Ask Susan: My 9-year-old Son Has Dysgraphia

Hello Susan

My 9-year-old son has dysgraphia. He shows all the symptoms: he is highly intelligent yet his writing is illegible; he mixes upper and lowercase letters, and his letter sizes and shapes are inconsistent. His pencil grip is poor — he uses wrist movements to write, instead of finger movements. In addition, he is approximately one year behind in reading.

We recently had parents evening and his teacher said when it comes to answering questions he is very bright and she would expect him to be an A student, but when it comes to putting information on paper he is likely to get a D.

He has done OT for two years and remedial for one. I am really at a loss where to go for help and support and what to do next. I read on your website about a Dysgraphia Program, but could not find anything.

I believe every child has the right to reach their full potential and my fear is that he will switch off and no longer try unless we help him. Any advice you could give me will be greatly received.

Liu


Dear Liu

You are completely right: every child deserves to reach their full potential. And we, as educators, are responsible to make sure that they receive the necessary opportunities to reach their full potential — sooner rather than later.

I often compare dysgraphia to writer’s block: Think back to a time when you had to write an essay for school, but experienced crippling writer’s block. It might have lasted for a couple of hours or even days, but in the end, you probably hit that moment of inspiration when the ideas started flowing.

Now, imagine reaching that point, but having no ability to write down your ideas. This is how individuals with dysgraphia feel.

It’s a problem that cannot be ignored, because even in these days of the magic of computer word processing, handwriting is a necessary competency. In school, it is the usual medium through which students convey to teachers what they have learned. In many situations, adults also find writing a necessity that they cannot avoid..

What causes dysgraphia?

We all know that most problems can only be solved if one knows what causes the problem. So, to understand why Edublox is a turnabout for so many dysgraphic children, let’s investigate the causes of dysgraphia.

When teaching we should always bear in mind that human learning is a stratified process. This implies that certain skills have to be mastered firstbefore it becomes possible to master subsequent skills. One has to learn to count before it becomes possible to learn to add and subtract. In the same way, there are skills that a child must have mastered firstbefore he or she will be proficient in handwriting. Unless underlying shortcomings are addressed first, the child’s handwriting will not improve.

In her book Learning Disabilities: Theories, Diagnosis, and Teaching Strategies, Janet Lerner states that some of the underlying shortcomings that interfere with handwriting performance are

  • Faulty visual perception of letters and words
  • Difficulty in retaining visual impressions
  • Poor motor skills.
    .

The child’s problem may also be in cross-modal transfer from the visual to motor modalities.

Dysgraphia program 

Edublox’s Dysgraphia Program consists of Reading Tutor plus a few additional hands-on exercises. Reading Tutor aims at addressing the underlying shortcomings that interfere with handwriting performance, such as poor visual processing and poor visual memory. The program also comprises a comprehensive exercise aimed at teaching reading and spelling, and at expanding vocabulary. The additional exercises, free of charge, aim at developing motor skills and improving hand strength. To implement the program you need to subscribe to Reading Tutor, and then contact [email protected] to gain access to the additional exercises.

Hard work pays off! The handwriting below belonged to an eight-year-old German boy with dysgraphia. His parents started with very intensive Edublox training in April. The second example was taken from his schoolwork a three months later.

How to improve poor pencil grip

A good way of teaching correct pencil grip is to play darts with a child. However, it would not be a good idea to use the rubber pencil grip aid together with that, because then holding the pencil will feel quite different from holding the dart.

Play darts with your child for about 5 to 10 minutes every day. It should solve the problem.

Regards,

Susan


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More about Susan

Susan is an educational specialist in the field of learning problems and dyslexia and has a B.A. Honors in Psychology and B.D. degree from the University of Pretoria. Early in her professional career Susan was instrumental in training over 3000 teachers and tutors, providing them with the foundational and practical understanding to facilitate cognitive development amongst children who struggle to read and write. With over 25 years of research to her name Susan conceptualized the Edublox teaching and learning methods that have helped thousands of children who were struggling academically to read, learn and achieve. In 2007, Susan opened the first Edublox reading and learning clinic and now there are 30 Edublox clinics internationally. Her proudest moments are when she sees a child who had severe learning difficulties come top of their class after one or two years at Edublox. Susan always takes time to collect the ‘hero’ stories of learners whose self-esteem is lifted as their marks improve.