Dysgraphia is one of the most common problems that we see at Harp. Students are having an extremely difficult time thinking and writing at the same time, now more than ever before. They can't seem to get the messages from their brains to their hands in an organized manner.
These students can verbally tell you a story that will blow your mind. But ask them to write it, and presto, it's gone. What happened between the idea to the writing part? Many things.
To start with, these kids have brains that work faster than their hands. Some people think the answer is to have them type, but most students can't type as fast as they think either. Unless they are extremely good typists, they are still left in the dark as far as writing goes.
At Harp, we believe all kids can learn to write and write well. It takes breaking down the writing process into little pieces and then slowly adding pieces bit-by-bit. For instance, we never ask a struggling writer to write without providing a picture. The picture takes one of the steps out of the process. The student has one less thing to do. Reluctant writers will panic when it comes time to write; they will sit for twenty or thirty minutes without writing a thing. When asked why they aren’t writing, they will usually answer that they were "thinking". With a picture we can just ask the student to write about what he/she sees. Later on the picture can be taken away.
Ricky's Handwriting Before our Dysgraphia Treatment:
Ricky's Handwriting Six Months Later:
Another thing we do at Harp that helps is to organize the sentence or paragraph for the student. We will put colored dots where we want the topic sentence or the verb, depending on the student's age and ability. This takes the organizational step out of it for the student, which is one less thing for him to think about.
If a student is really struggling to write, we will provide a lot of visual motor integration activities and gross motor exercises with the hands so that the muscles can be built up. Sometimes it is just a muscle issue and not a brain issue that keeps a student from successfully writing, yet kids give up on writing because it is too difficult for them.
Dysgraphia is a real problem, but the students we work with learn to write well without accommodations or modifications. It takes time and it takes a different approach to teaching them, but they do make progress and succeed. Writing is still an important skill in our society and we need to give our children the opportunity to overcome writing obstacles for life and learning success.