Supporting Students with Dysgraphia

Little Hands
(Photo credit: barnabywasson)

Dysgraphia is the learning disability that is generally associated with extremely poor handwriting. It affects a student’s ability to copy from the board, express ideas on paper, spell, and generally complete the same written tasks that other classmates find easy. While it varies from child to child, symptoms include strange or cramped pencil grip, content that doesn’t reflect his or her language skills, illegibility (including odd spacing, size, formation, shape), and overly fast or overly slow writing.It can be incredibly frustrating for a child, who is otherwise at the same skill level as their peers, to be held back by their physical capabilities in writing. Tasks such as copying out words to learn spelling, or copying content from the board to reinforce an idea, become counter-productive. The process of writing interferes with absorbing the content.

For all students with dysgraphia, two main approaches should be implemented: accommodations, and remediation.

Accommodations

These are ways to bypass the process that is interfering with learning. They can include:

  • increased time allotted for writing tasks and/or expectations of output lowered
  • access to computer for any written assignment
  • print-outs of notes for class, so as to avoid tedious copying tasks

Remediation

While computers are often available for written tasks, this is not always the case. Handwriting is necessary for countless everyday tasks, and should be re-taught explicitly. Focus should be put on:

  • all elements of handwriting, including correct posture, pencil grip, paper positioning,  formation, and spacing
  • steps of the writing process (modeling organizing thoughts, planning with graphic organizers)
  • spelling (if necessary) by explicitly teaching phonetic skills and language rules

Though it takes a lot of time and effort, specific re-teaching of these basic skills can allow a child with dysgraphia to decrease their anxiety and frustration at school, and increase their written output, confidence, and positive attitude towards writing.

Check out the YouTube video called ‘How I Fixed My Dysgraphia’ for a great overview of many elements of remediation.

For more information on one-to-one handwriting remediation and writing support, contact Ruth Rumack’s Learning Space at (416) 925-1225 or visit http://www.ruthrumack.com.

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