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Students with Handwriting Problems or Dysgraphia

Modifications for Dysgraphia:

For some students and situations, accommodations will be inadequate to remove the barriers that their writing problems pose. Here are some ways assignments can be modified without sacrificing learning.

1. Adjust the volume:

  • Reduce the copying elements of assignments and tests. For example, if students are expected to 'answer in complete sentences that reflect the question,' have the student do this for three questions that you select, then answer the rest in phrases or words (or drawings). If students are expected to copy definitions, allow the student to shorten them or give him the definitions and have him highlight the important phrases and words or write an example or drawing of the word instead of copying the definition.

  • Reduce the length requirements on written assignments -- stress quality over quantity.

2. Change the complexity:

  • Grade different assignments on individual parts of the writing process, so that for some assignments "spelling doesn't count," for others, grammar.

  • Develop cooperative writing projects where different students can take on roles such as the 'brainstormer,' 'organizer of information,' 'writer,' 'proofreader,' and 'illustrator.'

  • Provide extra structure and intermittent deadlines for long-term assignments. Help the student arrange for someone to coach him through the stages so that he doesn't get behind. Discuss with the student and parents the possibility of enforcing the due dates by working after school with the teacher in the event a deadline arrives and the work is not up-to-date.

Change the format:

  • Offer the student an alternative project such as an oral report or visual project. Establish a rubric to define what you want the student to include. For instance, if the original assignment was a 3-page description of one aspect of the Roaring Twenties (record-breaking feats, the Harlem Renaissance, Prohibition, etc) you may want the written assignment to include:

    • A general description of that 'aspect' (with at least two details)

    • Four important people and their accomplishments

    • Four important events - when, where, who and what

    • Three good things and three bad things about the Roaring Twenties

You can evaluate the student's visual or oral presentation of that same information, in the alternative format.

Remediation for Dysgraphia:

Consider these options:

  • Build handwriting instruction into the student's schedule. The details and degree of independence will depend on the student's age and attitude, but many students would like to have better handwriting if they could.

  • If the writing problem is severe enough, the student may benefit from occupational therapy or other special education services to provide intensive remediation.

  • Keep in mind that handwriting habits are entrenched early. Before engaging in a battle over a student's grip or whether they should be writing in cursive or print, consider whether enforcing a change in habits will eventually make the writing task a lot easier for the student, or whether this is a chance for the student to make his or her own choices.

  • Teach alternative handwriting methods such as "Handwriting Without Tears."

  • Even if the student employs accommodations for writing, and uses a word processor for most work, it is still important to develop and maintain legible writing. Consider balancing accommodations and modifications in content area work with continued work on handwriting or other written language skills. For example, a student for whom you are not going to grade spelling or neatness on certain assignments may be required to add a page of spelling or handwriting practice to his portfolio.

Books on Dysgraphia and Handwriting Problems

Richards, Regina G. The Writing Dilemma: Understanding Dysgraphia. RET Center Press, 1998. This booklet defines and outlines the stages of writing, the effects of different pencil grips on writing, and dysgraphia symptoms. Guidelines are provided to identify students with dysgraphia and specific helps and compensations are provided.

Levine, Melvin. Educational Care: A System for Understanding and Helping Children with Learning Problems at Home and in School. Cambridge, MA: Educators Publishing Service, 1994. Concise, well organized descriptions of specific learning tasks, variations in the ways students process information, and concrete techniques that teachers and parents can use to bypass areas of difficulty.

Olsen, Jan Z Handwriting Without Tears.

Shannon, Molly, OTR/L Dysgraphia Defined: The Who, What, When, Where and Why of Dysgraphia - conference presentation, 10/10/98. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

When Writing's a Problem: A Description of Dysgraphia - by Regina Richards, a great starting place.

next:

Related articles:

LD OnLine In Depth: Writing (Many articles about writing and learning disabilities)

Keyboarding Programs for Students with Special Needs - part of LD OnLine's listing of Assistive Technology Resources for Students with Learning Disabilities.

Making Technology Work in the Inclusive Classroom: A Spell-Checking Strategy for Students with Learning Disabilities - 1998 - Dr. Tamarah Ashton, Ph.D. This strategy helps the student with learning disabilities get the most out of spell checking software.

From Illegible to Understandable: How Word Prediction and Speech Synthesis Can Help - 1998 - Charles A. MacArthur, Ph.D. New software helps writers by predicting the word the student wants to type and reading what s/he has written. How, and how much, does this help with student writing and spelling?

Speech Recognition Software - Daniel J. Rozmiarek, University of Delaware, February 1998 - A review of the new continuous speech recognition software now available.

A Manual For Implementing Dragon Dictate - 1998 - John Lubert and Scott Campbell. A step-by-step manual for helping students with learning disabilities "train" Dragon Dictate to recognize their speech.


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

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