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#1 of 23 Old 11-12-2011, 10:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi,

I've been reading posts for a few weeks, just joined tonight and thought I should get around to introducing myself.

 

I have a seven year old son who is gifted, and we are home learning/ unschooling. We tried advocating for him at his public school, realized fairly quickly that it wasn't going to work, and decided to pull him out. He was thrilled.

 

He's been out of the school system for a year now and we are all loving it. I have found the recent posts on kids developing writing skills on their own timetables interesting, as my son avoids writing and finds it difficult, slow and uncomfortable. If he was in school, I think this would be a huge source of frustration for him, but at home it's not a problem. His oral language skills are great-- he has a huge vocabulary, enjoys playing with language, and is very articulate and imaginative.

 

 I'm curious to see how writing will unfold for him. What have others found helped or did not help? For now I am leaving it totally up to him, but I have occasional flickers of thinking I should be doing more ;)                                                                       


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#2 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 07:26 AM
 
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Personally I find "writing" to be extremely important and have had two that have had no issue.

 

.....that aside, by "writing" do you mean  printing and or cursive?

Does you son write numbers or not even do that?  If not is he simply only verbal with his math?

 

the absent of all "writing" to me would be an issue (that's me), I completely understand at your on speed but I have yet to meet an adult that has been benefited by the lack of that skill and those who I do know who worked later on it had more issues-not saying your ds will or will not

 

Are you doing anything to help with his dysgraphia? does he color, etc?

 

you seem really unsure of your desire to let him progress on his own - IMO


 

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#3 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 08:21 AM
 
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My DS has writing issues as did myself and my father. Personally, my writing didn't become "average" until post high school. I know my father was required to type everything starting in middle school because his writing was illegible. Thankfully, we had one of the first home computers when I was in 4th grade and so I could type most things. 

 

Some things to watch for. DS found writing very difficult and frustrating. This caused him to do as little as possible meaning, the quality of his written work did not match what was going on in his head. Thankfully, he was in an Spanish Immersion program and so much of his work had an oral component. This allowed his teachers to really SEE the disconnect between what DS was capable of orally and the student he was on paper (and there was a huge disconnect.) For example, he couldn't pass a math speed test on paper but he was like a machine gun on an oral test with the exact same problems. His reading comprehension in essay form was terribly weak because he was writing as little as possible... short sentences, low vocabulary. However, on a multiple choice test or discussion, very clearly he was extremely observant, high comprehension and very unusual and expressive vocabulary. His projects on paper would be very basic and embarrassingly juvenile (looking like a 1st grade project in 5th grade.) His power point presentations looked like a professional business had done them. His school had mostly online homework... awesome. Like I said, because they wanted kids to use their language, they did a lot of work orally. They were a high tech school and so he could keyboard his work and so grateful for that.

 

Since your homeschooling, he doesn't have the pressures to develop this but if it's something like dysgraphia, age itself is not going to fix it. Personally, I can see a major drop in DS's ability even taking just a summer off makes. The time it takes for him to build his ability back up is painful for all (he's 11 now and in middle school.) We've found the Handwriting Without Tears program to make a huge difference as well as being a program my DS finds pretty painless and doesn't reject doing. Cursive is actually much easier for many kids with dysgraphia. You might give that a try. Dictation is really great in the early years because it gives you a better sense of what the child is actually capable of. Certainly offer up some keyboarding games to get him familiar with typing. He may just need time and he's still young but I would look into offering up some projects that may encourage him to continue writing a little just to keep some sort of forward momentum in this area.

 


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#4 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 01:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for your replies! To answer your questions, yes, he can write numbers and he can print-- he just prefers not to ;)

He enjoys math and does it mostly on-line- Khan Academy, math games etc- or using math apps on the ipad.

 

He has no interest in colouring but enjoys lots of activities that require fine motor skills-- actually, his fine motor skills are pretty good; the difficulties seem to be specific to the motor aspect of writing. He does sometimes draw diagrams of electrical circuits, or Venn diagrams or pie charts which he will label (as briefly as possible!)

 

Whatsnextmom-- your son's situation sounds a bit similar to mine in terms of written output not matching the quality of thought behind it. I can see how frustrating this must be for kids, especially when they have big complicated ideas. I don't think my son would be interested in using any kind of handwriting curriculum, as it isn't really a priority for him at this point, but I will file away that suggestion of Handwriting Without Tears for the future in case he does express interest.

 

When he is motivated to do something, there's no stopping him... and I imagine that at some point he will want/need to write for his own reasons, and at that point he will begin doing it. I guess I'm looking for stories of people's experience with that... and maybe should have posted this in the unschooling forum?


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#5 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 01:43 PM
 
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This may not be what you want to hear, but here goes...

 

If he has dysgraphia or any disorder of written expression, I don't think it serves him well to just ignore it and wait for his motivation or interest to kick in. Dysgraphia isn't a disorder of lack of motivation, but as a child gets further and further from what is typically developmentally that process can build and feed on itself. The less capable they are the less they want to do it. If he couldn't climb stairs would you say someday maybe he'll be more motivated and interested and until then I'll just make sure we have stairs in our house? To me this is much the same thing.

 

While some kids can learn handwriting without regular practice, for kids with challenges it may be much more like any other advanced skill with a physical component. We found learning handwriting to be similar in some ways to the first couple of years of learning to play a musical instrument. It didn't take hours every day and it didn't take pressure or a parent being unkind. However, it did take instruction and it took regular practice. We found short and frequent was better than occasional and longer practice. In other words, five minutes once or twice a day was worth more than an hour once a week. Muscle memory takes time and repetition for some kids to build.

 

I agree with the suggestion of the Handwriting Without Tears curriculum as a place to start. I would also highly recommend the book Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye. There are some really fun activities there - quite the opposite of a high pressure approach. Also, I would try to figure out whether or not there are any underlying weaknesses in upperbody or core strength. Again there are fun ways to build upper body strength that are very much play based and it will serve him well in the long run to deal with this now.

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#6 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 01:44 PM
 
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I would consider having an OT assessment done to narrow down where the glitch is.  This absoloutely could be developmentally normal for age stuff - he's certainly within the age range where written output skills may be yet to develop but will be fine on the child's timetable.  Or it could be a fine motor control issue, or part of a sensory/gross motor issue, or it could be a processing issue.  This sounds very pathologizing, and I don't mean it to.  There's a lot of inter-related issues that go into handwriting and determining what's happening, if it's not just developmentally appropriate for the individual, helps figure out remediation.

 

For DS, it was fine motor/sensory, and now it's some kind of processing issue.  He's 9 now and his printing is still problematic, but faster and no reversals.  He was on track for going to typing in the next year, but if his current rate of development continues he may have printing as an option is academic work.  Here's what we did:

 

OT assess to figure out the mechanics he was using and then games to remediate.

Vision test by developmental optometrist to figure out if that was an issue - it was.  (Kids who can read etc can still have vision issues).

Piano.

Horseback riding.

Art classes, particularly sketching.

 

 

 

 


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#7 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 01:46 PM
 
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Absolutely ditto to what Roar said.  I'd forgotten about the Peggy Kaye books - the whole series is fun.


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#8 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 02:15 PM
 
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I posted in the thread on the unschooling board about my ds's writing. In our unschooling, a lack of writing prowess has not been a problem until adolescence.

 

Writing is required in school for evaluation purposes. That's why it's expected, and normal, for 2nd-graders to write reasonably legibly and easily. A second grade teacher can't hold individual conversations with 21 different students to gauge each child's understanding of the main ideas presented in the unit on food chains. For homeschooled kids verbal interaction is typically more natural, more enjoyable and easier. And a parent can get a very robust picture of her child's understanding without anything being written down.

 

Writing in the real world is required for meaningful communication like job applications, political activism, maintaining friendships over distance, advocacy, some careers... all worthy things, but things that don't really kick in much until the teen years. By then interest in and facility with keyboarding had kicked in for my kids and hand-writing was a skill with limited application. My girls had mastered handwriting anyway, though. My eldest dd got it down around age 8.5 when she began journaling privately; it came quickly and easily for her. My middle dd had a more gradual progression between ages 9 and 11, but didn't have to work much at it. She just used a pen more as time went on and progressed to a point of ease. 

 

Ds is a different kettle of fish. He not only had a late start like his sisters, plus some serious perfectionist issues, but when he got to the point around age 11-12 of wanting to work on his handwriting, the systematic work did not make the skill much easier. His letter formation became more regular and conventional and certainly very neat, but he never developed ease. He's the one who ended up designated dysgraphic through an evaluation at age 14. He writes beautifully with a computer, but hand-writing more than a couple of sentences is difficult for him and interferes with his thought processes. It has been a bit of an issue for him to deal with since entering school, but not a difficult one. His "adaptive technology" is just a laptop, and in 10th grade he's not the only kid to tote one around in his backpack.

 

I disagree a bit with Roar about sooner-than-later intervention. (We don't disagree often!) I've never seen anything to suggest that early intervention in dysgraphia does anything to help improve outcomes, at least beyond minimizing the negative emotional baggage of being "behind in school," something which obviously doesn't apply to unschooled kids. Motivation, meaningfulness and maturity can make it a heck of a lot easier for a child to deal with the practice required to develop a basic facility with handwriting. At age 7, a year of daily work on cursive would have destroyed my ds's relationship with me and his confidence. At age 12, the work was tolerated matter-of-factly and motivated mostly by his own desire for mastery -- and he had more stamina, more frustration tolerance and more tools for efficient problem-solving, so progress, such as it was, likely occurred considerably faster.

 

Miranda

 

 


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#9 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 03:06 PM
 
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to easy him in... have you thought about painting? perhaps doing a model - not so much "a picture" but more of a building project yet one that requires holding a smaller brush - a birdhouse, painting trim on windows- even doing temper paint holiday windows, getting or doing a archeological type dig where a small brush would be needed, scratch art, etc (much like a pencil just for fun)-not so much write this but more using the pencil type movement not just fine motor skills -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 I've never seen anything to suggest that early intervention in dysgraphia does anything to help improve outcomes, at least beyond minimizing the negative emotional baggage of being "behind in school," something which obviously doesn't apply to unschooled kids. 

I have never seen that waiting is of help either.

 

 

I happen to be in the soon frame of mine.


 

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#10 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 03:31 PM
 
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I have never seen that waiting is of help either.


As I said ... waiting was helpful to my ds because of the gains in maturity, frustration tolerance and motivation. Just my experience -- it can be very helpful. 

 

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#11 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 04:09 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
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to easy him in... have you thought about painting? perhaps doing a model - not so much "a picture" but more of a building project yet one that requires holding a smaller brush - a birdhouse, painting trim on windows- even doing temper paint holiday windows, getting or doing a archeological type dig where a small brush would be needed, scratch art, etc (much like a pencil just for fun)-not so much write this but more using the pencil type movement not just fine motor skills -

 

Thanks for these suggestions! This is the kind of thing we have been doing actually. He does paint, acrylics and water colours, mostly abstract or 3D shapes. He's done a ton of models-- detailed wooden ones (planes, cars, boats, birdhouses, catapults etc), most of which he has painted, as well as Meccano, Lego etc-- he loves building projects. He used to do those dinosaur dig kits when he was younger, and he does work with clay now. He makes his own scratch art paper. We do beading, crafts, lots of stuff-- he's a busy kid. I do pay attention to what he is doing and I make sure he has interesting materials available-- some of which involve holding a pencil. He likes making cards, using rulers and compasses, drawing 3D shapes etc.


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#12 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 05:23 PM
 
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Of course we don't get to take the same child and try it both ways so of course we can't really know. What I can say is that in our experience was that intervention was helpful. We went from a dysgraphic child with a 1% fine motor skills to one who is able to print well enough to function to do fine with essay tests and taking notes in class. Having these skills made it easier to access appropriate educational options. It certainly could be the case that he'd developed these skills later or had the therapy and not developed them at all, but I'm glad he had the shot to do it when he did because it made life easier.

 

I wouldn't assume kids will grow out of perfectionism. For some kids awareness of how they differ from typical development can become more pronounced over time and they may balk more at working on areas of challenge as they get older. Having some area (music, sports, etc.) where the child has learned to work with an instructor, learned to cope with frustration and learned the value of ongoing work can be helpful.

 

I don't have a study to support it, but just based on observation I've seen quite a few homeschoolers who did not regularly practice handwriting or receive handwriting instruction during the traditional K-5 years and then went on to dysgraphia diagnoses. Dysgraphia seems disproportionately common in this population. Perhaps it is a coincidence as the factors that lead them to homeschool in the first place or lead them to avoid handwriting were due to underlying dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is complex and the causes are different for different children, but perhaps some vulnerable kids need don't benefit from waiting. Also, while some kids do indeed homeschool k-12, it is pretty common for kids to unexpectedly end up in school for some unanticipated reason (divorce, kid wants school activities, illness in family, economic change of circumstances, etc.) Having seen three boys in this situation who had no handwriting instruction/practice and then were diagnosed with dysgraphia within a year of starting school that makes me wonder a bit about that connection.

 

On and on the cursive question, experiences vary a lot on that one too. I certainly think it is worth offering it as an option because it does seem to work for some kids, but printing was easier here.

 

Editing to add: I agree with Miranda that a lot of what drives handwriting being pushed so hard in school is that it gives teachers a means to evaluate or have information about what students are learning and you don't need that at home. A lot of it being assigned is also about crowd control and making school last an entire day even though the subject matter really doesn't require it. I would not suggest a school model of requiring handwriting across the curriculum. Rather, I'm suggesting ongoing, creative, low pressure, instruction specifically in handwriting.

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#13 of 23 Old 11-13-2011, 10:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Moominmama and Roar, thanks so much for your thoughtful posts-- I appreciate your perspectives and experiences. I think and hope that maturity and motivation-- and keyboarding skills-- will make a big difference as they did for Miranda's son. Fortunately beautiful penmenship is no longer necessary-- neither my brother or myself, or either of our parents for that matter, ever managed to achieve it-- despite much practice! Yay for laptops :)

 


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Quote:

Editing to add: I agree with Miranda that a lot of what drives handwriting being pushed so hard in school is that it gives teachers a means to evaluate or have information about what students are learning and you don't need that at home. A lot of it being assigned is also about crowd control and making school last an entire day even though the subject matter really doesn't require it. I would not suggest a school model of requiring handwriting across the curriculum. Rather, I'm suggesting ongoing, creative, low pressure, instruction specifically in handwriting.


I found this distinction useful-- that is, the idea of separating out the handwriting instruction from the other areas of interest and learning. It makes so much sense. I've often thought lately, as he gets more into math concepts, that in the classroom, this interest might have been eclipsed by the pressure to fill in worksheets. So thanks for this. 

 


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We went from a dysgraphic child with a 1% fine motor skills to one who is able to print well enough to function to do fine with essay tests and taking notes in class. 


This comment reminded me how many different issues and etiologies the catch-all diagnosis of dysgraphia can represent. My ds's issues are somewhere more central ... between language processing and motor planning. He has absolutely awesome fine motor control and has been playing advanced repertoire on the viola for some time now. Since your ds's problems seem to have been more related to fine motor dexterity, the repetitive practice that brought the necessary motor skills was likely a much more important component. That's probably why we approached our kids' dygraphia(s) differently.

 

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#16 of 23 Old 11-14-2011, 07:25 AM
 
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This comment reminded me how many different issues and etiologies the catch-all diagnosis of dysgraphia can represent. My ds's issues are somewhere more central ... between language processing and motor planning. He has absolutely awesome fine motor control and has been playing advanced repertoire on the viola for some time now. Since your ds's problems seem to have been more related to fine motor dexterity, the repetitive practice that brought the necessary motor skills was likely a much more important component. That's probably why we approached our kids' dygraphia(s) differently.

 

Miranda


It was across the board trouble with processing, visual motor integration, and motor coordination and strength. He also plays a musical instrument well - again not what would have been predicted based on the diagnoses so I'm glad we didn't close the door to that. While obviously we know strength can improve with practice there are reasons to believe that processing and motor planning can improve with exposure and practice. Brain connections that are used again and again grow stronger and stronger.

 

 

 

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#17 of 23 Old 11-14-2011, 07:34 AM
 
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I found this distinction useful-- that is, the idea of separating out the handwriting instruction from the other areas of interest and learning. It makes so much sense. I've often thought lately, as he gets more into math concepts, that in the classroom, this interest might have been eclipsed by the pressure to fill in worksheets. So thanks for this. 

 

 

For what it is worth, I think we would have had more conflict and upset if handwriting was mandatory to get to other things the child wanted to do (tell a story, solve math problems). That was enough to cause system overload. Like if you are an experienced knitter it is no problem to knit on a train or while watching a movie, but when you are just learning a new skill that could be way too much. So allowing for narrating stories, dictating work, that can all be good. It also helped here to talk about learning - repetition and building pathways in the brain, etc. Some gifted kids assume that anything they can't immediately do well is something they are bad at so it is important to give perspective. I also found taking on new hobbies was helpful - both to model and narrate my process and also to keep me sympathetic to those feelings of total discomfort that come when you are trying to figure out something new.

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Some gifted kids assume that anything they can't immediately do well is something they are bad at so it is important to give perspective. I also found taking on new hobbies was helpful - both to model and narrate my process and also to keep me sympathetic to those feelings of total discomfort that come when you are trying to figure out something new.

 

Oh yes... I can definitely see this in my son. Actually, I was the same way as a kid-- probably still am, somewhat. And I agree about the usefulness of modelling learning through picking up new hobbies-- so I am trying to learn a new language. The fact that I am mono-lingual, hated french in high school (see above re. assuming one is bad at things that don't come easily!), and do not learn languages quickly is, in this case, a bonus ;)
 

 


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Have you looked at what 7 year olds can typically write?  I am thinking basic sentences and maybe very short paragraphs.  I would expect to still see letter reversals and invented spelling.  Are you sure he is behind or are you comparing his writing to something in your head that might not be reality?  I think sometimes when kids are gifted we expect them to be gifted in all areas - he might be normal or even a little behind in writing.  That is Ok.

 

My son (age 15) has writing issues.  He always has.  We are unschooly, although he has chosen to go to school this year.  

 

I think you can pick one of two approaches with writing issues - intervention, or "wait until they have a reason to write."

 

I think the pros of intervention is you might be able to get them writing quicker - which he may want and might alleviate your worries.

 

The cons are that unless it is done carefully, intervention can lead to frustration, power struggle and even turning away of writing.  You  might be able to find a program or path of helping he really likes though - some suggestions online were mazes, dot to dots, playing with clay - all cool things.

 

The pros of "waiting until they have a reason to write" is that your child will be self motivated when they tackle it.  Self motivation counts for a lot. The cons of waiting is if it stressing you out to the point where you start giving off the message that "he can't write" and he absorbs that message, or he starts seeing everyone around him writing and starts to berate himself (which might make him move into self-motivated "reason to write" - which is a good thing).

 

I have personally come down on the "waiting " side, although I am not advocating it for everyone.  It worked for my family .  My 15 does not have stellar handwriting (by a long shot!) but is a wiz on the keyboard and writing at a high level for his grade.  I have seen no evidence that early intervention is going to cure dysgraphia or that early intervention is better than intervention when they express a need for it, so that is what we have chosen.  I would have chosen very differently if he were in school in his earlier years, but he was not.

 

HTH

 

Kathy 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#20 of 23 Old 11-14-2011, 09:24 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Kathy! I like your summary of pros and cons. My instinct is very much to wait and see how things unfold for him-- I think he will write when he has something he wants to write-- and to provide support in whatever form he needs once he is motivated to work on this. I do find it reassuring to hear about people's teenagers who now enjoy writing after coming to it later than most, and I hope this will happen for him.


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#21 of 23 Old 11-15-2011, 12:34 PM
 
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My bias is toward gentle early intervention.  My reasoning is that kids change over time, and have periods of openness to remediation.  DS periodically becomes more resistant to outside direction, and we've worked with him more directly when he's open to it.   If you're being child-centred, gentle and play-based, you can be working on it slowly over time.  Our DS's path seems to include moving in and out of public school, so there has been some pressure to try to bring him up to grade level.  Early on, I did more direct stuff (fun stuff, like drawing on paper which was taped to the wall using a very small piece of broken crayon).  He's been in piano for 3 years and now does a lot of formal drawing.  Also origami, and lego etc etc.  I am way too risk averse to wait and see. 


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#22 of 23 Old 11-16-2011, 06:43 AM
 
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I am also biased toward gentle early intervention, for all of the reasons that have been so well articulated by pp. Like Roar, I too wonder a little about the number of homeschoolers who go on to dysgraphia diagnoses in their adolescent years. My ds also struggled with writing early on. At age 7 or 8, he was beginning to view himself as a non-writer, incapable of producing written work. I can imagine how entrenched that self-image could have become and how difficult it could be to overcome. The school allowed him to use various creative accommodations for assignments (eg. oral presentations, video documentaries, photo essays) but he continued to develop his writing skills. By high school, it really wasn't much of an issue at all. By the time some kids are first forced to confront their writing difficulties, he had a toolkit full of strategies and tactics and they were so familiar to him, there was little or no extra work for him. Today, he's enrolled in a university humanities program and his courses (psychology, politics, philosophy,critical thinking) have a large writing component but he's doing very well.

 

We can't know whether he'd have come around with writing if he had waited it out, but I'd consider him a success story with respect to an approach of gentle early intervention and reasonable accommodations. 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

 Like Roar, I too wonder a little about the number of homeschoolers who go on to dysgraphia diagnoses in their adolescent years. 


My son has a diagnosis of dysgraphia.  I don't always share that (I simply prefer to say he has (had?) writing difficulties) as I am not sure I agree with the diagnosis.

 

He was diagnosed around age 11.  He was undergoing a WISC, the assessor thought he was behind in writing and writing speed, did a few tests, and voila  - diagnosis of dysgraphia.  There was no discussion of the fact that he had been very casually homeschooled - and had nowhere near the amount of practice schooled children did with handwriting.  I think he was being compared to schooled peers - and most HSers (even pretty structured ones) do less writing that schooled peers.  They simply do not have to do the same amount for various reason.  

 

I think the way he was diagnosed left a lot of room for misdiagnosis.

 

 

 

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