Handwriting is not progressing - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 21 Old 05-11-2009, 09:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am really getting frustrated. Ds1 will be 8 this week, and he writes like a preschooler. All capital letters, with little regard for spacing or uniformity of size. It's beginning to become a problem in general, not just as a subject matter. A lot of the other material we want to work with requires some writing, but writing seems so painful for him that it's not even worth it. I don't know how to work on spelling and grammar when he can't even write.

For instance, we got Growing with Grammar. He really likes it, and asks to do lessons. But one of the first lessons (of grade 1) is about the first letter of a sentence being capital. But it's pretty impossible to have him write a sentence to practice this since all his letters are capital. He always has to ask me how to write a lower case "a" or "b."

He wants to write letters to his friends, but he can't. I try to get him to do just a few practice letters and he bitches and moans and flops around on the floor moaning about how tired he is. When he's with a group of friends and they all sign their name to something, his writing stands out.

I'm really not comfortable with the total lack of progress in this area, but have no idea what to do. I've tried all the "games" - mazes, dot to dots, letters to friends, etc. His fine motor skills are not an issue, just writing.
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#2 of 21 Old 05-11-2009, 09:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by oceanbaby View Post
I am really getting frustrated. Ds1 will be 8 this week, and he writes like a preschooler. All capital letters, with little regard for spacing or uniformity of size. It's beginning to become a problem in general, not just as a subject matter. A lot of the other material we want to work with requires some writing, but writing seems so painful for him that it's not even worth it. I don't know how to work on spelling and grammar when he can't even write.

For instance, we got Growing with Grammar. He really likes it, and asks to do lessons. But one of the first lessons (of grade 1) is about the first letter of a sentence being capital. But it's pretty impossible to have him write a sentence to practice this since all his letters are capital. He always has to ask me how to write a lower case "a" or "b."

He wants to write letters to his friends, but he can't. I try to get him to do just a few practice letters and he bitches and moans and flops around on the floor moaning about how tired he is. When he's with a group of friends and they all sign their name to something, his writing stands out.

I'm really not comfortable with the total lack of progress in this area, but have no idea what to do. I've tried all the "games" - mazes, dot to dots, letters to friends, etc. His fine motor skills are not an issue, just writing.
I hit the same point at about the same time with my oldest.
It was holding him back from doing some of the things he wanted to do.

We did a couple of things
1) talked about how skills take practice and that if we don't practice we can build it up in minds to be a more difficult than it really is. He agreed he was avoiding it because it was hard for him.
2) started on cursive - it's easier than printing for many kids. I used a few printouts from online somewhere - nothing fancy.
3) started adding a bit of dictation or copy work to our daily table time - in a beautiful book that had a page for drawing on beside each poem. That was the only writing (besides math) that I required of him daily and I found other resources that made non-writing a non-issue - ie a grammar program that was underlining and circling rather than writing.

hth
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#3 of 21 Old 05-11-2009, 09:42 PM
 
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Can he type at all, while working on his printing skills? Like, is there any reason he couldn't practice capitalizing the first word of a sentence by typing it out?

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#4 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 12:40 AM
 
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Has he been evaluated by an occupational therapist?

My ds, who is six, almost seven, has the same troubles. Handwriting is SUCH a drama-filled struggle with him. He's been in OT for a year or so, but they haven't focused much on handwriting or fine motor. Right now, I'm waiting for his OT to come back from maternity leave, and I'll talk to her more about it. He does have problems with low muscle tone and fine motor control, and that just makes printing very difficult for him.

It's rough. I've heard good things about Handwriting Without Tears, and I think I'm going to purchase a copy when dh goes back to work (which will hopefully be soon! .
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#5 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 01:00 AM
 
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for letter recognition, i would keep a poster or sheet of paper with all of the letters of the alphabet (upper and lower case). that way he won't need to ask you, as he will have a sheet to reference. i also think copywork will help with penmanship. I would recommend looking into start write. then you could tailor make the topics to his interest. here's the website: http://www.startwrite.com/

of course, you could also just write the sentence on the top page & ask him to copy his below ...you don't have to buy a program. i've just heard good things about start write. hth.

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#6 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 01:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Copying anything is torturous for him. And the problem isn't just the other materials we are using. For instance, we were at 4-H awhile ago, and they were playing a game where you ran up to this poster and wrote down a fact you had about the different animals they had listed. Well, on his turn, not only did I have to tell him how to spell every single word, but his writing was so big and all over the place, and took him so long, that it kind of held up the game.

I haven't bought HWOT because I hesitate to buy any sort of program since he just won't write! I have all sorts of copywork books, I've done custom sheets online, etc. I have in the past had a big alphabet strip up, but then inevitably he's in another room when he tries to write something. He seems to have very poor memory of how to form the letters, and if he sees a variation, like different kinds of lower case a's, it just throws him. He recognizes it, and can read it, but it's the writing part that is stumping him.

I just don't understand why it's so hard for him. Is it boring? Is it a fine motor issue (which isn't apparent in any other activity)? Maybe I should try cursive?

Edited to add: I just looked at Startwrite, and it does look interesting, as one of the problems he has is remember where to start the letter. I'll have to check the spacing of the lines on their paper, because another issue is that he finds the spacing of normal lined writing paper too big.
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#7 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 02:04 AM
 
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For my son, the used of raised line paper helped. It gave him a sense of letter sizing and helped keep his letters in line. We still struggle with the capitalization and such, but his writing is much more uniform. For 2nd grade, we bought the RediSpace transitional paper and I think it will really help with making smaller letters and uniform spacing. Not sure if you've tried changing the paper he uses, but for us it was really helpful!

Here's a link to the RediSpace:
http://www.mead.com/webapp/wcs/store...-1_false_10051

and the raised line paper:
http://www.rainbowresource.com/produ...2101028-765185

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#8 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 02:11 AM
 
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Handwriting without Tears is pretty inexpensive and it worked very well for us. It is much easier to see and understand than most handwriting programs.

Nothing will never work unless he buys into it.

I would try to have a talk about setting up an experiment where for a set period of time like a month he practices with a set program for 10 minutes a day in order to find out how that works for his body. There is an issue of muscle memory and just like a baseball player training himself to hit the ball, he's training his hands to do the task. Build it into the routine of the day. Five minutes seven days a week is 100% better than fifteen minutes every four days. It is all about building that muscle memory.
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#9 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 02:19 AM
 
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Has he ever been tested for dysgraphia?

I'd definitely start with cursive and some consistent practise *if* you think he'd be open to it.

Maybe try some using some sandpaper letters, or large muscle movements (ie write the words really large on a white board or on the sidewalk in chalk), tracing letters, using paperclip chains to make the letters.

Have you tried working on them in groups - ie all the letters that use C as the starting point? c, a, o, d, e, g, q, then all the "tall letters" that start at the top etc. Maybe chunking them in patterns would help.

I'd probably try to separate the thinking from the writing as much as possible - ie don't require him to think of answers for other topics AND write. If he has some kind of disconnect between getting his thoughts from his head, down his arm and out his fingers it might be too much to coordinate writing and thinking early on. If he could focus just on the mechanics of writing, it may allow him to assimilate that info more efficiently. I know that seemed to be the case for my son - and even now at 11 if he has some idea he really wants to capture he'll ask me to scribe it for him. His head still works faster than his ability to write/type.

hth
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#10 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 09:18 AM
 
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i own HWOT cursive. we will begin using it next year. it wasn't expensive and it looks really good imo - but i don't know how it would mesh with your ds. i hope you find something to help him. i think having him tested & allowing him to type in the meantime would be a good compromise.

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#11 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 09:22 AM
 
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My oldest DS wrote this way for quite some time too. He is now 14 and he writes very well. But two years ago he was still writing so that you could hardly tell his cap letters from the lower case, although it was neat writing. He has always disliked writing and I figured he would get good at it sooner or later and on his own time and he did. I guess I should have pushed the issue sooner though.

My DD is following in DS footsteps and I need to push her more. I don't plan on letting her go as long as he did with bad handwriting.

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#12 of 21 Old 05-12-2009, 10:32 AM
 
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My son has the same problems with handwriting. For him, it's because of problems with fine motor skills and motor planning. We found that out from an occupational therapist. He has no other obvious fine motor skills issues, though it turns out he also has problems with scissors. I never would have noticed that on my own. I always figured that his fine motor skills were excellent since he can build all sorts of awesome things with Legos and K'nex...

His first OT worked with him using Handwriting Without Tears. I didn't notice any real difference, and haven't had any luck getting him to use HWT or anything else at home. I've read that learning to write in cursive will be helpful. I guess because the letters connect, motor planning and letter sizing are less likely to be an issue. We haven't started that yet, but we plan to soon.

Good luck!

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#13 of 21 Old 05-14-2009, 07:47 PM
 
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I am new here, but just thought I'd jump right in.

Maybe Waldorf style form drawing exercises could help? The idea is that form drawing provides the foundational skills for writing---your son would be practicing writing and not even know it, as it is a drawing activity. Then he gets to practice his fine motor, hand eye coordination, etc. without the pressure of it being "writing".

Good luck!

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#14 of 21 Old 05-14-2009, 09:01 PM
 
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I don't know if Waldorf form drawing is at all similar to Montessori metal insets?

I've just ordered a set of metal insets for DD, but I think they'll also be useful for DS, who's almost 11. His handwriting is MUCH better than it used to be, but it's still pretty terrible compared to "average".

When he was about 6 we started cursive, and it's been hit or miss and off and on, and he still chooses to write in printing for his own work outside of actual cursive practice... but I think it's helped and wish we would have started with cursive (didn't hear about THAT idea until it was too late).

I do plan to use the metal insets with him. I think he'll enjoy them, he loves drawing... and it's so funny because his drawing is really quite excellent and detailed, he HAS pencil control...

His capital letter problem has (finally) pretty much disappeared. For the longest time it was just a few letters that he would ALWAYS write as capitals wherever they were. One big advantage of cursive is that you really CANNOT insert random capitals just anywhere.

We haven't invested in that textured lined paper, though I have looked at it. DS definitely is a sensory-seeker and I think it would benefit him. But I did make some triple-lined paper where the middle space is highlighted in colour (top space for tall letters and bottom space for below-the-line letters), we use that for his copywork. It does seem to help him focus on size and neatness.

One thing we did when he was younger, when he REFUSED to practice his writing at all, was make a race game out of it. I put on this outrageous commentator voice and said things like "our competitor David is approaching the first letter...he puts pencil to paper... this letter is a doozy, many of our greatest champions have faltered at it, will this young lad remember to stop at the top and return or will he just KEEP ON GOING... the audience watches, holding their breath... and... HE DOES IT! The crowd goes wild! Whooooooo!!!"

He got a kick out of it and it worked. For awhile heh.

In hindsight, I wouldn't even have worried about "making him practice" the way I did (but I have a lot of hindsight about a LOT of things I "made" him do...), but would have done more with things like this kind of paper, freewriting, motor skills like insets or sandpaper letters, and copywork.

So with your son being just 8, I wouldn't WORRY about it too much right now, but certainly a change of tactics would help. I definitely suggest cursive and other motor skills things, tracing loops and stuff like that.

Oh and a word of advice for anyone whose kids are still young and haven't learned to write yet -- whether using print or cursive first, start with the lower case letters! This kind of problem is actually quite common -- the variable factor is at what age they grow out of it. When you think about it, it doesn't make sense to learn upper case letters and THEN the lower case, because 99% of the letters we read or write are lower case. Upper case are the exceptions, so we learn them in later.

And yet most of us instinctively teach upper case first -- maybe because that's how we learned it? And many programs do the same. So we somehow think upper case letters must be "easier", but they're not.

(Just another hindsight thing I learned from my son, now my daughter will be the beneficiary of all this retroactive wisdom...)

Heather, mom to Caileigh 12/06 and aspie ADHD prodigy David 05/98 :intact lact
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#15 of 21 Old 05-15-2009, 06:41 PM
 
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I am no expert, as I'm just looking into form drawing for the upcoming learning year, but it is different than the Montessori textural letters and numbers.

Basically, the forms start out as simple straight and curved shapes (try a google image search or flickr) and progress in difficulty until the student is drawing "running" forms (pre-cursive shapes) and finally complex knotted/interweaving and gestural forms.

The straight and curved lines are heavily practiced in Waldorf first grade, and students practice form drawing up until 8th, I believe. Supposedly therapeutic for adults and dyslexia, right/left hemisphere integration etc. Helps the child learn to concentrate and "be in the moment" while creating something tangible.

It's not baby-ish or something that an older boy would think is beneath his skill, as the forms keep getting harder.

Students use large motor and small motor (walking out the form shapes, painting the forms, drawing in rice/salt/sand) before finally drawing the form with crayon on paper.

The parent draws a large form as an example, this is displayed for the student. From what I've read, it's recommended that the parent practice form drawing with the child. This seems like a great way to show the kid that the activity is not remedial, but progressively challenging. Confidence boosting and yet not overwhelming.

I do not have a book resource for this yet, as I haven't decided which one will give me the most bang for my buck, but Bob and Nancy's Waldorf bookstore has quite a few to choose from---A Little Garden Flower has an e-book, I believe?

I'm really intrigued with the form drawing practice, and it seems like something that could be integrated into a daily rhythm fairly quickly and easily. Supposedly it's very meditative and centering. We need that at our house so we're going to use the form drawing as a way to transition to more academic stuff following yoga and breathing time.

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#16 of 21 Old 05-15-2009, 07:14 PM
 
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My ds is at the same point with writing, Oceanbaby. I am glad he is voluntary writing a few words once in a great while, however. That's progress, lol. I give him the occasional reminder that it gets easier with practice and leave it at that.

I did get him the Kumon workbooks for mazes and small letters, just in case. He likes to do the mazes with his eyes, however. They are designed so you would have to draw the lines in similar directions as writing. The books seem nice. He has used the one for letters for reference (to look up how to draw the letter) once or twice although he's never written in the book.

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#17 of 21 Old 05-17-2009, 11:23 AM
 
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Just curious...is it really that important to be accomplished at writing lower case letters. My Dad and brother both figured out awhile ago that they write much neater when they write in all caps. Everybody can read they're handwriting so it's not an issue. And it's not like they don't know how to recognize lower-case letters. The interesting thing about them is that they are both very artistic and accomplished at fine motor skills - they paint miniature soldiers and models...and they are GOOD. it's just interesting...i remember my brother always getting terrible grades in handwriting...and now it doesn't even matter.
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#18 of 21 Old 05-17-2009, 11:50 AM
 
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I would say get him evaluated by an occupational theropist for dysgraphia before trying something new. My son has dysgraphia and when we attacked it with reasonable expectations....

We also used HWOT.
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#19 of 21 Old 05-17-2009, 02:22 PM
 
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I thought dysgraphia as soon as I read the op's first post. We also used form drawing and handwriting without tears. He is using beginning cursive D'Nealian now.
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#20 of 21 Old 05-17-2009, 03:23 PM
 
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Try this:
- rainbow letters---Write a large ( big as you can fit) letter i on an 8x11 unlined paper. Put a dot where he should begin. Have him choose 4 crayons, and trace over the i slowly. It doesn't have to be perfect, and actually looks better when its not. You're done. Next time, do the t, then l, etc keeping similarly formed letters together the same week. After 3 letters have been done, do a review using only 3 colors if he protests its too much writing. Be sure to mark starting points with dots, or stars, or whatever, and if you think adding an auditory component would help him the say something like "straight down, pick up, add a dot" ( for i) Keep it simple, no pressure, and done quickly. Keep the letters together in a 3 ring binder for reference and extra practice later.
---The incredible shrinking letter--again, start with a large letter. If you want to start with i, or o whatevers easier ( same for above too, just start with something simple then progress to similiar letters: c,o,a,g,q for example). So write a large one, then slightly smaller one beside that, then smaller, smaller still, until the littlest one is just a couple of inches tall. There is no need to make them small enough to print on lined paper...For this you should use maybe 11x14 paper, cut in half lengthwise so he can fit 5+ letters going across. Do these for each letter- dramatically, having fun. "oh no! It's shrinking!" Ham it up and make a fool of yourself. Take the pressure off.
--- Set a goal of doing all of the letters this way for practice over the next few weeks and see how he does. Writing can be very much influenced by stress, and most writing programs move on quickly once the letter is supposedly learned. Some kids need a different approach and lots of repetition.
Is he a kinesthetic learner? Playdoh letters might help. Form "snakes" that you can bend and break into letters. Try the first part purple, and the next part green. Every letter, so for the 'f" the candy can curve is purple, then the "ribbon" line across is green dough. If that works for him you can progress to puple and green crayons, then colored pencils, etc. Say "purple" and "green" when he's learning so he will have a chance at remembering when he uses pencils later on.
Writing can be a huge issue for some kids. He could have dysgraphia, or maybe just needs different, creative approaches not that he surely knows its an issue. Either way these activities should help...
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#21 of 21 Old 05-18-2009, 12:41 PM
 
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DD, now 9YO, has the same problem.

One thing I notice is that she doesn't draw her letters right--that is, she will form (for example) a small letter r by writing a vertical line and then lifting her pencil and doing the short loop part from the top down--that really messes her up.

I've explained to her (more than a few times) that letters are written certain ways for a reason, because it's easier to form them certain ways neatly, quickly, etc. I've shown her examples writing them myself.

Thus far, without supervised refreshers on "how to write" she will always given enough time slip back into writing them wrong. And it really contributes to the "babyish" look of her writing and the time it takes her, etc.

Look at what your child does when they write--how is his position, ergonomics, etc. How does he hold his pencil, position his paper. If all that is OK, watch him write the alphabet. Does he do it "funny"?

We use these pages:
http://handwritingforkids.com/
(lots of good resources, incidentally, including printable different-sized lined paper.
Specifically, the tracing guides:
uppercase, http://www.handwritingforkids.com/ha...es/tguidel.gif, and numbers.

When she does these daily or more often, I see a huge difference in her writing, her comfort level, etc. I have her trace them and then write them, supervised, each time.

HTH!

-lava
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