“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” Maya Angelou. Have you ever had a difficult time getting your words down on paper? Probably not. My kids have amazing stories in their heads that they desperately want to get out. Luckily, they are able to speak and relay their stories. Unfortunately, I worry that many of their stories and ideas will never be heard because they will be trapped inside them.
The words are trapped due to a neurological condition called dysgraphia. Dysgraphia. Most people have heard of dyslexia (most do not completely understand it, but dyslexia in general is a whole other post). However, very few people have ever heard of dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is a learning disability that effects writing. It can be displayed in spelling, handwriting and getting your thoughts down on paper.
Dysgraphia is a learning disability that probably doesn’t affect you; however, in our house it is prevalent-in all three ways! My two boys are able to spell well on spelling tests (especially when the tests are oral-usually they get all correct), copy words/sentences/paragraphs with beautiful handwriting and dictate amazing sentences/stories with fantastic plots.
Now put them in another scenario. When they write in their journals each day, the writing looks much different. In fact, if I didn’t know it was the same person writing it then I probably would not believe it. Suddenly the spelling is crazy (usually spelled phonetically), the handwriting is almost illegible and the sentences are short and choppy (and usually not complete).
I have known that one of my kiddos has dysgraphia for two years now (obviously, he has had it his whole life but it wasn’t officially diagnosed until two years ago). I have also had a pretty good feeling that my third kiddo is following in his footsteps and now I am positive.
So the question is, what to do with kids who have a difficult time writing? Well, this is what we have done so far. We continue to work on spelling even though it doesn’t transfer over immediately. Eventually, the words will become part of the person’s memory and he will write them correctly. My goal for my oldest son this year was to be able to spell the majority of sight words correctly while free writing (as in his journal). So far, he does this about 75% of the time. When he reviews his work, he is able to catch his own misspellings which is a huge accomplishment.
We also started working on cursive with all of my kids. My youngest has struggled with handwriting all year. Over the past month, we have switched to cursive and it is going much better. Cursive prevents the letter confusion (such as b and d reversal) and blocks the letters together for each word.
We also work on writing from dictation. We do this in two ways. One: Spelling words are dictated as words and then in sentences. Second: Paragraphs/stories that each child wants to write is dictated to me. I scribe the information for them and then they copy it. Lined paper works best. We started with paper that had a block for each letter (similar to graph paper) and now have found that wide ruled lined paper works well too.
So far, we have not switched to typing or to using a speech to text software such as dragon speak; however, I do plan to use them more in the next few years. There are many tools out there to help people with dysgraphia. For now, we are still working on writing even though I know that in high school or college, they will need to know how to type and dictate into a program. Thank goodness, we have a few years!