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Students with Handwriting Problems or Dysgraphia

Accommodations and Modifications: Help for Students with Dysgraphia

Many students struggle to produce neat, expressive written work, whether or not they have accompanying physical or cognitive difficulties. They may learn much less from an assignment because they must focus on writing mechanics instead of content. After spending more time on an assignment than their peers, these students understand the material less. Not surprisingly, belief in their ability to learn suffers. When the writing task is the primary barrier to learning or demonstrating knowledge, then accommodations, modifications, and remediation for these problems may be in order.

There are sound academic reasons for students to write extensively. Writing is a complex task that takes years of practice to develop. Effective writing helps people remember, organize, and process information. However, for some students writing is a laborious exercise in frustration that does none of those things. Two students can labor over the same assignment. One may labor with organizing the concepts and expressing them, learning a lot from the 'ordeal.' The other will force words together, perhaps with greater effort (perhaps less if the language and information has not been processed), with none of the benefits either to developing writing skills or organizing and expressing knowledge.

How can a teacher determine when and what accommodations are merited? The teacher should meet with the student and/or parent(s), to express concern about the student's writing and listen to the student's perspective. It is important to stress that the issue is not that the student can't learn the material or do the work, but that the writing problems may be interfering with learning instead of helping. Discuss how the student can make up for what writing doesn't seem to be providing -- are there other ways he can be sure to be learning? Are there ways to learn to write better? How can writing assignments be changed to help him learn the most from those assignments? From this discussion, everyone involved can build a plan of modifications, accommodations, and remediations that will engage the student in reaching his best potential.

SIGNS OF DYSGRAPHIA:

Generally illegible writing (despite appropriate time and attention given the task)

Inconsistencies : mixtures of print and cursive, upper and lower case, or irregular sizes, shapes, or slant of letters

Unfinished words or letters, omitted words

Inconsistent position on page with respect to lines and margins

Inconsistent spaces between words and letters

Cramped or unusual grip, especially

  • holding the writing instrument very close to the paper, or

  • holding thumb over two fingers and writing from the wrist

Strange wrist, body, or paper position

Talking to self while writing, or carefully watching the hand that is writing

Slow or labored copying or writing - even if it is neat and legible

Content which does not reflect the student's other language skills

What to do about Dysgraphia:

  • Accommodate -- reduce the impact that writing has on learning or expressing knowledge -- without substantially changing the process or the product.

  • Modify -- change the assignments or expectations to meet the student's individual needs for learning.

  • Remediate - provide instruction and opportunity for improving handwriting

Accomodations for Dysgraphia:

When considering accommodating or modifying expectations to deal with dysgraphia, consider changes in:

  • the rate of producing written work,

  • the volume of the work to be produced,

  • the complexity of the writing task, and

  • the tools used to produce the written product, and

  • the format of the product.

 


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Last Updated: 13 February 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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