02 Dec 2019

LEARNING DIFFICULTIES: SUPPORTING STUDENTS WITH DYSGRAPHIA

Writing is a hard task for many students. Students with poor handwriting and difficulty expressing themselves through writing may have a learning disability called dysgraphia. These students may avoid writing tasks or become frustrated during writing activities. They also have trouble writing clearly because they don’t understand the information as they put it on the page. Students with poor handwriting may have inconsistent spacing between letters and words, inconsistent letter formation, and/or a mixture of lowercase and uppercase letters. Students with dysgraphia may become overwhelmed with the writing process.

Fortunately, there are strategies and classroom accommodations for dysgraphia that can help, including allowing the use of audio-recorders and learning touch-typing so computers are used as an alternative to handwriting. Children who are just learning how to write will often exhibit many of the symptoms associated with dysgraphia, such as poorly formed letters and awkwardly spaced words. However, these symptoms will eventually go away as they become more skilled writers.

Nonetheless, children with dysgraphia will continue to struggle when it comes to holding a writing utensil. They can have difficulty with letter formation, spacing, writing left to right, staying inside margins, spelling, punctuation, lower-case and capital letters and producing longer compositions in a set time frame.

Other Learning Difficulties

Dyslexia: Dysgraphia is not as well known as some specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia. But whereas a dyslexic child may struggle to split words into their component sounds and then map those sounds to letters, dysgraphia impacts on orthographic encoding or choosing the correct letter to match the sound.

ADHD: Dysgraphia can sometimes occur with ADD and ADHD. Children who struggle with attention disorders may produce messy written work and when dysgraphia is involved it can also be painful for them, particularly where handwriting is concerned.

Dyspraxia

Dyspraxia is similar in that it impacts on fine motor skills that are involved with handwriting and other school activities like using scissors or playing an instrument. However, dyspraxic children may also have issues with planning; these are not present with dysgraphia.

Supporting Students With Dysgraphia.

  • Make writing count. Because students with dysgraphia often know the information but have trouble putting it in writing, consider whether a written assignment is really the best way to assess their knowledge. When possible, allow them to complete tasks orally. Provide typed copies of notes in advance or allow them to use a recording device during lectures.
  • Give extra time. As with many learning disorders, sometimes kids just need some extra time. Allow them to begin early, finish late, or even take work home to complete it at a pace that’s comfortable for them.
  • Be flexible with spelling and grammar. Again, always be sure you’re truly assessing the knowledge you’re asking the student to demonstrate. If spelling or grammar isn’t particularly important for the assignment, don’t mark the student down for those errors.
  • Teach good composition skills. This is one where everyone in the class can benefit. Make sure you’re helping all students learn how to properly plan and execute a writing assignment, whether short or long.
  • Use oral exams and allow students to dictate assignments to ascribe.
  • Avoid criticisms for sloppiness or illegibility.
  • Provide additional time for writing tasks.
  • Use writing paper with raised lines.
  • Allow students to use a line width that is most comfortable for them.

Learning touch-typing can have a positive impact on the performance of individuals with dysgraphia because it makes it easier to express ideas in writing. Words flow through the fingertips and onto the screen without the disruption of manipulating a pen or correctly spacing characters.

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