One of the reasons I began homeschooling my oldest son was that, despite being a bright kid, he was shutting down in school due to his struggles with severe dysgraphia. This post highlights just a little of what I have done to help him learn with dysgraphia.
One of the biggest challenges with helping a dysgraphic student is getting him to the point where he can write legibly and independently.
While my dysgraphic son will happily write stories and comics for fun (he wants to be an author someday), it is difficult for anyone to read what he has written.
While typing is the best option for accommodating dysgphia, I consider being able to write with a pencil or pen an essential skill for learning and communicating. Keeping a notebook of research and ideas is such an effective tool for lifelong learning. No computer program or phone/tablet app comes close to the creative power of a pen and pencil.
So I am on a journey to help my son be able to write legibly enough to be able to read his own writing. The biggest success I have had helping my son write legibly was the day I handed him a graph paper notebook and instructed him to put one letter inside of each square.
In the same day his handwriting went from this journal entry on presidents day:
To this science notebook entry later in the day:
You can see that the top example is a jumbled mess of letters. His dysgraphia makes it hard for him to stay on the lines and space his letters. The second example, while he still couldn't stay on the lines, he could more or less stay in the box. The spacing took care of itself. I was ecstatic that he could write a short narration that was also readable, that I did a happy mom dance. Since then, graph paper has been a life saver for us. We use graph paper for math and his science notebook (pictured above) and a few other things. (I have found 4 squares per inch graph paper to be the best to help with handwriting.)
We have recently added a commonplace book to my son's set of learning tools, mainly because it was a part of Writing and Rhetoric Book 6. Otherwise, I would have put it off a couple of years since legible handwriting would seem to be a prerequisite to that type of book.
For his commonplace book, I decided to simultaneously work on writing on lined paper with him. Thankfully, I have figured out a way for him to keep a legible commonplace book without making him feel like I'm helping him too much.
I very lightly write out my son's commonplace passage for him in pencil and he traces it with pencil. This becomes his handwriting practice since he still has issues forming some letters and with placing words on regular, lined paper. I'm hoping this practice will help him get a feel for writing on lined paper and spacing correctly between letters and words. You can see the difference between what he traces and what he writes on his own below.
I leave a space after each entry so he can either rewrite the passage in his own words, comment on the passage, or interpret the passage however he chooses.
As you can see, he always chooses to write a short comic illustrating the truth of the passage.
This is just a little of what I do to help my son learn well with dysgraphia. I hope to write more about dysgraphia and homeschooling in the near future.
If you are interested in notebooking with a dysgraphic student, I have a set of 1 centimeter square notebook pages available at teachers pay teachers for young elementary students. I also have a set for upper elementary and middle school students with a smaller grid.
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