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How to Help With Dysgraphia: FAQs Answered

Dysgraphia Accommodations FAQsWhat types of accommodations, tools and strategies can help people with dysgraphia work around their challenges with writing? When we asked our Facebook community to send us questions about dysgraphia, this was one of the top inquiries we received. The following expert answers from Sheldon H. Horowitz, EdD will help you understand how to help your child who struggles with writing.

What are some of the most effective accommodations, methods and strategies to help students with dysgraphia?
It depends upon the nature of the problem being addressed. For young children, helping them stay within the lines and write legibly is often the target of intervention. With older students, the focus is often less on the mechanics of writing and more on the extent to which they can communicate their ideas, take and organize notes, and perform information gathering and shaping tasks with speed and efficiency. Our dysgraphia resources provide a wide variety of resources to help people with dysgraphia at all ages and stages.

What help can an adult get for both dysgraphia and ADHD if he/she wants to go back to school?
Great question. Before leaving high school, teens and young adults are provided services and supports under federal education law but once they leave high school they are on their own to find and organize the help they need to succeed. That said, they are not left without rights and resources! Whether they have LD, disorders of attention, mobility challenges, or impairments of vision or hearing, they are entitled to services and supports under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Some states offer help through state offices of vocational rehabilitation. Others provide help though adult education programs. Your best first stop is the college you want to attend. Speak to the admissions office and visit the office of student disability services (called by different names on every campus, but all colleges and universities have one) and ask for assistance on providing documentation of your disability and planning for enrollment.

The school said there’s no test for dysgraphia, but everything leads to my son having it. The school has allowed him to use a computer, but he still struggles. If he could only do his writing and spelling tests verbally! My son also has a superior to genius IQ. He also had ADHD and anxiety. What else can the school do?
There are a number of assistive technology tools that could be very helpful. Educators have developed advanced organization strategies to help pre-organize writing as well as self-correction and repair strategies that can be very useful for people with dysgraphia. Our dysgraphia section will help you navigate these options to figure out what will work best for your son.

Why is writing cursive easier for my kid? She figured it out in high school.
Without knowing anything specific about your child, it might be that the underlying mechanics of cursive are less taxing. Think about what it takes to write a 10 letter word letter-by-letter in print format. The tip of the pencil goes up and down how many times? And how many times does she need to make sure she starts in the right spot over and over again and stay within the lines? For some (but certainly not all) people who struggle with writing, cursive is an easier option.

My son used a NEO keyboard last year and the teacher would download his work. He wasn’t the best typist, but it helped. His school refused to add this accommodation to his IEP because they said his teacher was giving that accommodation already so there is no need to put it on the IEP. This year, his new teachers refuse the keyboard and say he needs to “grow up” and be responsible for his work. I asked to have it added to the IEP and the school refused. So he has maintained a very low D in language arts due to writing abilities. He's smart and has the info in his brain...but can’t get it on the paper. What can I do when the school refuses to add something to the IEP? They are telling me that I need to speak to him about “applying himself more,” but I know this isn’t the real problem.
Sounds like you might want to ask, in writing, that this accommodation be reinstated. You might also want to request, in writing, that the IEP team meet with you and the teacher present, at which time you can ask what specific strategies and supports they would recommend to get your son back on track. If they think he is not “applying himself” enough, ask them to explain what that means, what they think he should be doing, and what they believe to be the underlying problem. (They would never ask a child with an anxiety disorder to “just try and relax”… And I doubt that they would ask a child with a documented LD to “just try harder.”)

The question on the table is how to help a bright child with LD become more successful and independent in school. Focus the discussion on what everyone can do toward that goal. Check out our IEP Headquarters for more resources to help you navigate the IEP process.

What is the best assistive technology to help with writing if you have poor fine motor control and typing is hard?
The best “types” of assistive technologies for individuals who struggle with fine motor control are those that minimize the demands of typing (i.e., software that anticipates words and fills them in while typing) or voice-to-text software that captures oral language and converts it to printed text ready for editing. Visit our Assistive Technology section to learn more about tools that might be helpful for you.

I was told meds could fix dysgraphia by a neurologist. Somehow I don’t buy it!
Good for you. That said, there may in fact be specific neurological features of dysgraphia that could be addressed with medication (i.e., tremors) but in general, there is no overarching medical treatment for this complex disorder.

I have been told by my son’s occupational therapist and one of his teachers that it is not possible to remediate handwriting after a child turns 10. What is the rationale behind that claim?
Not sure where the number 10 came from, but I would not put a limit to when remediation might or might not be helpful or possible. Think about it this way: If you’re an active tennis player and after years of holding the racquet a certain way, someone asks you to change you grip. Is it possible for you to make the switch? Is it easy? Might you end up changing it in some ways but not completely? Might you use the altered grip during tournament play but not when you’re rallying with friends?

There is no evidence to suggest that handwriting is set at a certain age. We do know that it is often harder to break old habits than it is to learn a new skill. One suggestion: Don’t start from scratch. Instead, identify features of dysgraphia that you would like to target and address them in a careful and meaningful way. Don’t take on pencil grip, speed of writing, letter formation, positioning of letters all at once. And most importantly, take your cues about where to start and how to proceed from your son.