In our two year journey through dyslexia, I’ve not yet once focused on my son’s dysgraphia.
What is dysgraphia you may ask (other than a co-morbid condition with dyslexia)?
The following is from the website Understood.org:
Dysgraphia is a condition that causes trouble with written expression. The term comes from the Greek words dys (“impaired”) and graphia (“making letter forms by hand”). Dysgraphia is a brain-based issue. It’s not the result of a child being lazy.
For many children with dysgraphia, just holding a pencil and organizing letters on a line is difficult. Their handwriting tends to be messy. Many struggle with spelling and putting thoughts on paper. These and other writing tasks—like putting ideas into language that is organized, stored and then retrieved from memory—may all add to struggles with written expression.
I know the definition and I understand, I think, my son’s dysgraphia. He doesn’t struggle putting ideas into language that is organized, stored and then retrieved from memory, and, as his Kindergarten teacher was so proud, he holds his pencil correctly. His handwriting is atrocious and he typically applies too much pressure to the paper and breaks the pencil leads and / or rips the paper with the pencil. Naturally his spelling is classified as being very poor, but it is phonetic and has far more to do with his dyslexia than his dysgraphia.
So how do I start to focus on his dysgraphia?
The short answer is I’m not really sure.
I’ve both been told to do Occupational Therapy (OT) and also to skip it. OT would serve for dexterity and muscle development, but OT will not serve as a good remediation tool for his dysgrapia overall, or so I’m told.
I’ve been told to keep having him write, teach him cursive, introduce AT (Assistive Technology) via keyboarding which requires teaching him how to type.
What frustrates me about all of this is that while I feel I have a much clearer path for his dyslexia, I don’t feel like I have a path for his dysgraphia. I’ll use an analogy of roads and compare the differences.
The dyslexia road is paved with pretty shoddy materials and there are potholes and missing chunks and on some parts of the road whole sections have been washed away, but I can see the other side. I’ve got a decent pair of hiking boots and I’m ready for a good long walk. I’ve got friends who will pick me up when I stumble, dust me off and set me back on the road again.
The dysgraphia road seems more like a vague trail through a thick forest or jungle and all I have is a machete to cut my way through. I’m wearing flip flops so I’m going to get eaten by bugs and trip over every tree root I come across. I’m also alone. There’s no one around to pick me up, dust me off and put me back on the path.
I’ve not focused on the dysgraphia because the dyslexia was a far bigger issue that needed immediate attention. Dealing with his dyslexia was also a far more tangible thing with which to cope. Dysgraphia is a more nebulous thing with little to no answers and very confusing chatter and advice.
What fascinates me the most about his struggle writing is that my son is an amazing artist. He creates the most beautiful images. A friend told me that of course he’s a great artist. He’s allowed to be and isn’t having to concentrate of the shape of the letters he’s writing. In art he’s allowing the markers and paint brushes to flow as they’re intended with no pressure to perform a specific task. He’s free.
So as of today I don’t know what the answers are, but I know I cannot continue to ignore it. He’s going into the 4th grade this fall and while he will work on his cursive and learn to type this summer, we need a more tangible remediation strategy for his dysgraphia.
I will document our journey through his dysgraphia here, our trials and errors. What I learn, what I find out is working and equally what isn’t.