How Do You Help Students With Dysgraphia?
Difficulties with writing neatly relates with a student’s self-esteem. Continually producing work that looks messy compared to the beautiful penmanship of other 5th grade students, can be humiliating. Behavior issues can arise.
In the classroom these students can be seen to print slowly and carefully when requested to provide a writing sample to the teacher. With just general classroom activities, however, these same students tend to provide less attention to the work at hand. When it comes to reduced attention to eye-hand coordination, reduced legibility is the natural consequence.
During campus lunch recess and non-structured time these students may demonstrate good gross motor control as well as good visual‑motor tracking. Even eye‑hand coordination appears to be within functional limits during participation in preferred tasks at recess.
While seated, students with dysgraphia may utilize a somewhat collapsed forward posture. Although poor postural support in not unusual for students at this age physically develop at a rapid rate [compared to later in life]. A middle school student’s growth pattern can result in less support through the joints and ligaments on a temporary basis. Collapsed and rounded forward posture can look a lot more exaggerated in this age group merely because of the development of longer bones.
Exercises and activities to promote good stabilization for writing and fine motor strength for sustained writing and typing are as follows:
- Push-ups – Wall push-ups, floor push-ups, or while seated pressing up through the hands to lift the hips off the seated surface all result in placing weight through the hands and fingers. The application of weight through the hands and fingers assist in the brain/body connection so that the brain’s motor cortex develops a more accurate and efficient sense of the hand and fingers.
- Tossing and catching a weighted ball, bean bags, or even a basketball tossed briskly are all additional methods of helping the brain/body connection to the hand and fingers. Performing push-ups utilizes the muscles dedicated for slow recruitment and postural support. Tossing and catching a weighted ball or basketball recruits other “fast twitch” muscle fibers that are also necessary for efficient action of the fingertips when powering the pencil.
- Drawing – For students that have difficulty sustaining legible writing, writing and printing can be a little stressful. Try drawing shapes that have no sense of competitiveness or need for perfection. For example, drawing a row of waves, such as waves on an ocean, across a line of paper or drawing hearts, flowers, humorous cartoon insects, clouds, tornados, and other complex shapes that do require fine motor control, but without any concern for performance anxiety.
- Strengthening – Obtain resistive putty or hand strengthening devices such as one might use to strengthen the fingers for guitar playing. Squeezing a ball can also be of benefit.
- Bilateral motor coordination – Identify tasks that require the coordinated action of both hands. A modified activity of juggling makeshift juggling balls or learning to fold paper for origami shapes as well as hobbies and crafts that encourage use of both hands can be of tremendous benefit.
- Putting it all together – Encourage your child or student to develop hobbies and leisure skills that involve fine motor actions. Rolling out cookie dough, assisting in the kitchen for washing and chopping vegetables, and gardening can all be of benefit. Artwork with paint or pastels as well as learning to sew, play the piano, or play a recorder or hand drums can provide a lifetime of fine motor strength and dexterity.
- School activities – Consider your student’s PE activities that can incorporate wrist and arm strengthening utilizing weights as well as the above mentioned tossing and catching a basketball multiple times with a partner. These students can also benefit from correct typing skills and learning to trust the position of her fingers on the keys without continuous visual input.
Students, children and adults with dysgraphia can take advantage of the recent advancements of neuroplasticity studies to recognize that the brain can be re-wired to write neatly no matter what your age of circumstance. It can be helpful to understand how the wires (neurons) in the brain become mixed up in the first place. To understand brain wiring as it relates to dysgraphia, you can purchase my book, Unique Learner Solutions that can be purchased while shopping online with Amazon or through this web-site. (CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE), Unique Reader Solutions.