Homeschool Diner Logo -- 1960's style sign with atomic starburst
Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp
Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.
about the book
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling Special Situations
Learning Disabilities

Homeschooling a Child with Dysgraphia
aka Disorder of Written Expression
aka Graphomotor Disability
aka Written Output Disability

by Julie Shepherd Knapp, copyright 2006

Dysgraphia is a processing disorder that makes it hard for a child to use a
pencil or pen and may interfere with a child's ability to put his or her
thoughts and ideas on paper.  As a result, the child typically produces
written work well below his or her cognitive level, maybe seeming like it was
written by a much younger child.  

Difficulties may include pain and fatigue when writing, slowness in writing,
illegible or messy handwriting, and spelling errors and reversals, as well as
difficulty generating ideas about what to write, and trouble organizing ideas
on paper.  It may be *possible* for the child to write neatly, but doing so
requires undo time and effort (which is not sustainable over a long period of
time).  A child's discomfort and frustration level may be so great that
assignments lead to tears or tantrums.

If you're already familiar with Dsygraphia and are looking for
practical homeschool suggestions, check out :
Homeschooling Reluctant Writers and Kids Who Hate to Write

Learn More About Dysgraphia

What is Dysgraphia? -- the Center for Development and Leaning

Dysgraphia and Writing Problems from The Mislabeled Child website

Understanding Dysgraphia -- from the International Dyslexia Association
(good description of the types of dysgraphia)

Warning Signs of Dysgraphia - from the National Center for Learning

"A 90 Minute Dysgraphia Evaluation" -- recommendations for
professional assessment tools, from LD Online

Sensory-Motor Dysgraphia Mis-Diagnosed as Underachievement
from the Eide Neurolearning Blog

Typical Pencil Grasp Development --from Stoke Speaks Out

Pencil Grasp Guidance - photos with descriptions show several good
("Functional") options for properly holding pencil, plus some "Immature"
grasps that need changing

Common Handwriting Problems and Solutions-- some practicle ideas

Occupational Therapy in Educational Settings -- AOTA Fact Sheet
describing how OT can help school aged children, OT can be very helpful
for children with dysgraphia by correcting an inefficient pencil grasp, and
designing an exercise plan to strengthen hand muscles, improve dexterity

Scored Writing Samples -- for grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 -- four types of writing
are analyzed for various elements and scored from low quality to high
quality, with explanations and comments, useful as a sample of typical work
at different grade levels.

Accommodation and Support

Strategies for classroom accommodation of dysgraphia -- from LD
Online, very common sense suggestions easily adaptable to homeschooling

Dysgraphia description and strategies from the University of West Virginia
Dysgraphia Compensating Strategies from Mark Le Messurier

Handwriting Problem Solutions -- advice, suggestions, and consultations
-- get professional help with handwriting problems

Pencil Grips-- examples of a few options (available form many sources)

Assistive technology for dysgraphia and other disabilities -- from LD
StyleWriter software --  a word processing add-on that flags poor writing,
gives suggestions to improve writing style.  

Make Beliefs Comix! -- free online comic-maker, choose from several pre-
made characters, choose the mood of the character (happy, sad, mad,
surprised), and type words into "bubbles" to make a comic/story

"Handwriting Solutions - Equipment, Teaching Strategies and
Educational Resource Recommendations for Kids with Writing
Disabilities" by Sue Ramin-Hutchison and Merri Domer, -- a guidance
book for parents and schools (scroll to bottom).  Phone consultations, too.

Therapro -- lots of products for handwriting and fine motor development
Therapy Shoppe --  lots of products to make writing more comfortable and
to help with pencil grasp, posture, word spacing, line placement, etc

Dysgraphia -- an online support group

Strengthening and Dexterity Activities

You can work with your child to help develop fine motor skills, hand strength
and finger dexterity.  Some possible activities might include -- using
plastic tweezers to sort small items; do daily hand exercises or play
games that use the fingers; play with playdoh and modeling clay; and be on
the look-out for
push-button toys, squeezy things,  poppers,  
shooters,  and stretchy toys that might appeal to your child.

Fine Motor Exercises to Improve Skills for Handwriting

Typing and Keyboarding Resources:
Help your dysgraphic child learn to keyboard as soon as possible!  You can
still work on handwriting (from a penmanship point of view) but do consider
giving your child the freedom to type "writing assignments" -- learning
composition is hard enough without having to struggle with handwriting at
the same time.  If your child has too much dificulty learning touch typing (or
is adverse to learning it ;-) it is OK to allow your child to develop his own
style of hunt and peck or multiple-finger typing -- they can always learn
touch typing when they are older, if the need arises.

Laptop Program Improves Writing Maine's program to give every middle
school student a laptop computer is leading to better writing.

Super Kids Software Reviews: Typing Programs -- a nice resource for
choosing a program
Little Fingers Keyboard -- small size keyboard with built-in trackball
mouse, great for K -6th

Dance Mat Typing -- a free online tutorial from the BBC, fun and clever,
host goat narrates with a Scottish accent
Master Gecko's Home Row -- free online typing program with games
Mario Teaches Typing 2 -- set up like the Nintendo Mario games, a free
demo can be downloaded
Read, Write & Type -- a single software combines phonics, reading,
writing, typing, spelling and punctuation.  Directions are given orally (not a
lot of reading involved), kids progress at their own pace, aims to protect self-
esteem in vulnerable students who work at a slower pace or tend to make
lots of errors

Kurzweil 3000 -- software that (among many other features) allows
worksheets, pages of textbooks, and tests to be scanned... students can
then type answers and print out their finished work.  Features allow students
to answer T/F, multiple choice, ans essay questions, they can also draw
lines to the answers, highlight and write notes on the sheets, etc.

Inspiration and Kidspiration software -- aides students in organizing
thoughts for essays and reports with several neat functions,including
generating word maps and outlines

Microsoft Word Equation Editor -- did you know you can easily type
math equations with Word?  You just need to install the option (using your
install CD) and drag the equation icon to the tool bar!  Here are directions
how to do this from Mr. Simonds at Portland Community College. The
University of Waterloo provides a
video tutorial for using Equation Editor
(once you have it installed). Word 2007 also offers
Microsoft Math add-in.

Related Issues:

Handwriting Instruction

The Handwriting is on the Wall by Margaret Webb Pressler -- is it really
necessary to learn to write by hand?

Teaching Left-Handers to Write - from the Handedness Research  Inst.
Left Hand Writing Skills by Robinswood Press -skills workbooks, CD-Rom  

Dysgraphia: How It Affects A Student’s Performance and What Can
Be Done About It by Alyssa L. Crouch and Jennifer J. Jakubecy -- a
teacher works with a child on handwriting to see if drill and repetition helps...
improvement is seen, but does not extend to classroom writing,
improvement is mainly seen in execution of the target practice sentence

Look for resources that make writing assignments more fun

Dyslexia is sometimes linked with handwriting problems

Help your student find a good system for taking notes from lectures

Shoe tying is another fine motor skill that can give kids trouble -- check out
alternative way to tie laces, and laces that don't need tying at all!