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Dysgraphia or laziness?

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    Dysgraphia or laziness?

    I’m usually here gleaning information for my 6 yo son with Down syndrome. Today, I have a question relating to my two middle children, a girl age 8 and a boy age 11.

    They both struggle with sloppy handwriting - print and cursive. They avoid writing as much as possible, saying it hurts their hands. They struggle with writing sentences on paper, although they can give wonderful narrations and compose sentences orally. They both struggled with learning to tie shoes and the 8 yo is still not there. Both are rather unfocused and I suspect some level of ADHD. Academically, both are advanced in reading and have a low frustration tolerance with math, although both score at or above grade level in standardized testing. Spelling is not an issue; both spell at grade level (daughter) or well above grade level (son.)

    The boy is a lefty. Just today, he reversed his b and d letters twice while writing out his geography!

    The girl also deals with anxiety, some frustrating behavior (not listening or obeying simple instructions) and executive function issues including organization and follow-through. She leaves a trail everywhere she goes! She also has some issues with speech - her r and l sounds still sound immature, although she can correctly pronounce them when asked. She has an extensive vocabulary, though. She just started part time enrollment at a Montessori homeschool academy - 3 days a week at school, 2 at home.

    FWIW, my 13 yo son has beautiful handwriting and always has.

    How do I know whether dysgraphia might be at play or whether they might be just not be working hard enough?
    Last edited by Insertcreativenamehere; 09-12-2018, 03:45 PM.
    DS13: Mix of MP 7/8
    DS11: MP 5M
    DD9: MP 2/3 mix
    DS6: Public school 1/2 day kindergarten, plus outside OT, PT and speech

    #2
    Re: Dysgraphia or laziness?

    Would you please remind us whether either child has received a formal assessment or diagnosis? If not, a full assessment might help.

    With or without a good evaluation, however, the answer can vary from child to child and from day to day! Sometimes the student might physically hurt. Other times the student might be fatigued mentally from the taxing nature of working with a disability. Yet other times the student might (consciously or otherwise) default to wishing he/she did not have to work at all.

    Rather than trying to guess day by day, it might be helpful to assume that something is truly difficult for both of the children, especially because you have an older "control group" in the home for whom writing was not so challenging. We suggest a good blend of daily accommodation/modifications and remediation. If you assume that they are really having difficulties, you will want to allow more oral answers, shorter lessons, and adaptive writing tools. For example, some students with dysgraphia might prefer a mechanical pencil; others will despise mechanical pencils but will love easy-gliding markers or gel pens. Adaptive grips can help, as can a larger font, dots for tracing, and the use of cursive for all writing. Allowing answers to be written on the board, rather than paper-pencil, can be a very satisfying accommodation. (Both of my children preferred this for many subjects.) These are all accommodations & modifications.

    At the same time, if you assume that fine-motor is genuinely an area of weakness, this deserves attention in your day and week. If either qualifies for OT, it might be worthwhile to have a one-time consultation with an OT, an 8-week set of sessions, or even a full year or more of OT services. Many OT fine-motor techniques can be accomplished at home with some research, so you could incorporate these into your day. You can do this, of course, even without formal services. It sounds as if this would be a good idea.

    For your 8-year-old, for example, you can give her a shoe to tie every morning before her lessons begin. This can be someone else's shoe, laid on a towel at the table, heel facing her. She ties the shoe 1-3 times, and then she proceeds with her day. If she cannot yet do this on a sample shoe, have her tie it halfway first, over and over until this is mastered. Then teach her to tie it the rest of the way. She can do this daily until mastered on the model shoe. Then switch to a different shoe. When mastered fully this way, have her practice bent over with her own shoe. Voila. This process may take a semester or less. If she struggles not with the process but with pulling tightly due to hand strength issues, you can strengthen her hands for additional remediation. Use clay, play dough, thera putty, scissors work, squeeze balls, grippers, clothespin "assignments." Give her these as a brief but expected part of her school day.

    Both students can be expected to write daily. This is part of the remediation! Practice for muscle memory is important. Cursive is an obvious choice as a subject for which written answers can be required, whereas portions of Lit Guides & Greek Myths can easily be conducted orally.

    The key is that you step back, assess what you believe to be reasonable based on your own observations and "hunches," and proceed from there. Err on the side of too little writing at first, but include a plan to increase this as hands get stronger, dexterity improves, or muscle memory begins to assist their writing. You might set a goal that by the end of the year, X % of possible written work will be written by the student(s). Example: Start with 25% now as you work on the OT-type remediation, and aim for 50% by the end of the semester; 75% by the end of the year. Of course you can adjust this, but it can be helpful to know that you do not need to require 100% to achieve success.

    You might also talk with both of them ahead of time. Acknowledge that writing seems difficult for them. See if they agree. Assure them that you have a new plan. Explain that the plan will include 1) helping them directly with writing (daily practice), 2) giving them behind-the-scenes help with writing (OT, fine-motor work), AND 3) reducing some of their writing requirements, so long as they continue to do the behind-the-scenes work.

    This is the way we approach such things. You - or someone here - might have other suggestions that work better for you. Here is a good article that might spark additional ideas.
    Last edited by cherylswope; 09-12-2018, 04:48 PM.

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      #3
      Re: Dysgraphia or laziness?

      Neither has had any sort of evaluations, but that is something to consider.

      Thanks for your helpful suggestions as usual, Cheryl!
      DS13: Mix of MP 7/8
      DS11: MP 5M
      DD9: MP 2/3 mix
      DS6: Public school 1/2 day kindergarten, plus outside OT, PT and speech

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