I received several @tweets from an education major wanting to know about teaching with dysgraphia.
Some background on me.
4 out 5 1st cousins on Dad’s side were diagnosed with dyslexia/dysgraphia in university. I’m convinced my father was also dyslexic. Several reasons – reading was laborious for him and he wrote everything in all caps with a very prescribed slant.
Unlike my cousins and sister, I was tested a couple of times in public school. Each time the verdict was the same – my reading level was through the roof, so there was no way I could have any type of learning disability. I was lazy and not trying. In Junior High my math grade went from A’s to D’s and F’s. During a parent meeting, my parents found out that we were having to copy boards of notes because the school ran out of paper. (This led to my Dad’s Great Paper Drive – I’ll have to write about that later). The teacher felt that something was wrong with my vision and suggested a more through exam than I had had to that point.
I went to University of Houston. I was examined by several students. One of them picked up on something beyond my astigmatism, which was also diagnosed. I’m not left or right sided. I ended up some type of medical study. In the history they found several things that put together can spell trouble
- I never crawled. I bear walked with my rear in the air and moving the same hand and foot at the same time.
- When I walked I moved the same hand and foot instead of opposite, this made me very clumsy and drove my Dad (former Marine) nuts.
- I’m not left or right handed – but should be more of a right hander than a lefty,
- Until 3rd grade I would write left handed till I reached the middle of my body, then I would switch hands.
- My 3rd grade “teacher” forced me physically to write left handed. (She actually documented this in my cum file)
- My hands lack strength probably because of my atopic dermatitis which left them raw (looked like a chemical burn). Also if I held a pencil hard enough to write with it the skin would fissure/break and I would bleed. I remember being punished in several different grades for turning in work with blood stains. Thing was there was no way for me to write without bleeding, if my skin was in the middle of a flare up. To this day I avoid buying tops that have buttons, because getting those little buttons through the holes hurts and sometimes the skin will fissure.
The people at U of H said the sloppiness of my writing was due to the cross over/skin problems. I got some physical therapy that helped with some things, but not all. Again my reading level (now at above 12th grade and I was in 7th or 8th) meant that an LD diagnoses was “impossible”. The good news I stopped tripping over my feet and my hands didn’t ache so much. Squishy pencil holders let me hold the pencil/pen firmly without fissuring my skin. Honestly the U of H people kept me from thinking I was totally nuts. Because adults at school were telling that my reality wasn’t real. That I was capable of things I knew I couldn’t do, like write in a straight line without a guide.
I was finally diagnosed in University (Southwestern University). I wrote an essay test in complete mirror image. It was the first time I did that. I have to give my professor credit. He let me read it to him and graded it that way. Now the experts were saying how did you get through HS without this being noticed. I had some accommodations after the diagnoses. COMPUTERS come to the rescue. Computers let thoughts go around the short circuit between my hands and my brain.
Now for bros402 and others. How do I deal with this in the classroom. Please note I’m not that severe of a dysgraphic. My writing looks sloppy and child like. If I’m stressed, I’ll write in mirror image. If I’m distracted, sometimes I’ll pick up a pen with my right hand and write near perfectly.
- I’m honest and open about it. I have dysgraphic which means even when I try very hard my writing can be sloppy or backwards. Added benefit is it makes it clear that dysgraphia and dyslexia does not mean there is a cognitive problem. I’ve had dyslexic students look at me and say. “You mean I can be smart even though I’m dyslexic?
- If at all possible use a projector/IWB/keyboard and type.
- When having to handwrite on the IWB use the grid to help line things up.
- Practice Practice Practice. I actually practice handwriting with my kids. I use the same page and do the same exercise. Otherwise I avoid handwriting anything (even my grocery list is on my Iphone and Ipad) and my writing regresses.
- Have the kids write the problems on the board.
- Type everything you are going to hand out – it looks more professional
- Talk to the experts on your campus they know about the newest research.
- The only app that I have found that helps me with dysgraphia is Splashtop. That way I don’t have to carry around the slate and a keyboard to move around the room an use my Promethean. I can do everything I can on a slate and use the Ipad’s keyboard to type.