In this Episode
What if you have a student who is a great speaker, but hates writing. Their writing is illegible, full of spelling mistakes, and number and letter reversals.
It’s dyslexia, right?
Not necessarily. The symptoms look similar on the outside, but the student may have dysgraphia which primarily affects a person’s physical ability to write.
In this week’s podcast episode, Lauren Ma and I share strategies for helping students with dysgraphia.
In this week's episode, you'll learn:
- What is dysgraphia
- Common symptoms of dysgraphia
- Writing and proofreading strategies to help a student with dysgraphia
“In this digital age, is handwriting a waste of time? Handwriting has a physiological and psychological link in the brain that impacts integration, attention, fluency and learning. It also has an impact on emotional regulation.”
- Jill Stowell
- Exercise for dysgraphia - Herman Method demonstrated
- Step Up to Writing - Overview of one of the writing programs used at Stowell Learning Centers
So how old is too old to work on handwriting?
Tune in to the Bonus Q&A to hear this discussion and more about what we look for when testing for dysgraphia.
[00:00:00.760] - Jill Stowell
Have you ever tried to write something with your non-dominant hand? It's such a strange feeling. You know how to write and you know what you want to say, but neither of those things works as well as it should when you're writing with the wrong hand, because so much energy is going into trying to make your hand do what you want it to do. Today we're talking about dysgraphia, which can feel a little bit like writing with the wrong hand. We'll talk about what it is and how you can help your child who has difficulty getting words from brain to paper. This is LD Expert Live.
[00:00:50.360] - Jill Stowell
Welcome to the LD Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for dyslexia learning and attention challenges. I'm your host, Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and author of a brand new book, Take the Stone Out of the Shoe: A Must have Guide to Understanding, Supporting, and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning, and Attention Challenges. This book will help you understand why some bright children and teens have more difficulty than expected in school. It provides simple, practical tools for supporting struggling students at home and in the classroom. Most importantly, it presents real solutions and the science behind them.
[00:01:40.010] - Jill Stowell
Today we are talking about dysgraphia. Students with Dysgraphia may have difficulty with the physical writing process as well as getting their ideas from head to paper. I remember my very first dysgraphic student. He was one of those kids who, on the surface, seemed like he had it all. He was bright, popular, good at sports, good at conversation. But he was failing many of his classes because he refused to do his homework.
[00:02:13.990] - Jill Stowell
At first his parents thought that it was just sort of a teenage rebellion thing. His teachers thought it was a motivation problem. And this was very early on for me in my practice. And I thought the problem with getting homework done was a time management and organization issue. Well, after working with him for a very brief period of time, though, I realized that there was some kind of roadblock between his brain and his hand. Jordan could not get his thoughts down on paper. It wasn't that he couldn't physically write, but the process of getting words from the pencil to the paper was slow and laborious. His mind went so much faster than he could write and spell that his thoughts were jumbled and incoherent on the page.
[00:03:12.490] - Jill Stowell
Writing requires a complex combination of visual, motor, language and cognitive processing skills. So just as with dyslexia, dysgraphia is a fairly broad term with many subtypes. And of course, each dysgraphic learner is unique. Here are some common characteristics that we see with Dysgraphia.
[00:03:39.940] - Jill Stowell
Too tight or too light Pencil grip and pressure. Awkward or unusual wrist, body or paper position when writing. Poor spacing of margins, words and letters on the page. Frequent erasing, poor spelling including unfinished words or missing words or letters. Write slower than typical same-age peers. Mixed upper and lowercase letters when writing words and sentences. Irregular and inconsistent letter formation. Size spacing and placement. Letter and number reversals. Avoid writing tasks and difficulty with written organization and expression.
[00:04:30.810] - Jill Stowell
Even though they may have good ideas when speaking, students with Dysgraphia can be confusing to parents and teachers because they seem like they can write neatly if they want to. You may have seen this with your child. Most of the time their writing is messy and illegible. But if they really try, if they slow down, they can write beautifully. So let's do a little experiment with your dominant hand. I want you to write your first and last name as fast as you can, and I'll give you a couple of seconds to do that.
[00:05:15.500] - Jill Stowell
Now I want you to do the same thing with your non-dominant hand. Write as fast as you can. Okay? Now write your name with your non-dominant hand as neatly as you can. What did it take to write neatly? I'll bet it took a lot of concentration and time. In fact, you might still be writing.
[00:05:53.680] - Jill Stowell
So could you do that all day long during a school day? I mean, you could do it if you wanted to, but could you do it all day and all the way through your homework writing that slowly? Well, neither can our dysgraphic students.
[00:06:14.450] - Jill Stowell
Handwriting requires kinesthetic feedback in order to guide the hand and the body, to make the adjustments needed to apply the appropriate pencil pressure, and to write with accuracy and ease.
[00:06:30.200] - Jill Stowell
Students with Dysgraphia may not be getting enough kinesthetic feedback or feedback from their body. At the learning center, programming for our dysgraphic students often starts with core learning skills training or the core learning skills level of the learning skills continuum. You'll see that core learning skills are at the bottom of the continuum. All learning sits on this foundation of visual and motor skills and of movement.
[00:07:03.050] - Jill Stowell
When skills are lagging here, it doesn't matter how young or old you are, it will make things more difficult. Students doing core learning skills training are guided through increasingly complex visual, motor and balance activities to increase the brain body connections and build their awareness and control of speed, force and movement.
[00:07:32.050] - Jill Stowell
Now, adding a timing component to virtually any activity is very regulating. It is particularly important with grapple motor skills. There is a rhythm to writing, and if we're going to move our kids from drawing letters to writing them automatically, they need that flow. I remember a boy who was about eleven or twelve whose writing was completely illegible. It was painful to watch him try to write.
[00:08:05.080] - Jill Stowell
I had just learned the technique that I just showed you, and I'll give a shout out here to the Herman Method, which was my first exposure to this writing strategy. So Sean was probably actually one of the first students I used it with as well. We had to work at the Metronome a little bit. But man, as soon as he locked into the rhythm of it, his writing instantly changed. It was remarkable. I had never seen anything like it.
[00:08:38.000] - Jill Stowell
Now, in this digital age, you might be thinking, okay, but teaching handwriting is kind of a waste of time now. But handwriting has a physiological and psychological link in the brain that impacts integration, attention, fluency, and learning. It also has an impact on emotional regulation. Our brain likes repetitive movement and rhythm. The repetitive multisensory stimulation of handwriting skills training impacts the emotional brain to reduce anxiety, increase motivation, and gain impulse control.
[00:09:21.050] - Jill Stowell
We've been talking about challenges around the physical writing process. And as many of you said, for some students the bigger challenge is with the actual organization and expression of their ideas in writing. These students may have trouble getting their ideas down quickly, or they lose their train of thought, or they just freeze up when they have to write. They may have trouble telling a story in writing and so they end up kind of starting in the middle. Sometimes they leave out important facts or details or never get to the point. Or they may put in too much information and make the same point over and over.
[00:10:05.900] - Jill Stowell
Orthographic processing or the ability to use the visual system to form, store and recall words is often impacted with both Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. So what happens is these students tend to write with words that they can spell. So their written language is far below the level of their oral language.
[00:10:30.650] - Jill Stowell
So I'm going to go through a strategy with you. This is a very effective strategy for helping students get their thoughts onto paper and get started and make their writing more interesting. It's what we call five minute power writing.
[00:10:50.150] - Jill Stowell
So here's the premise behind this. It is easier to write from a question then from a topic or like a title. So what you want to do is when the teacher gives the student a topic to write from, you want them to turn it into a question. Then they're going to visualize the answer to that question from their images. They're going to come up with three picture words. So usually nouns or verbs, three words that are going to create a mental picture.
[00:11:41.080] - Jill Stowell
Then when they get ready to write, the first word in the paragraph is going to be one of those three picture words. So it gives them a word to start with, and then the other two will be in the first paragraph somewhere you're going to set a timer for five minutes and they are going to just start writing as fast as they can.
[00:12:04.480] - Jill Stowell
Now remember, they're starting with one of those three words and they're just going to start writing. They don't stop, they don't think, they don't correct it. They don't erase anything. They don't worry about spelling. They just go. And then at the end of the five minutes, then they can go back and edit for clarity and proofread.
[00:12:26.380] - Jill Stowell
So some of you were asking about kind of this issue with comprehension. Well, with comprehension, what we want to do is we want to take language and turn it into images to visualize. And with this strategy, we're using kind of that same technique that visualizing to work from. So they're going to visualize the answer to their question, and from there then they have content to write with. So let's demonstrate this with Lauren. So Lauren, let's just pretend that you are, say, a 6th grade student.
[00:13:13.870] - Lauren Ma
[00:13:14.840] - Jill Stowell
And your topic is back to school.
[00:13:19.330] - Lauren Ma
[00:13:19.840] - Jill Stowell
So as soon as I say back to school, what pops into your mind?
[00:13:26.230] - Lauren Ma
Like new school supplies.
[00:13:29.530] - Jill Stowell
New. Okay, so are you happy about that? I mean, is that sort of an exciting thing about the beginning?
[00:13:38.700] - Lauren Ma
Yeah. Excited to have new things and a fresh start.
[00:13:41.650] - Jill Stowell
Okay, so let's take that idea and just turn it into a question. So what question could you make?
[00:13:53.150] - Lauren Ma
How do you feel about heading back to school?
[00:13:56.720] - Jill Stowell
Okay, great. And so you can help your child. Sometimes it's hard for kids, especially if they have comprehension problems, to come up with questions. You may have to help them. So she says, how do you feel about going back to school? Right. Is that what you said?
[00:14:13.130] - Lauren Ma
[00:14:13.850] - Jill Stowell
That would be a great question. It could be something like, what is exciting about going back to school? Or what are you nervous about going back to school? The topic was just back to school. And so whatever pops into their mind, let's create a question about it. So Lauren, your question was how do you feel about going back to school? All right. I want you to picture that in your mind. Picture the answer to that question. What do you picture?
[00:14:45.950] - Lauren Ma
I picture, like, excitement and kind of like the new things, like new school supplies and a new backpack and just kind of the new beginning of a year.
[00:15:04.930] - Jill Stowell
Okay, and are you picturing those things in your mind? Are you kind of picturing heading into school with those things?
[00:15:12.490] - Lauren Ma
Yeah. So brand new backpack and new shiny, like school supplies, excitement on my face, and even like a calendar. Now I'm kind of visualizing a calendar with like an arrow at the beginning because it's like the beginning of a school year to start or something.
[00:15:30.130] - Jill Stowell
And all of you watching, you can see that she's visualizing because her eyes are up, and that tells you that her visual system is working there. Okay, so from your pictures, Lauren, I want you to come up with three words that kind of create a mental picture. So three words from your picture, and I'll give you an example. Like, one of them could be school supplies. I mean, I know that's two words, but it's one thing, so that could be one. What's another one?
[00:16:04.700] - Lauren Ma
Excitement. Okay. Yeah. And another. I mean, I would say fresh start, even though that is two words or beginning. But fresh start I think is more of a visual image for me.
[00:16:21.380] - Jill Stowell
We'Ve got our three things, and now you're going to write. And for our purposes here, I'm not actually going to have her, right? Because that would be really boring for you to watch. But you're going to write for five minutes without stopping as fast as you can, and you have to start with one of your three words, and then the other two have to be in your paragraph. Okay, so which word do you want to use at the start? What's going to be the one you start with?
[00:16:56.450] - Lauren Ma
[00:16:57.730] - Jill Stowell
Okay, so you're going to start with the word excitement, and then you're just going to write as fast as you can for five minutes. Don't stop for anything. Don't erase nothing. Okay, so let's pretend you're doing that. What would you say for your first sentence or two?
[00:17:14.450] - Lauren Ma
Okay. Excitement fills the air as I put on my new backpack and get ready for my first day of school.
[00:17:22.250] - Jill Stowell
Wow, that was an awesome sentence. You know, when I first tried out this technique myself, I was so surprised at what flowed out, starting with the keyword and then just writing as fast as I could. I mean, I was really surprised at what you found. This is a great technique for helping students to get started and to make their writing more interesting. And it does connect with comprehension because having that visual image, it just gives them something to work with and backing up even further. Starting with a question. It's so much easier to picture the answer to a question than just a blanket topic, right?
[00:18:16.000] - Lauren Ma
Yeah. We've seen this technique work with a number of students that have struggled with writing and just even like kids with even with some speech and language delays. Like, think about how I had to word my sentence because I was starting with a noun which isn't typical in sentence structure. Kind of excitement filled the air instead of I was excited for school.
[00:18:38.900] - Lauren Ma
So we've really seen it be really effective with kids that have language issues because they have to kind of restructure their language and it varies the sentence structure and makes their writing so much more rich and exciting. So great technique.
[00:18:54.420] - Lauren Ma
We had a high school student, speaking of older kids who when he came to us, couldn't write a paragraph. I mean, himself truly and really struggled. And we worked on this power write process with him every single day. He came for an intensive in the summer, and by the end of summer, he was writing essays on his own time, and when he went back to school, his writing had significantly improved and he was able to write in-class essays. It was amazing the transformation that he made. And he just used to be so stuck and so it's a great technique for helping to get those words out.
[00:19:31.930] - Jill Stowell
It really is. And I will tell you, I actually wrote most of my book At Wit's End with this technique.
[00:19:41.450] - Lauren Ma
So yeah, absolutely.
[00:19:43.150] - Jill Stowell
It's a good one. Thank you, Lauren, for being my student. This is LD Expert Live and we're talking about Dysgraphia. If you have a child who hates writing, then I guarantee your child also hates proofreading. It's so painful to get it down on paper in the first place. And then to have someone point out all of your mistakes is pretty defeating. So I'm sure your kids do not like to go back and correct or proofread.
[00:20:15.480] - Jill Stowell
So I want to give you a quick strategy that makes proofreading more palatable and helps your child be more independent with it. This is something that I learned many years ago through the Strategies Intervention Model out of University of Kansas. It's called COPS. So COPS stands for Capitalization, Overall appearance, Punctuation and Spelling. And here's how it works.
[00:20:41.380] - Jill Stowell
The student is going to write maybe it's a sentence, a paragraph, a paper, doesn't matter how long it is, whatever it is, every single thing they write, they should do COPS. So they're going to read whatever they wrote sentence by sentence and check for capitalization. And then when they've gone through it and they've fixed all their capitals, they check it off.
[00:21:05.600] - Jill Stowell
And that feels really rewarding. I did something and I checked it off. Now they're going to look at overall appearance. So they need to look at their paper and just see are there any words that are squished together or anything that's kind of hard to read? Any places where they didn't erase completely enough so that the overall appearance of the paper looks good and then check it off.
[00:21:29.980] - Jill Stowell
And then punctuation, they'll go through sentence by sentence, checking for punctuation, did I put a period at the end? And whatever other punctuation they have at their age. Now spelling. And then they'll check off punctuation.
[00:21:47.680] - Jill Stowell
Now spelling is a little bit different. They're going to start at the end. Spelling is hard to proofread because we already know what we want it to say. And so our eye tends to just gloss over it, even if it's not spelled correctly. But if you go to the end of the sentence and you go word by word from the end of the sentence, it takes the words out of context and so our brain can look at it a little bit easier. And what we want for our kids is we always teach them, read the word slowly to check the sounds, does it sound right?
[00:22:28.550] - Jill Stowell
And then quickly look at it to see if it looks right. So when they're proofreading for spelling, they'll start at the end of the sentence, go word by word, checking. Does it sound right? Does it look right?
[00:22:47.450] - Jill Stowell
We had a student who was dysgraphic. He was working on a lot of different things. And his mom called one afternoon, and she was just, like, truly at her wits end. She said, every time he writes and he was in 6th or 7th grade, so we had to do a lot of writing. Every time he writes, he makes so many mistakes. And when I sit down to go through it with him, he absolutely has a meltdown, and I just can't do it anymore.
[00:23:17.530] - Jill Stowell
I taught her this COPS strategy over the phone, and then she worked with him on it. The next day, she called me up and she said, oh, my gosh, he wrote a paper. And when I came to help him correct it, he said, you don't need to help me. I can do COPS. So she was so excited about this that she actually made those little bookmarks that you saw in the last slide there.
[00:23:50.150] - Jill Stowell
She made those for all of our students, those COPS bookmarks, because it was such an empowering strategy for them. Using the tools that we've talked about today will not completely overcome challenges with Dysgraphia, but these are really solid, successful strategies, so I encourage you to give them a try. There are many pieces to the Dysgraphia puzzle, but just as with Dyslexia and other learning differences, when we identify and develop the supporting underlying neurodevelopmental and processing skills, the difficulties of associated with Dysgraphia can be eliminated.
[00:00:00.540] - Lauren Ma
A lot of people from all over checking in. We have Chandra from Dallas, Texas, saying hello. Hello and welcome. We have Samantha checking in from Grand Rapids, Michigan. And she also adds that her son hates writing. We also have Stephanie saying, my son hates it with a little sad emoji. Yes, lots of sad emojis today.
[00:00:26.510] - Lauren Ma
We have Casey from Carmel, Indiana. My eight year old is struggling to write. And Shauncie - I hope I said that right - has three dyslexic dysgraphic sons. They hate writing physically, mentally, the organization and the structure. And absolutely just as Jill is saying, because it includes all those components, it's kind of like any one of those can be kind of a hitch to writing. And that's what we hear from our parents all the time, is that kids just hate it. They hate writing and they resist it.
[00:01:01.540] - Lauren Ma
We have Heather checking in from Ashland, Oregon. Welcome. So keep posting, parents, your kids experience with writing. How do they feel about it? We do have a question in mom squad, we went through kind of that graph of motor sequence. And let me tell you, that is such a powerful technique, that skill of developing muscle memory and visualization of letters.
[00:01:28.530] - Lauren Ma
I can't tell you how many of our kids, when we go and we test their writing, we do writing samples. It looks like they draw their letters. They're not actually they don't have that, like, muscle memory. Like, you know, if I go to write a G, I'm going to start in the same place and make the same stroke every single time.
[00:01:46.770] - Lauren Ma
And we have kids let me see if I can even they might start down here and go up. They might start up here and go down. It might look like a nine, it might be backwards. It might look like a six. And it's like every time they go to put pencil to paper, they're guessing and they're drawing. And so that technique, that graphic motor sequence that Jill showed is so powerful because it's helping them to develop that muscle memory of, like, this is how I always make a G and then associate it with the sound is so powerful.
[00:02:16.500] - Jill Stowell
I love that adding the rhythm in there really anchors all of that. That sort of pulls it all together.
[00:02:24.450] - Lauren Ma
Yes. To make it automatic. Because that's the other thing. It's like if you have to think about what your letter looks like every single time you make it, it's just going to bottleneck the entire process. So really powerful technique that we've seen in our learning centers. I do have a parent asking in mom squad, just kind of in regards to this graph of motor training, she asked, how old is too old to work on handwriting. She has a 13 year old son, and his writing is atrocious. So how old is too old to work on handwriting?
[00:02:58.610] - Jill Stowell
You know, it is never too old to work on any of these skills because the brain continues, it continues to have the ability to change with training. You know, by 13, there are some pretty ingrained habits. Pencil grip is very difficult to change as students get older, but I would definitely go after it. And because you're using a little bit different medium, you're using that fat chalk and you're using fat crayons, so you might be able to start to adjust the pencil grip a little bit with that.
[00:03:43.380] - Jill Stowell
It's going to be harder if you try to get them to do it with a pencil right away. But with these fatter implements, you might be able to get him to do that, but then adding that rhythm in that's just going to make a huge difference. And I'm sure you all know this, but you can get a Metronome on your phone now, so don't even have to go out and buy one. But yeah, it's not too late. And being on great big, large paper and doing it really big on a chalkboard or on the ground, it just makes it different than trying to practice handwriting on paper. So start there with the large muscles and the rhythm and have some fun with it.
[00:04:34.760] - Lauren Ma
Absolutely. Stephanie, we were reading your mind. She also has a 13 year old, so it's kind of two moms, same brain, and so piggybacking off of that. She's also asking about her 13 year old. Is this effective? So we answered your question even before you ask it. Great. We have some more people kind of checking in. As we've been talking, heather says she's here to find additional tools for struggling dysgraphic Middle schoolers. So, again, that teenage population that struggles with writing for so long, and we said that it's not too late.
[00:05:10.760] - Lauren Ma
We have Virginia, and I don't know if you're saying you're from Virginia or that's your name, but your kid hates writing. Definitely. We have Courtney here. My eleven year old just started private school. Tough to know how much to depend on assistive technology and how much to keep working on handwriting when peers are long past this. And we hear this a lot. Again, talking about this age factor. A lot of schools will eventually come in and accommodate if a child struggles with dysgraphia and just provide assistive technology, either speech to text or some kind of typing technology. And so parents do struggle with that.
[00:05:52.950] - Lauren Ma
Do you have any advice how much once they get to a certain age?
[00:05:59.440] - Jill Stowell
We run into this kind of a question all the time because at the learning centers, what we're really doing, you may come to us for issues with writing or reading, and we're going to look at the underlying skills that are causing those academic pieces to be difficult. And so some of the kinds of things that we need to do to build the foundation in there aren't going to look like school. And there's going to be a period of time where there's a gap between what they're doing at school and what they're doing to correct the issue ultimately, and eventually that gap is going to close.
[00:06:38.590] - Jill Stowell
But in the meantime, I would certainly say when there are supports in place, you want your child to be able to keep up. And so if they've got supports for them, absolutely use them. I just encourage people, you know, we don't want to think about putting supports in place that your child is going to have to use forever. We want to use it while they need it and then build those underlying skills so that they're not going to have to in the long run. Most teachers are really requiring, I want to say typewritten, but printed papers and things now.
[00:07:23.820] - Jill Stowell
So make sure your child takes a keyboarding class and can really do that quickly. And I would continue to work with grapple motor skills. There's just great connections going on in the brain there. But use the assistive technology as well to help him keep up for her.
[00:07:45.640] - Lauren Ma
Absolutely. We have Marley or Marley. I'm currently in the process of getting my ADHD son tested for Dyslexia. He's in fifth grade and struggles to write and hold a pencil. And Courtney has another follow up question with her eleven year old. How often do you need to do these activities to see progress?
[00:08:13.990] - Jill Stowell
Let me go back to the first one about holding a pencil. We find that some of them like mechanical pencils. Now, if they have a really super hard grip, they may end up breaking the lead a lot. But mechanical pencils have different sizes, different grips, they feel different. And so you might just do some exploring with your child to see what feels comfortable in their hand, most comfortable.
[00:08:45.490] - Jill Stowell
And then they might, you know, have their special pencil that they really, really like. And then in terms of how often to do them, because most of the things that we do and that we talk about are really looking to break old habits and make new neuropathways in the brain. And so as frequently as possible, you want to do that. So if you're doing this grapple motor exercise, you want to do it ten or 15 minutes each day, just devote a little bit of time. And if you can't do it every single day, aim for every day. And if you miss one or two, then it's not going to be a big deal. But you want to do it frequently in short bursts, right?
[00:09:33.990] - Lauren Ma
Because you're really literally retraining the brain and all these old patterns. Absolutely. Marley ads, or Marley adds he also struggles to tie his shoes. So that kind of is in line with what you're saying with the fine motor skills and tie bags. He hates writing. I have tried almost everything I could think of to help him. And so we definitely hear that. She says she's in Massachusetts. How and where can I go to get my son tested for Dysgraphia.
[00:10:08.810] - Jill Stowell
I don't have anywhere off the top of my head to refer you to. You would have to check around a little bit. We do remote as well as on site evaluations and so you can contact our office and we can do testing and sessions with you remotely.
[00:10:38.890] - Lauren Ma
Absolutely. And we do, we look at even if it's remote, we look at a writing sample. We want to look to see how they're forming their letters. We may have you upload or send us some pictures of writing samples. We can do different kind of writing evaluations to see how they write in the moment, kind of under pressure to a prompt or what happens when it's just free writing. Because you can look at a lot of different skills there. Is it a time constriction, an organization problem? Is it language and getting ideas down on paper? Because all of those are involved.
[00:11:14.660] - Lauren Ma
Let's see. I hope again, I'm saying that correctly. Just asking as well as for Dyslexia. So asking for the same thing for Dysgraphia, but as well, are there diagnostic tools for Dyslexia as well?
[00:11:32.740] - Jill Stowell
There are, and we test for Dyslexia. I find that it should be much more common in the schools now to test for Dyslexia. Many states are kind of mandating that they do that, but also people don't quite know how to test for Dyslexia or what to do about it. So, again, you just really have to check and ask specifically with your school, with your, with any evaluators that you're calling. But we do both Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.
[00:12:18.260] - Lauren Ma
And I see Shauncy kind of commented and responded, just saying that school district OT evaluation sometimes can be helpful if you are at a public school and OT can look at that. As far as Dysgraphia, if they're really looking at some underlying motor fine motor difficulties and delays. Thank you.
[00:12:42.450] - Jill Stowell
And when you're talking about the difficulty with tying shoes and all of that, those fine motor issues. Yes.
[00:12:50.050] - Lauren Ma
Great. We have Olga asking, she said thank you for the topic. Our kid has high functioning autism and struggles with writing and reading comprehension. More information to help him out and to help him improve. So any suggestions in regards to the comprehension element of writing?
[00:13:10.990] - Jill Stowell
You know, I am actually going to give you a technique that is kind of connected with comprehension. After we finish with questions, I'm going to give you a technique for that.
[00:13:26.510] - Lauren Ma
Perfect. Yes. Looking forward to that. Let me see. Ally is saying, I have a twelve year old son. He has beautiful penmanship, but it does hurt him and it takes them a long time to write. The other thing that he struggles with is organizing his thoughts and getting those thoughts on paper. The ideation and starting is really hard for him. What part of the scrappy is that? Or is that something else, like just getting started?
[00:13:59.210] - Jill Stowell
There really are a lot of pieces there that you said. I mean, the fact that he can write beautifully, but it hurts him. He's probably drawing those letters and putting a lot of intention into that. And so just working on the flow, which we showed in the grapple motor sequence, again, especially once you get the metronome involved, the flow of writing just so that so much of his mental energy isn't going into getting the letters down on paper. So even though it's beautiful, it's taking a lot of energy for him, and that needs to be more automatic. And then a lot of dysgraphic learners have difficulty, even kids who aren't dysgraphic often have difficulty just getting started. And again, the technique I'm going to show you will help with that.
[00:14:56.640] - Lauren Ma
Yes. Excited for that. Mirava is commenting about their experience as a student. My teacher used to take points off in tests because she couldn't understand what I wrote and because I had so many errors to let her understand which part of the text in the page comes after another. So I guess writing it wasn't organized, and then a lot of errors just to help with that. Kind of like, this is what I meant, or this is the flow of ideas, definitely. And as I can still find it hard for job interviews and other areas of my life.
[00:15:31.180] - Lauren Ma
So that is why it's crucial when we say, yes, assistive technology absolutely helps. But your child is eventually going to grow up and needs to be able to write quickly, or we don't want them to struggle forever. So that's why it is important to work on and develop those underlying skills. Thank you for sharing.
[00:15:52.540] - Jill Stowell
We had a high school student on one of our shows a while back. She had auditory processing disorder. So it's a different issue. But the bottom line is you've got to help the teachers understand because, you know, for her with Auditory Processing disorder, they have no idea how exhausted she was and the fact that she couldn't get all that information. And her mom kind of taught her from the time she was about eight years old, how to start to advocate for herself. And so together with your child, who's dysgraphic, you know, it may look like they're just rushing or they don't really care, or they're just trying to get it done.
[00:16:39.640] - Jill Stowell
I mean, those are typical things that people say, but that is not the case at all. And so, you know, you may have to do some education to the teacher of dysgraphia. Many teachers don't really know what that is. They're not really taught that. And that empowers your child too, to go in and say, here's what I'm dealing with, here's what this means for me, and I need a little bit more time, or if you don't know what I'm saying, can you ask me so that I can tell you? The teachers need to understand and helping your child to self advocate a little bit with you alongside when they're young is really powerful.
[00:17:25.990] - Lauren Ma
Absolutely. We have one more and then I see a lot of questions in regards to written expression and getting started and so I want to make sure that we get to that technique. So Nicolette kind of asking a separate question. Our OT expert at the school stated there was nothing to do to help older dysgraphic students but to teach them how to type. This opens a whole other world, a whole open door for offering to help to build these motor skills for written expression.
[00:17:56.410] - Lauren Ma
So kind of just making that correlation again to the age of a student and an expert saying just teach them how to type, use assistive technology, they're too old, we're not going to spend time with that. And so we have definitely seen that older students can absolutely get over this barrier and can learn how to write and for those hindrances to go away as far as letter formation, to be able to be quick, to be able to take notes in class, all of those things. So we've definitely seen that we do not believe that to be true, that you just need to teach them how to take and get around it.
[00:18:39.410] - Jill Stowell
Right. But I will say that now they are unlearning some pretty deep habits the older they are. And so that becomes challenging because it's kind of like the brain, the brain can reroute, it can with training, but it takes, you know, it takes some time and definitely consistency and typing is a very important skill in this day and age. So definitely take advantage of that as well.
[00:19:12.410] - Lauren Ma
Jess is asking, she came in a bit late. My son was diagnosed with a written expression disorder. Is that the same as Dysgraphia? Is that in the same vein as Dysgraphia? Some advice on that.
[00:19:27.790] - Jill Stowell
That's really interesting. I put it under the umbrella of Dysgraphia. Some experts put it under that umbrella and some kind of separate that, but essentially yes, it's still the issue of getting the thoughts organized and out onto paper.
[00:19:48.710] - Lauren Ma
Yes. And NP, this is the question about the process that we just explained. Hearing a lot of great ideas for improving handwriting. Would love additional input for how to help to translate thoughts into written word after the fine motor and handwriting has improved. So that power right technique is I'm telling you, it is a game changer.
[00:20:12.040] - Lauren Ma
So if you want to go back, you can always access the show afterwards it's recorded, go back and listen to that part and get that technique down. That is something that we recommend that you do to deal with that issue. Let's see, we have Jess again asking yes. My son was also diagnosed with auditory processing disorder and reading and writing seems to tire him out. Do we see that often with auditory issues that writing is also a challenge?
[00:20:45.790] - Jill Stowell
We do honestly, I see auditory processing connected to so many, so many things. And Jess, just listening to you, I think, oh my gosh, she needs to call us. But yes, I do see that connection.
[00:21:01.600] - Jill Stowell
A lot of times with auditory processing, what's happening is the student is not getting complete information when they're listening because there are just gaps, their auditory delay, they can't keep up and so they're always trying to connect the dots, which gets in the way of comprehension and then expressive language. There's a lot there that contributes to language organization and getting it out. So there isn't always but certainly we do see that overlap and then overlapping into reading and spelling.
[00:21:41.960] - Lauren Ma
Absolutely. Denise is asking can fine motor issues be different than dysgraphia? She has a ten year old boy with ADHD, sensory processing disorder and vision therapy. Writing and tying shoes. Hates drawing unless it's swords or something else she has fixated on, and she's from Austin, Texas. So fine motor and dysgraphia, there's a connection, but it can also be separate.
[00:22:11.290] - Jill Stowell
Yes. And sometimes you get this dysgraphic issue that is really almost confined to the area of writing. And with other students you have the motor issues and the sensory processing issues that are bigger. So dysgraphia may be a piece of that, but there's just a bigger challenge there. When I talked about working at the core learning level, there's just a lot of issues going on at the core learning level that really need to be addressed. Probably retained reflexes and then a lot of integration and crossing the mid line and all different gross motor, fine motor, sensory motor skills. So there's just a lot at that level that's just bigger than dysgraphia only makes sense.
[00:23:12.940] - Lauren Ma
We have some debate in the chat. This is a long one. And if you want to comment and kind of add to this thread. We have some parents kind of responding to each other just in regards to writing instruction in schools. Traditional writing instruction in school. Most dyslexic and dysgraphic students didn't receive enough writing instruction with explicit and repetition in kindergarten through third grade.
[00:23:36.340] - Lauren Ma
The students I think relied on the alphabet so available and printed across the top of the room. But once these students reach fourth grade and above, the alphabet was not available on the wall for them to copy anymore. And without explicit instruction, this causes much more struggles with their memory and motor for forming letters.
[00:23:55.050] - Lauren Ma
Yes, we see that all the time. Sometimes when we are testing, most often when we're testing for dyslexia, we actually have the student write the alphabet for us from memory. And I cannot tell you how many students, even teenagers or highly intelligent students, yes, even adults cannot remember the alphabet. And sometimes we get kids that will start singing to try to help them remember. But just even being able to recall visually what a letter looks like without having it in front of them that's where you really need to do some kind of an evaluation to see how that skill breaks down without those classroom prompts.
[00:24:34.320] - Lauren Ma
Absolutely. And then parents are kind of commenting on that thread. Yes, I've seen this with my kids. Absolutely. So that's something to look out for. To parents. It's just like, are they drawing letters? That's what a lot of parents are commenting on. That comment you made, Jill, about get kids with dysgraphia sometimes draw their letters instead of form their letters. Nicolette asks, can dyslexia and auditory processing disorder look like the same thing?
[00:25:09.640] - Jill Stowell
Yes, there are definitely some things that are going to be overlaps there with dyslexia. You usually also have a visual component in there, but there's a huge auditory piece to reading. And so if your brain is not processing all of the sounds accurately, then you're going to have difficulty. You may have difficulty speaking and pronouncing words, and you'll have difficulty then with that, with the auditory piece of reading, which is phonemic awareness. Phonological awareness, sounding out words. So there's a lot of overlap, a lot of these things, you know, kind of overlap. Which is why it's so critical to really get in and evaluate for this individual student what are the pieces that are not supporting them well enough.
[00:26:07.720] - Lauren Ma
Absolutely. That's why really, even when a student comes to us with a diagnosis, we need to see what does that look like, what skills, what individual skills are breaking down. Because a diagnosis can be very broad.
- Episode 56: Executive Function, Procrastination, and Strategies – Natalie Borrell and Alison Grant
- Episode 55: How Processing Skills Impact Behavior and Attention – Jill Stowell
- Episode 54: Teen Anxiety – Jamie Roberts
- Episode 53: Anxiety, Attention, Behavior and Learning – Jill Stowell
- Episode 52: Stealth Dyslexia and the Trauma of Undiagnosed and Untreated Learning Challenges – Dr. John Danial
Listen, Watch and subscribe
Subscribe to the LD Expert podcast in your preferred player and sign up for our weekly newsletter. Get the answers and proven solutions for dyslexia, learning differences and attention challenges sent directly to your inbox.