teen DS, writing, practical advice...and a parenting question - mini update#25 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 32 Old 08-06-2011, 11:36 AM - Thread Starter
 
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After being HSed for many years, DS has decided he wants to got to a brick and mortar school.  It starts in one month.  I am cool with it.  He is 15 and grade 10 bound.

 

Here is the issue:

 

Ds can barely write by hand.  He writes everything on keyboard.  He has no issues with composing, spelling,  etc...it is the physical act of writing that is the issue.  

 

At home he does all his writing on computer.

 

I am worried about his ability to take notes in class and such.  There is no way he will like it or keep up!

 

I am strongly considering getting him a laptop or something.  $$ are a bit of an issue - I can afford something but would love it keep it under 200$, $300 max.   I am imagining something that can print would be best.

 

Do any of your kids use laptops or ??? at school?

 

Should I talk to the school? - I do not think he needs an IEP, scribe, or less writing heavy assignments....just access to technology.  If the teachers have their notes online that would be great 

 

Ok - here is the parenting question:

 

DD, age 12, also goes to a brick and mortar school.  She does not have the same writing issues, but she does not like to write by hand.  She can write by hand, she simply does not like to.

 

If I buy a laptop for her brother to use but she does not get one she will be upset. She already believes that her siblings get more than she does (OT example:  but very recently I made a rule that she could not sit in the front as DS, who is 6 feet, is too tall to sit in the back of the car.  His head touches ceiling - it is a safety issue) I do not think she believes her brother cannot write - just that he doesn't.  Who knows - she may be right - but the reality is he is nowhere up to par in his ability to write by hand at this moment.  

 

So...what to do?

 

a)  Talk to school.  Do not buy anything at this point.  See how DS deals with writing by hand.  

 

b)  buy a laptop or other such device (input on device, please) and give it to DS.  Make it multi-use at home

 

c)  buy a laptop and insist they share, even take turns bringing it to school.  

 

d)  buy 2 laptops.  DH will have not be happy with the spending.

 

Help!  Thanks for reading this wall of text,

 

Kathy

 

 

 

 

 

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#2 of 32 Old 08-06-2011, 03:36 PM
 
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Talk to the school first. It's possible that the school will have a laptop your son can use during school (or they may not, or they may only allow it with an IEP). Anyway, better to find out ahead of time.

 

If you got your daughter a laptop, would she even be allowed to use it at school? I can't imagine my son's middle school allowing laptop use for everyday note-taking unless a child has an IEP (but I could be wrong). It would seem to be a potentially huge distraction, worries about theft, loss, damage, game playing, etc.

 

I only have one child, so I don't have experience with the sibling issues as a parent. But I think sometimes you might just need to say that one kid gets something the other does not. Maybe it's a new rule in your house that kids going into 10th grade get a computer of their own (then start saving now so you can buy one in a few years for your dd). You could also point out that if your ds has his own computer, the home computer will be available more often for your dd to use.

 

As for what kind of computer to get--I would probably opt for a very small netbook for school. Make sure it will run the software needed. Something not too heavy (easier to carry) or big (to leave room on a school desk for papers, books, etc.) and so your son's face isn't hidden from the teacher behind a big screen. I've seen them for as low as $200. Then get a USB thumb drive and just copy files to the home computer when doing schoolwork at home. Netbooks aren't ideal for doing lots of work, but the small size and weight should be a plus for a high schooler.

 

 

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#3 of 32 Old 08-06-2011, 04:04 PM
 
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I would talk to the school first. He may not be allowed to use a laptop in class without their evaluating it's necessity.

 

If your ds doesn't have a disability, just a preference for using a computer, I think she'd have a point about him having a laptop if she didn't. If he did have a disability related to writing, I wouldn't also buy her one just to satisfy her preference for typing.


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#4 of 32 Old 08-06-2011, 05:40 PM
 
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I vote to talk to school first too. My DS 10, has writing issues and does all his projects, large writing assignments and homework on the computer. He does still write in class for smaller things and I believe it's good for him to continue doing so. However, we do know some teens that have diagnosed writing issues and were provided with a laptop for school and a flash drive to take things back and forth.

 

Personally, I would not buy two. I might require your DS to share the laptop at home but I wouldn't be having her take it to school when she has no legitiment reason too.

 

Another option is to have him record lessons. You can get some really nice and tiny digital recorders for 50 bucks. Again, you should clear this with the school so he doesn't get nicked for electronic devices in class.


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#5 of 32 Old 08-06-2011, 05:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the input.  I will definitely talk to the school.

 

He may have dysgraphia - but long story short he is not identified.  

 

 

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#6 of 32 Old 08-06-2011, 06:07 PM
 
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Another benefit of talking to the school (and possibly getting an IEP/504) is that then a modification for the writing portion standardized testing could be made, if he's planning on taking SAT's or needs to take a state test.

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#7 of 32 Old 08-06-2011, 10:31 PM
 
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I agree with the other about talking to the school. My older Dd has dysgraphia as part of other issues, and laptops at school are a bigger deal than you realize. First, kids have a ton of books, notebooks, handouts, etc to keep track of, and handing them a laptop on top of all that can make things more difficult, rather than easier. At a traditional school, their desks are tiny, once they open their text book and lay down the hand out the teacher made, there's no room for a lap top. And then they have a very short time to back up and get to their next class, adding a lap top in to set up and take down, and one more thing to bustle with in the halloway and try to protect when they are getting into and out of their locker -- it's all set up a bit like an obstacle course to start with, and lap top is just one more obstacle.

 

DD is currently at the world's most mellow alternative school, and laptops are the techno item most commonly abused. Kids have used them to watch movies or pick up a wireless signal and check their facebook accounts. We got a letter in the mail today stating that any kid with anything other than a word processing window open will not be allowed to use their lap top again for the rest of the year. You really can't imagine the temptation for a teen, or the annoyance of the teachers. (Who among us wouldn't have been tempted by Solitaire during a dull lecture?)

 

Also, there are a variety of accommodations that can be made for handwriting -- for example, DD couldn't always write down her assignments fast enough and the bell would ring, so her teachers had to email them to me. She got extra time for homework. Assignments were modified for less writing for her. Many teachers type their notes, or use notes that come with the book, and they might be able to just give him a copy.

 

I think if you work the system, you can get him a better deal. thumb.gif


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#8 of 32 Old 08-07-2011, 07:22 AM
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

 

I will definitely talk to the school.

 

He may have dysgraphia - but long story short he is not identified.  

 

http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/adhd-causes

Under the IDEA/IEP, if your child has a disability that adversely affects educational performance, your child is entitled to an education that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and from which your child receives educational benefit.

 

A 504 is helping your child get the same education that everyone else is getting--more for a student that needs accommodations to help them learn (like sitting next to the teacher) or for behavior, and that they are not punished for things that they cannot control due to the ADHD (like needing to work standing up or not sit inside a group).

 

Key Differences Between Section 504, the ADA, and the IDEA.

 

Key Differences Between Section 504 and IDEA

 

Wrightslaw - IEP FAQ

 

 

Here is a google search for "IEP Dysgraphia". I would submit a written request to the school for an evaluation.

 

Also, here is an alternative to a laptop

AlphaSmart Dana - Handheld - Palm OS 4.1 ( 560 x 160 )


 

 

 

 


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#9 of 32 Old 08-07-2011, 07:43 PM
 
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Definitely talk to the school, and request a new eval.  He may qualify now, and may be eligible for assistance, so it's worth it to go through the process.  As noted, a 504 may work for him, at the very least.  Does he have an advisor/guidance counselor?  I'd also spell out concerns with that person as well. 

 

If you do go the laptop route, you may want to consider making sure what your ds is using is compatible with what the school uses.  We use a PC, my district uses Macs, and it's frankly frustrating trying to make that work with at home projects, etc.

 

If your ds does need to write, there are aids such as slant boards, weighted pens/pencils, etc. that can offer some help.  At the hs level, OT is usually a consult service, but he may qualify for some actual OT help.  He may be surprised-if he writes more, his writing may improve a little.  I know that happened w/my dd in ms, although her writing is still pretty difficult.

 

 

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#10 of 32 Old 08-09-2011, 09:45 AM
 
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I'll join the chorus about speaking with the school. Maybe you can explore whether there is any funding available for assistive devices (laptop, netbook, voice-activated software, pocket voice recorder) if he is identified and has an IEP. If whatever device he uses is funded by the school board, then there may fewer problems with your dd. 

 

Last year, with 2 teens in the same high school, I became aware of how little writing they seem to do in class, compared to when I was in school. The teachers seem to provide a lot of summary hand-outs, powerpoint slide printouts etc. and several teachers posted homework assignments on-line. This will differ from school to school, of course. If he's anxious about the writing that will be required, an open discussion with the teachers and guidance counsellor at the beginning of the year will help.

 

Good luck. We have a single laptop here and it is very popular. With DS heading to university next month, I've talked to DH about whether DS will need his own, but I know DD will want one too. It won't be a huge issue because I know she will understand ultimately, but there will be that initial "Hey! How come he gets one..." reaction.  

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#11 of 32 Old 08-10-2011, 04:56 PM
 
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Does he have an underlying diagnosed disability that prevents him from mastery of writing? If so, get an IEP at the start of the year and that will allow him to use adapative technology that he needs.

 

If he has no underlying disability, but poor skills/control or a lack of interest/preference than I doubt he will be allowed. 

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#12 of 32 Old 08-11-2011, 10:10 AM
 
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My husband has dysgraphia, and after several years of having horrible problems remembering things because it was hard for him to write things down, he now writes all the time (completely illegibly). I think writing is an important skill that requires lots and lots of practice. At the high school here, children are allowed to bring laptops/ipads/iphones ect and use them to take notes or voice record the class. They have an internet scrambler and a strict "no games" policy. If they catch you doing anything other than schoolwork twice, you can no longer bring the technology to school. A lot of parents really hate that kids are allowed to bring these, because it makes good old fashioned note taking seem like a huge chore to the kids who do have to use their hands still.

Its likely that teachers may have a problem with it due to him being able to do other things with it besides take notes. It seems like they would allow some sort of digital notepad that you could hook a keyboard up to.

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#13 of 32 Old 08-11-2011, 11:06 AM
 
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Definitely wait and see. Let him see what he can or can't do before making a big deal out of anything. My DH can barely write by hand and got through not only HS but university just fine.

 

He's 15 years old and knows things about himself and how he copes with the world around him that even as his mother you can't know. Let him find his own way here, and if he has problems that he can't find his own solutions for - then step in.

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#14 of 32 Old 08-11-2011, 11:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the feedback.  I must admit I was thinking of taking a wait and see approach, but the last two posts have sort of clinched it for me.

 

I am thinking of proposing he try by hand for 2 months or so and then we will re-address.  At this point it is hard to know if it is just lack of practice or a writing issue.  

 

 

 

 

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Have you thought of hiring a tutor to teach him penmanship?  It's a skill like any other.  Barring a learning disability, a good instructor should be able to teach him how to write.  I remember how sore my hand was the first few days at college.  I wasn't used to the amount of note taking and my hand muscles were sore from writing so much.  More practice and instruction in good technique should get him up to par.


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http://digital-pen-review.toptenreviews.com/

 

A digital pen might be a good solution.

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#17 of 32 Old 08-11-2011, 02:30 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post


I am thinking of proposing he try by hand for 2 months or so and then we will re-address.  At this point it is hard to know if it is just lack of practice or a writing issue.  

 

 


Where you live, how long would it take to get an evaluation for special needs?

 

Depending on where one lives in the states, this can take months or even a year. I would find that out before deciding to delay in setting up appointments or getting on waiting list.  This is actually a huge issues for formerly homeschooled children with special needs. They can waste a lot of time in school without accommodations that could make them successful because there's no paper trail, and parents don't realize that setting up that paper trail takes time.

 

I doubt that in two months you'll be able to just show up at the office and say "this isn't working, lets do something different" and have anything happen right away.

 

Afterall, if you set up the appointment and then decide he doesn't need it, you can always cancel it.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#18 of 32 Old 08-11-2011, 03:12 PM
 
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I agree with Linda.  Why not get evaluated by the school.  Upon your written request, I think the school has 1-2 months to followup, so you are better off starting now.  My ds has problems with writing and the school has accommodations in place, such as allowing him to use computers or have assistance with longer writing assignments.  Your school might not let your ds use a computer on a regular basis in the classroom without an accommodation.  

 

Ds goes to occupational therapy to work on his writing skills, and he was referred by psychologist and dr; some schools provide OT as a service.  The therapist works on teaching him correct and efficient ways to write his letters, but it has been a slow process because ds has no stamina. 

 

 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post




Where you live, how long would it take to get an evaluation for special needs?

 

Depending on where one lives in the states, this can take months or even a year. I would find that out before deciding to delay in setting up appointments or getting on waiting list.  This is actually a huge issues for formerly homeschooled children with special needs. They can waste a lot of time in school without accommodations that could make them successful because there's no paper trail, and parents don't realize that setting up that paper trail takes time.

 

I doubt that in two months you'll be able to just show up at the office and say "this isn't working, lets do something different" and have anything happen right away.

 

Afterall, if you set up the appointment and then decide he doesn't need it, you can always cancel it.


Good point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#20 of 32 Old 08-11-2011, 03:35 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by melissa17s View Post

  Upon your written request, I think the school has 1-2 months to followup, so you are better off starting now. 

 

She's in Canada. I've no idea how it works up there. Sometimes, Canada seems a more reasonable country than the US, so may be this sort of thing can get sorted out more quickly. I really just don't know.
 

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#21 of 32 Old 08-12-2011, 07:54 AM
 
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duh.gif I didn't notice she was in Canada.

 

This link specifies Ontario but maybe you can find something useful http://www.schooladvocacy.ca/special.html

 

Learning Disabilities in Children: Symptoms, Types, and Testing

 

Learning Disabilities Association of Canada


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#22 of 32 Old 08-12-2011, 08:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Emmeline II View Post

duh.gif I didn't notice she was in Canada.

 

This link specifies Ontario but maybe you can find something useful http://www.schooladvocacy.ca/special.html

 

Learning Disabilities in Children: Symptoms, Types, and Testing

 

Learning Disabilities Association of Canada


Hey - no worries!

 

I am in Ontario, so the links are useful.

 

I did call the school, we have a meeting about one week before school starts.

 

There are lots of good ideas on this thread, so I am feeling better.

 

 

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#23 of 32 Old 08-12-2011, 10:33 AM
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practice, practice, practice!  Handwriting is a skill that is honed by years of practice.

 

He has a month, right?  I'd get some handwriting primers and have him practice.

 

Unless you have reason to think that he has an actual disability that prevents him from writing, he just needs to learn and practice.

 

Writing is a basic skill and he will need to know this.

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#24 of 32 Old 08-12-2011, 10:51 AM
 
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I would encourage him to practice writing as preparation for entering school.  DS has dysgraphia and we are doing both - using technology to facilitate expression and completion of work, but also working on printing as a basic skill to help in everyday life.

 

This is well below his level, but would be more fun and engaging than simple copy work:

http://shopping.hwtears.com/product/Can-Do_Print/HWT


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#25 of 32 Old 09-29-2011, 08:28 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Mini-update:

 

DS is doing well.

 

He has 4 classes - only 2 of which involve intensive writing (and even then it is not as much as I did in high School).  So...he is managing.  His writing is legible - just. His handwriting is improving with practice.  Honestly, I think the light load with regard to writing has been the key to his managing and not becoming overwhelmed.

 

He does have a tendancy to use caps and lower case rather randomly in hand writing  (he does not do this when keyboarding - he does know when each are supposed to be used), and his letters float above the line, but still.  He writes small, so it is even more difficult to read.  

 

I did tell the guidance counsellor about my concerns about his writing issues, and she suggested early contact with the teachers to let them know of the issues.   Ds did not want to do this - he wanted to see if he could hack it without going the teacher -talking route and he has been successfull, I think.

 

We did not buy a laptop although the school is very pro the kids using any technology that is helpful.  He has not seemed to need one.  Any homework that can be done through keyboarding he does do.  An extra computer for home is not off the table as we are all getting tired of sharing.  

 

I am still keeping the many ideas on this thread in mind.  You never know if he might need them in the future.   Thanks all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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#26 of 32 Old 09-29-2011, 10:22 AM
 
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I agree with what most of the pp's have said. Definitely talk to the school. The sooner the better.  I used to provide handwriting help in our local school district and it can take awhile for the process to be completed. Good luck.

 


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#27 of 32 Old 09-29-2011, 10:46 AM
 
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Sorry, didn't realize there were two pages of replies. Glad to hear that things are going pretty well for him.


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#28 of 32 Old 09-30-2011, 09:59 AM
 
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I can't believe I missed this thread. I am also in Canada (in BC) and my ds (almost 15), unschooled his whole life, has just started Grade 10 (part-time: 5 courses this semester, 3 next) with some undiagnosed dysgraphic issues. He too has a younger sister who doesn't have writing issues, age 12, in school full-time. We seem to have a lot in common!

 

Ds was part of a DL (school-supervised homeschooling) program last year and in anticipation of this year's move into the bricks-and-mortar school we requested an evaluation for his written issues this past March. It was still pending as fall was looming, so after speaking casually to the English teacher / guidance counsellor (she's a family friend) we bit the bullet and bought the kid a laptop. 

 

His sister has not been envious. The laptop is not powerful, and it is suitable mostly for simple tasks. It is for school-related stuff only, and as others have mentioned it is awkward to carry and use at school. Further, it makes him stick out a little ... which doesn't bother him, but it's something his sister would be sensitive to if it were her. So we've been lucky in that respect.

 

The school has been great about accommodating his needs without a formal diagnosis of dysgraphia. His math, English and Writing course instructors understand his issues well as they've got to know him well in past years through non-school things, and were aware of his challenges. They've been encouraging and supportive and matter-of-fact about the accommodations he needs. I don't think his history teacher is aware ... but the quirks of the curriculum approach this year, with a large-scale out-trip and a multi-media focus, have meant that so far history has taken the form of collaborative large-scale map-drawing and computer-based writing. So he hasn't used his laptop in that class yet.

 

My ds has spent a fair bit of time dedicated to trying to overcome his writing challenges. He worked through a few printing workbooks when he was younger. He spent a year at age 12-13 practicing cursive every day. By the end of the year he could write neatly and 'correctly' but very slowly, and if he wasn't copying but instead trying to compose his thoughts in writing, he was still fairly useless. The process of physically forming the letters seems to derail his other thought processes, and the whole thing becomes almost physically painful to him. He has excellent fine motor control (is a very advanced viola player, for example, and draws and sketches very well) so this is something specific to language for him. With a keyboard he has awesome writing abilities. He now writes a lot, and at a very advanced level -- and the computer has been a godsend in that respect. It has freed up his writer's voice. Enough so that he went from considering himself to "suck at writing" to eagerly accepting an invitation to join the advanced Writing course at the school. 

 

Yesterday we were given an appointment for an assessment on October 13th. We're going to pursue it even though he is functioning just fine at this point without a formal diagnosis. Our reasons? First: validation. He has not been particularly self-conscious this fall about his need for "adaptive technology" but I know it helped him find comfort with his struggles to hear last spring "We think you might have A Condition." He wants to know. Secondly, I'm a little concerned about the provincial exams he's going to need to write in math and science and English. They are fairly strict in format and while there's a computer-based component to some of them, parts are done with paper and pen. Science and math are most likely to be problematic as they can't easily be done on a computer. It takes him a long time to, for example, draw a Lewis diagram of a simple molecule, label the axes on a climatograph, or write down the simplification of an algebraic expression. I can see that he will need extra time, and given the strict constraints of the provincial exam system I think he'll probably need an official diagnosis to get it. 

 

I haven't really entertained the possibility that he won't qualify for a formal diagnosis. Hmmmm. It seems so clear-cut to me. Fingers crossed.

 

Miranda


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#29 of 32 Old 10-05-2011, 04:42 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kathymuggle View Post

Mini-update:

 

DS is doing well.

 

He has 4 classes - only 2 of which involve intensive writing (and even then it is not as much as I did in high School).  So...he is managing.  His writing is legible - just. His handwriting is improving with practice.  Honestly, I think the light load with regard to writing has been the key to his managing and not becoming overwhelmed.

 

He does have a tendancy to use caps and lower case rather randomly in hand writing  (he does not do this when keyboarding - he does know when each are supposed to be used), and his letters float above the line, but still.  He writes small, so it is even more difficult to read.  

 

I did tell the guidance counsellor about my concerns about his writing issues, and she suggested early contact with the teachers to let them know of the issues.   Ds did not want to do this - he wanted to see if he could hack it without going the teacher -talking route and he has been successfull, I think.

 

We did not buy a laptop although the school is very pro the kids using any technology that is helpful.  He has not seemed to need one.  Any homework that can be done through keyboarding he does do.  An extra computer for home is not off the table as we are all getting tired of sharing.  

 

I am still keeping the many ideas on this thread in mind.  You never know if he might need them in the future.   Thanks all!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Great update! Sometimes you have let kids, teens especially, find their own accommodations.

 

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#30 of 32 Old 10-25-2011, 09:37 AM - Thread Starter
 
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another mini-update - 

 

while Ds has had little trouble keeping up with note-taking and assignments, he has found writing tests within time constraints difficult.  I asked him if he would like to talk to the school about it - he said yes.  A short meeting later, and he has an accomodation in place to use a school supplied computer or keyboarding device of some sort to write tests  orngbiggrin.gif  He still gets to practice and improve his handwriting, but without it being too overwhelming or affecting grades.

 

I am very pleased - and it took almost no jumping through hoops.

 

We are not looking at an IPRC at this point, as with practice his hand-writing ability may come up to level with everyone else...or it may not.  We will decide on more permanent accommodations in the future.  

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