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According to International Dyslexia Association, dysgraphia is "dysgraphia is the condition of impaired letter writing by hand, that is, disabled handwriting. Impaired handwriting can interfere with learning to spell words in writing and speed of writing text". This is largely a fine motor skill struggle. However, the difficulty associated with the lagging skill can cause children to struggle with putting thoughts onto paper as well.

There are therapies that can help kids who struggle with the fine motor portion of dysgraphia. Practice with different skills to improve fine motor strength are often employed. Practice lacing beads, tying shoes, scissor skills, and different types of writing utensils can help children gain the strength and confidence necessary for the mechanics of writing.

Beyond the fine motor struggles, kids often struggle with spelling words and with legibility. Handwriting practice by way of copywork can help train hand muscles to form letters more cleanly. We can create muscle memory by having kids copy and trace existing thoughts. We eliminate the need for the child to conceptualize as well as write. Similarly, typing words that someone else wrote can strengthen typing skills.

Spelling curricula such as "All About Spelling" that employ both memorization and etymology (where the rules come from and why they're used) can help strengthen spelling skills.

We can allow dictation when students must write something from their own brains. When they must write essays or short answers, dictation can significantly ease their stress and add to their success.

When we separate skills in this way, we eliminate the frustration that comes from asking kids to put them all together. We are accomplishing all the learning outcomes separately--handwriting, typing, spelling, and essay/short answer writing--without fighting against a learning need. Gradually, once the student's confidence in each separate area has improved, we can add skills together. This is also quite gradual. We start with simple sentence combinations, and just few sentences. Then we work on stretching sentences by combining them or adding details about individual parts. Then, we ask for more sentences. Then more with added information. Eventually, we end up with students who can confidently craft lovely multi-page essays.

This process is not short or simple, but it does work. We get bogged down in the idea that our students or children should be able to polish prose when we have neglected to teach each skill in isolation. We forget that infants roll, then rock on their hands and knees, then crawl, then pull up, cruise, and eventually let go to walk (unless you have one like me who walked before he crawled!). They isolate the skills necessary for upright walking then combine them all into this new skill that we seem to think is its own when it really is a combination of past skills. Similarly with math, counting is the base of adding is the base of multiplying. They aren't individual skills but the combination of previous ones. Let's all do our learners, especially our special ones, a favor and give them the grace of separating skills to set them up for success.

If you need more tips on dysgraphia, or your learner struggles with some other special learning need, let me know! I am happy to help.

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