Dysgraphia: What You Need to Know as a Parent FInd a Speech Therapist Using TherapyfindR A Directory and Community of Speech-Language Pathologists
Dysgraphia: What you need to know - One Parent's Personal Experience
A childhood classmate of mine, Dina Ronsayro recently had an article published in NJ.com about the discovery that her son has a handwriting disability called dysgraphia. When hearing of the difficulty she had in getting proper support for her son, many people react with comments like, “You should see my handwriting” or “Maybe my daughter has that…” But the reality for people with dysgraphia is about more than messy handwriting. In our recent posts on TherapyfindR, we discussed the difficulties a child may have combining the requisite motor skills and the cognitive skills needed to express thoughts and ideas.
What stood out to me, was that the article discussed some of the challenges Dina faced but it didn’t address concerns that would be most important to us as parents and therapists. So I have composed a brief Q&A segment that took place between Dina and myself:
Can you tell us a bit about what led you to pursue your concerns about Saul’s handwriting?
There was just something different about him. He didn’t have an issue with texture- but would cry if he was made to color. He loved play-dough but couldn’t write his ABC’s even though he was reading. As he got older, he could talk for hours on a subject but not write even a sentence about the topic – seeing this foretelling signs, I knew we needed help.
Did you encounter any challenges in seeking services and if so, what were they?
There were many roadblocks. The school couldn’t figure out what was wrong, and really didn’t try. Since he was a good student and not a behavioral problem they kept chalking it up to him simply being an immature boy. Even when it became more and more obvious there was something different about the situation they weren’t eager to help. What was worse was when we received the diagnosis, his teacher didn’t seem to “get it” and did nothing to help.
After you had the evaluation performed by, what were the results of the evaluation and what were the recommendations?
Saul was diagnosed with mild ADHD and Dysgraphia. For him, the ADHD isn’t typical. He doesn’t bounce off of walls but instead fidgets all the time. His brain is constantly thinking and his hands slow him down. Some of the accommodations were typical ones for ADHD- preferential seating, the opportunity to move, etc. The dysgraphia was harder- there isn’t a lot of information out there on what works or why. The recommendations were to make the writing process easier and more concrete- increase the use of a computer while limiting his handwriting (his hands hurt when he writes), break the writing into smaller assignments with concrete instructions (i.e. the number of sentences and details required), and work on ways to rebuild his self esteem that suffered when he couldn’t express himself. His current 504 plan has over 25 different accommodations.
What are some of the things Saul is learning in therapy, does he receive OT or just speech?
He doesn’t receive OT services in a typical way, though she will work with him on concrete issues (like shoe tying) when needed. While others with dysgraphia find OT helpful, it was frustrating Saul. He prefers to work around the issue and not spend a lot of time on things that will yield minimal results.
Do you have goals to address at home?
Yes. We work on his longer assignments at home. We also work on his computer and typing skills so that he becomes faster, thereby letting him compensate some. We are trying to help him understand how his brain works so he can be part of the process in figuring out the best strategies for him.
How does his in class teacher make accommodations for Saul in class and for assignments (e.g., homework)?
Many of his accommodations are geared towards breaking the writing process apart for him- so he knows what to expect and can accomplish it. He types almost everything in class. The teacher makes sure we are given copies of notes and homework assignments. One more difficulty with dysgraphia is copying what you see on the board. Saul’s memory is amazing, so it helps. His teacher “gets” him and is working with him and us to make sure he is doing the best he can. This past report card he received straight A’s. It takes the teacher a bit more time to make sure he understands his assignments and a little more patience- but a good teacher makes all the difference.
A most sincere thank you to the Ronsayro family for sharing their story. Remember to always advocate for you and your loved ones!