house, accommodations include:
A scribe (that would be me) for ease of expression
The option to type vs. hand write almost any assignment
Extra time (in fact, as much time as needed)
Different pencils, pens and paper (For example: my oldest prefers writing with sharpie markers. The thickness of the marker makes it easier for him to control.)
This is perhaps, one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling a child with dysgraphia. While these types of accommodations are available to children in school with a diagnosed disorder of written expression, they can be cumbersome and embarrassing for the child. It’s a non-issue at home.
As my boys grow older, the need to move past the constant handwriting practice and pen grips is clear. Because we are looking for independance in learning and in life, we have also started to use adaptive technology to help my youngest son.
This includes speech to text (and text to speech) software on his laptop. He also now has a phone that allows for speech to text in almost every capacity. He can search for items, look up how to spell words, and even text his friend, all with the sound of his voice.
Again, the advantage of homeschooling is that my dysgraphic children can employ these technological aides without any paperwork or meetings. There is no embarrassment associated with needing to use these helps.
At home, it is just simply how we learn.
Activities For Homeschooling A Child With Dysgraphia
For today’s Friday Fun-day, I thought I would share the activities and ideas that I have found to be most helpful, specifically in helping my children with their differences in writing.
This is perhaps the greatest benefit of homeschooling my kiddos. Using hands-on, interactive learning activities that require more action than writing help both of my children not only learn the concepts, but retain them as well.
For more support and encouragement:
This post is part of an ongoing series –
Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia: Homeschooling The 3 D’s
In the coming weeks, we will be taking an in-depth look at dyscalculia, as well as all the best resources available for families homeschooling children with dyslexia, dygraphia and/or dyscalculia.
You can find all the details on this series, as well as information about my FREE new e-book,Helping A Struggling Reader: Practical Answers For Parents, HERE.
Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned educational consultant, and mom of two brilliant boys who have learning differences and special needs.
Shawna has also written four books: Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos, and Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. A passionate advocate for individualized education, Shawna is frequently featured on Today.com, Simple Homeschool, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers and The Mighty. She can also be found supporting parents online at her own site, DifferentByDesignLearning.com.