Put very simply, it is a learning disability in which an individual struggles with writing due to difficulty coordinating motor planning and information processing skills. Symptoms often include poor handwriting, confusion of capital and lowercase letters, poor spelling, difficulty putting thoughts into writing, difficulty with storing words and ideas and organizing them into written form, and many more.
For an excellent, and much more in depth look at this learning disability visit this article.
Here today though, I'm going to share with you how it affects our household. In particular, Grace.
Holding a normal pencil and trying to write on regular paper is incredibly difficult for Grace. She works so hard on the mechanics of the task that she is unable to give hardly any mental energy to the point of the exercise which is to learn how words are spelled. Even basic writing exercises quickly dissolved into angry outbursts or tears due to her feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.
I have found multiple ways to help ease the physical work which frees up her mind to focus on the mental learning. Hopefully, some of these tips might help others out there with dysgraphia or reluctant spellers.
1.) Use a bigger, thicker writing tool. Big pencils are good, but markers are best. Her hand can hold it more naturally, and therefore is more relaxed.
2.) Let her write bigger. Even the early learning paper with it's double lines and big spaces are too small for her on most days. I have also discovered that the more lines she sees, the more confused her brain seems to get. To compensate, I have her practice spelling words on blank paper, but we are still practicing spacing, because she tends to cram everything together.
3.) Use tactile learning. It's easier for her to trace a letter in shaving cream or salt/sand than write it with an instrument, again, in major part because the size of the letters is often much larger than writing on paper.
4.) Let her copy rather than memorize. Carrying the information in her mind for any amount of time is confusing to her. And trying to spell from her head is overwhelming still. She does best with copying.
Yes, implementing these tactics means that it is taking her much longer to spell even basic words than the average third grade student, but I'm not worried about it.
I would rather her grow up to become someone who has to spell check regularly, but loves to write, than hate the entire process and become an adult who avoids writing. There is a lot of help in the adult world for poor spellers, but hating writing becomes an internal dialogue that can be very difficult to reverse and can hugely impact self-esteem.
Trying to memorize everything but ultimately feeling like a failure in the areas of spelling and writing is much more frustrating than learning very slowly and enjoying the process. Mistakes are fine, giving up on oneself is absolutely not.