Dysgraphia truly requires a multi-pronged approach to see the most success. Like many other learning disabilities, there is quite a wide range for how light or severe the symptoms are and how much they affect day to day life. Some children improve with lots of writing practice, some need a break from excessive amounts of writing because it just becomes overwhelming. Using a variety of tailored resources can help improve your child’s dysgraphia and cut down on their frustration.
What is Dysgraphia?
“Dysgraphia is the condition of impaired letter writing by hand, that is, disabled handwriting.” (International Dyslexia Association) Dysgraphia is more than just poor handwriting and there are multiple conditions that closely resemble dysgraphia, so educating yourself about and understanding related or comorbid conditions is paramount to teaching a child with dysgraphia. Here is a great resource for understanding what Dysgraphia is and isn’t.
Homeschooling with Dysgraphia
- Occupational Therapy- An occupational therapist can help your dyspraxic child thrive. Not only will a good OT work on your child’s biggest challenges with them at sessions but they will also work with you to give you strategies to continue at home. They will address the physical aspects of writing and other fine motor issues as well as how they handle it emotionally. If it is possible for you to see one I highly recommend at least getting a thorough evaluation so you have a good baseline to work from.
- Slant boards- Slant board help create a better posture and hand alignment for your child to write with, increases the stability of the paper, and helps with visual tracking.
- Apps- Use apps like SnapType, that was developed by an OT to reduce the amount and stress of writing. Whether they attend public, private, or homeschool this accommodation can make a big difference in the quality of their work. Grab a snapshot of their work with the iPad, open it in the app and they can touch where they need to add text and a keyboard pops up for them to enter answers.
- Reducing the amount of writing- Some kids may just get worse and worse the more they are required to write. Dysgraphia is not something that just goes away and while some kids may improve with consistent writing practice, some just may not. Reducing the amount of required writing by using assistive technology or allowing answers to be given orally can take off a lot of the pressure. Homeschooling allows for these learning adaptations, so don’t be afraid to adjust lessons to suit your child.
- Change up the way they write- Sometimes just the act of writing with a pencil puts a strain on them emotionally, it can be so difficult for a dyspraxic child to put their thoughts on paper or remember how to spell a word when they are focusing on neatness. Breaking up the monotony can help! Take your writing to another surface like a dry erase board, a chalkboard, on a table covered in shaving cream, or in a salt tray.
- Build Up Fine motor skills- Encouraging your child to play with LEGO, clay, playdough, puzzles, and simple things like gluing and cutting help to improve fine motor strength and skills which can in turn help with writing. Use whatever their favorite activity like a reward and also just plain fun, incorporate it as much as possible, they won’t even realize that they are building up strength in their hands. Check out our Fine Motor Skills Activity Packs Here.
- Typing– Typing for many children allows them to work on things like sentence structure, paragraphs, grammar, and spelling without the stress of also worrying about neatness. Find a great typing program like Typing Without Tears for your child to complete larger writing assignments.
- Try Cursive- Many children with dyspraxia find cursive much easier than print. The smooth flow of the connecting letters offers a steady movement that they find easier to master. There is less struggle with letter spacing and it seems to put less stress on the hand.
- Pencil Add Ons- There are many to choose from and you may have to try a half dozen or more before you find one that is just right. From pencil weights the encourage children to slow down their writing to those that help improve pencil grip.
- Exercise- You may not think whole-body exercise plays a part in improving dysgraphia but it certainly does. Getting plenty of exercise for the whole body improves fine and gross motor development, posture, and overall muscle tone- which will show up in their writing!
BONUS TIP: Offer smaller writing lines for your student. One mistake I made with my kiddo was thinking that he needed to perfect his letters at larger sizes BEFORE moving him to smaller lines. However, in his particular case, I noticed that his letters got much tidier when he was able to write smaller. So, don’t be afraid to try smaller lines, it may be a good fit for your kiddo too!.