Before you read this blog, it’s important that as a parent and/or educator you are fully aware of what dysgraphia is. To refresh yourself with the symptoms of dysgraphia, click here. If you do have a child with dysgraphia in the classroom, there are a few simple steps you can take to make their educational journey easier and happier.
Children with dysgraphia
Children with dysgraphia not only struggle with their handwriting, but they also have problems with creative writing as a whole. It is a brain processing issue which cannot be cured; but the right modifications, tools and support can make the world of difference to a child who is suffering.
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Need more education for educators
Dysgraphia in the classroom is not commonly discussed in schools, there is little training for teachers on the issue and kids around the world are needlessly struggling because there are no accommodations in place. Those kids with dysgraphia will generally have difficulty holding a pencil, forming letters and correctly spacing their words on a line. Their posture may be awkward when writing and grammar will almost always be affected.
This is because the physical act of handwriting is painful, which in turn will affect all areas of writing: syntax, grammar, sentence structure, and sense. It is usually very difficult for children with dysgraphia to think and write at the same time – which can also be linked to the working memory. The struggle they have with writing overpowers their creativity and they often find it difficult to reread what they wrote and understand it.
Dysgraphia in the classroom: Teaching strategies for children with dysgraphia
- Be patient, always! It’s very important to remember that dysgraphia is not laziness – far from it. It is a learning difficulty. Encouragement is therefore vital. Always try to focus on the positive aspects of a child’s work.
- Pencil grips.
- Touch typing. Allow you children to type out their work. In fat, touch typing should be encouraged. I cannot recommend touch typing highly enough. Computers and technology are highly recommended for children (and adults) with dysgraphia to ease the pressure of writing in many ways. Touch typing also allows children to use muscle memory in the hands to help with spelling. Click here to sign up for Touch Type, Read and Spell and find out why I highly recommend this course here.
- Speech to text. Older students should also be allowed to use Speech to text technology. Once again, I have one which I highly recommend. Dragon Speech to text solutions. This will take your child/students to new highs!
- It’s important to remember that while assistive technology should be used to support your child/student, handwriting should never be eliminated. It’s a very important life skill. However, accommodations should be used to ensure that their creativity can shine through.
- Cursive writing. Allow your students to use cursive and if they can’t, teach them how to! They may find cursive easier and less painful. This is because there is more connectivity between letters which in turn reduces the need for spacing – which is difficult for anyone with dysgraphia. Cursive script also makes it easier to avoid reversible letters (think b,d,p,q) and requires a steady flow, which is beneficial.
- Dictation and oral tests. If you don’t have access to speech to text technology, another option is for the child to dictate and either their teacher, teaching assistant or parent/guardian act as a scribe. Oral testing is also encouraged over written assessments as are multiple choice answers.
- Specialist paper.
- Use paper with raised lines (buy here).
- Graph paper is very useful for math (buy here). If you don’t have access to graph paper, you can also turn lined paper horizontal to write math problems in straight columns.
- Extra time. When possible, allow extra time for the student to complete written tasks and also try to reduce the amount of writing required. Provide printouts instead of copying off the board and allow students to complete written assignments in smaller steps.
- When possible, don’t include spelling as part of the overall grade. You will find spelling tips for dyslexia and dysgraphia here. Spelling is difficult because dysgraphia affects the ability to translate words into written form. This is why spelling out loud is not affected. Try giving verbal spelling quizzes and allow students with dysgraphia to spell words quietly to themselves before writing them down. Note taking and abbreviations. Encourage students to record lectures and important lessons and when they do take notes, let them use abbreviations – create their own shorthand.
- Brainstorm. Always encourage all children, not just those with dysgraphia, to brainstorm their ideas before writing anything down. This is however especially important for any child with dysgraphia because the act of organizing thoughts onto paper is what many kids struggle with. Brainstorming helps to prepare the brain and activate ideas to repaper for writing.
- Encourage your students to use multiple drafts. When organization and written expression are an issue, creating an outline to organize ideas will be very beneficial. Using multiple drafts means there is far less pressure on getting it right first time. If you think about it, this is also the way professional writer such as authors write. They would never submit anything produced in their first draft. Reviewing is an important part of the writing process.
- Relaxation. Children with dysgraphia will get fatigued quickly. Encourage regular breaks which can be as short as 15 seconds. Just to shake off their hands, rotate wrists, wiggle fingers and squeeze a stress ball.
It’s so important that teachers are aware of how to help children with dysgraphia in the classroom. Without the right support, the kids will lose confidence, and lose their love of learning. By implementing these very simple changes, you will make the world of difference to any child with dysgraphia! FOr more information on educating educators on dysgraphia, please contact me here.