How to help a learning-disabled child learn to overcome challenges? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 02-13-2013, 09:07 AM - Thread Starter
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My son, 8 1/2, has dysgraphia. He has been in OT for years and it is something that he struggles with daily. He is easily frustratable, and is unfortunately not one of those kinds of kids who will just keep at something until he can do it. I have tried everything under the sun to encourage him, not just writing sheets, but writing giant letters in the sand at the beach, playing writing games, etc. 


I have backed off considerably, but it is still a source of power struggle in our home. While in our homeschooling, I do not push too much. We don't do worksheets, and I am not trying to do school-at-home. We are project-based hands-on learners. But he simply *has* to learn how to write. I know that in this day and age, and the future, the use of pencil and paper are becoming archaic, but he simply must be able to write a simple grocery list, write a message inside a greeting card, or be able to sign his name at the very least. 


When I see that he is not ready to learn something I back off and think that the time is simply not right. But sometimes I feel that if something is too hard, that sometimes my job as a mother is to gently push him outside his comfort zone until he can succeed. That he is old enough to handle this. I have been backing off for 8 1/2 years now, and his writing is not improving. We are working on typing skills and voice-recognition software, but he still will not write. I do not ask for pages and pages a day. But just some time to practice, maybe 20 minutes a day. His OT insists that daily practice is going to be key. 


She suggest star charts, "points" and various other methods of reward, and it just doesn't feel right to me. And frankly, even when I cave in and try it, he is excited about it for a day then the newness wears off. He will do amazing work for her in her office, but not for me at home. 


I am so frustrated with this and at the end of my rope. 

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#2 of 6 Old 02-13-2013, 10:47 AM
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I have twin boys. One has excellent handwriting, and has for quite some time. The other has difficulty forming letters neatly, has floating letters, random capitals, occasional backwards letters. He gets plenty of practice, and while things are slowly improving, it's still a struggle.


I bought an old fashioned typewriter at a garage sale. For some things, I let him type.  It's good keyboarding skills, helps him get his thougths onto paper, and is something he enjoys.   He still has to practice actual writing by hand, and this year I taught cursive. His cursive is actually neater than print.


I do think practice is the way to teach those muscles how to behave. Of course, there are other fine motor skills to use, too: chopsticks, tweezers, clothespins, weaving, stringing beads, sewing, coloring, drawing, painting, , playdoh.   But in the end, writing is writing. I used copywork to help practice letters and sentence form. We used nursery rhymes, others use poetry or bible verses.

Twin boys (2/05) and little sister (10/07)
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#3 of 6 Old 02-13-2013, 11:00 AM
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If he likes art, use that. Clay helps hand and finger control, and glue and glitter helps, too. I added food coloring to partially empty glue bottles (small ones), to encourage "drawing" . Then there's colored pencils to get the feel of using a pencil, while still being creative.
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#4 of 6 Old 02-13-2013, 12:01 PM
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As parent of a dysgraphic kid who is now 16 I kind of disagree with your OT. Yes, daily practice can be helpful, but it's so much easier to do that practice when the child is older, is motivated and has a need from handwriting. For my ds that came around age 14, when he began working through a math course that involved significant amounts of writing that was not easy to do on the computer. At that age he had the maturity to cope with the inevitable frustration, and the drive to improve his skills. I don't think there's a developmental window of opportunity for the development of handwriting that closes by age 11 or something. If anything I think for dysgraphic kids the window opens wider as they get older because of the maturity and motivation.


At age 8.5 we had not even begun to stress over things! He did his math by dictation, and everything else "written" was on the computer. His keyboarding skills improved naturally as he found more and more reason to communicate and document in text, so that by age 11, when I might have tried to start teaching him keyboarding skills in a systematic way, he was already typing 50 wpm easily. He entered high school full-time this past fall at the junior level and was granted use of a laptop for anything he wants. Most students have laptops anyway, so he doesn't stick out at all: in his case it's just written into file that no teacher can refuse to allow him to use a computer for written work of longer than three sentences -- and it's never been an issue. Three or four sentences he can now do. It's enough, and I'm happy to say that his education has been free of stress and conflict over his handwriting struggles.


We did do lots of enjoyable things to ensure that he was using general fine-motor and motor-planning skills. He took piano and viola and learned to knit and played with Knex and Playmobil and took up wood carving and various other hobbies. But handwriting, which was clearly no fun and very difficult for him? No. I offered opportunities for practice but never pushed the issue.


ETA: I write my grocery lists on my iPad (and would use a smartphone if I had one, which I'm sure all adults of our kids' generation will have). Ds had to sign his name no more than once or twice by age 14. And really, a signature just needs to be a reproducable scrawl. My dh's signature is what the kids refer to as "C-worm" because that's all it looks like.



Mountain mama to one great kid and three great grown-ups
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#5 of 6 Old 02-21-2013, 11:24 AM
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I also have a dysgraphic child.  Handwriting is part of the issue, but there are also issues with written expression.  But getting handwriting tolerable was a huge accomplishment.   I also had him learn to type, but I am not willing to let handwriting go.  My father struggled with writing anything by hand.  I don't want our son to struggle with writing by hand his entire life. 


If your OT is using HWT, I will suggest a different program.  It is what got our DS to relax his hand/arm/shoulder enough to begin writing more easily.  It is called First Strokes.  You can order the workbook yourself.  I suggest the lower case workbook.


The first letters taught are the circle-stroke letters.  The first goal is to relax while making a smooth counter-clockwise circle.  I took this to extremes.   It was really therapeutic.  He did no writing at all, except to make gigantic circles, for a couple of months !


With a paintbrush and very watery paint, he painted circles on the largest paper pad I could find, on an easel.  He also did it on the glass storm door.  Using a paintbrush helped him relax and get his wrist moving and fingertips involved.   From there I went to painting smaller and smaller circles, then moved to paintbrush pens on plastic sheet protectors (very slippery), then highlighting markers, then felt tip markers, then finally tried it on paper.  He worked on smaller and smaller circles until he was matching the size of the letters in the book.   Learning to relax and make smooth circles easily, without tension and struggle, unlocked handwriting for him.  He still doesn't love it, but he will write some things voluntarily now, and he can do schoolwork in writing.  He writes notes to people, signs for his bedroom door, and today he decided to take notes while watching Brainpop videos - just because he wanted to.  (I almost fell over from shock).


Good luck !

DS1 March 2003DS2 Sept 2005,
and 3 , in our happy secular
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#6 of 6 Old 02-21-2013, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks PGTlatte! Good advice! I will check into that program. We gave up on HWT over a year ago because it was putting me *me* in tears! 


You hit the nail on the head: I want to get handwriting tolerable. 

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