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A Parent’s Guide to Dysgraphia

Jun 12

A Parent’s Guide to Dysgraphia
 

You bring home a new coloring book and crayons for your young child and she seems uninterested or even upset. You ask your child to jot down a quick note for you and halfway through, he freezes up and refuses to finish. You notice your teenager has managed to scribble some class notes on paper but she doesn’t seem to understand what she wrote.

If these situations seem familiar to you, or if you’ve noticed other issues with your child’s ability to write, it’s time to learn about dysgraphia. A physician can test your child for the learning disability, and schools should be able to make accommodations for your child if he has dysgraphia, but in the end, it’s up to you as a parent to make sure your child gets the assistance and understanding he needs to be successful.

What is dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects handwriting, the ability to transcribe words and put thoughts on paper. Dysgraphia is not due to intellectual impairment, although the symptoms can be confused with other developmental disorders before diagnosis. Sometimes dysgraphia can occur alongside other learning disabilities, which can also make diagnosis more difficult.

Basically, a person with dysgraphia has trouble sending signals from her brain to her hand. This can result in misspellings, oddly formed letters, difficulty with fine motor skills, hand cramps, and more.

What are the symptoms?

If you frequently notice any of the following symptoms — or combination or many symptoms — you should speak with your child’s physician about testing for dysgraphia:

  • Awkward handling of silverware past the age of 5.
  • Difficulty with buttons and zippers.
  • Dislike of coloring and staying in the lines.
  • Inability to connect the dots.
  • Frustration with small blocks and LEGOs.
  • Inability to tie shoes past the age of 7.
  • Refusal to write in high-pressure situations.

Despite these setbacks, your child may actually excel at verbal communication skills and have an extensive vocabulary. Children with dysgraphia may even love to read and possess the ability to read well. The difficulty lies in putting their own words in writing.

How can I help my child?

According to the NationalCenter for Learning Disabilities: “There are many ways to help a person with dysgraphia achieve success. Generally strategies fall into three main categories:

  • Accommodations: providing alternatives to written expression
  • Modifications: changing expectations or tasks to minimize or avoid the area of weakness
  • Remediation: providing instruction for improving handwriting and writing skills

Each type of strategy should be considered when planning instruction and support.”

When creating a plan to help your child succeed, you should consider implementing all three of these strategies in some form. The combination of strategies will most likely prove effective, but it’s important to speak openly with your child, his teachers, and specialists to determine what works best.

Remember that your child’s teachers may not be familiar with dysgraphia or how to help, but that doesn’t mean they are unwilling to try. Explain your child’s learning disability, refer them to the helpful websites or literature, and explain the specific challenges your child faces. More than likely, your child’s teachers will be happy to help accommodate your child and improve her experiences in the classroom.

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