I have learned quite a bit about Dysgraphia over the years and wanted to share some of the tips that have been helpful to support students with Dysgraphia in middle school, high school, and higher ed. If you aren’t familiar with Dysgraphia, it is “a specific learning disability that affects written expression. Dysgraphia can appear as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Dysgraphia can be a language based, and/or non-language based disorder.”
Embrace Technology - There are so many technology tools that can support a student with Dysgraphia! Two simple options: use a phone or recording device to record a lecture or type notes on a computer.
PowerPoints - When possible, supply a student with Dysgraphia the powerpoints ahead of time! This helps them type notes without trying to also capture all the content. If this isn’t possible, allow them to take photos of the slides as they are presented so they can go back and refer to them when they are learning and studying.
Note Takers - Enlist the help of a note taker, using old fashioned carbon paper or a pen that automatically creates a digital copy. Be sure the note taker is a quality note taker!
Extra Time on Tests - Some people wonder why this is an issue if they are allowed to type a test, but extra time on tests can take some of the pressure off and help them focus on expressing what they know as opposed to thinking about spelling and grammar.
Graph Paper for Math/Physics - Using graph paper can be critical when lining up numbers and equations! Skipping numbers, misplacing numbers, or reversing numbers often happens when students with Dysgraphia are trying to complete math problems.
Pens or Pencils - If writing assignments are unavoidable, let them choose the writing utensil. Students with Dysgraphia have different preferences. Some prefer pens, some pencils, some weighted pencils, or larger grips, it is important to let them test out options to find what works.
Patience - It is vital to be patient with students with Dysgraphia (or any learning disability for that matter!). They are frustrated spelling the word “diddent” wrong every time or using the wrong form of the word “witch” and having someone point it out to them every time isn’t going to magically make it click in their brain. Reminding them during the editing process to go through and check for all the times they used the word “witch” or “diddent” will help them start to become more efficient editors of their own work.
Outlines and Graphic Organizers - These tools can be very helpful as long as support accompanies them. Students with Dysgraphia often benefit from help organizing their thoughts and ideas, but they need extra support in getting it done. Writing is inherently difficult and they have a lot of negative associations around writing tasks, so show them step by step how to use a graphic organizer or how to create an outline. Often this is better accomplished one one one as opposed to as an entire class activity.
Give ‘em a Break - Encourage students to take breaks when they start getting frustrated. Breaks are often more helpful than trying to push through an increasingly frustrating situation. Students tend to be able to get more done if they take a five minute break to relax or do something else.
Remember, it is harder for a student with Dysgraphia to complete a “standard” writing assignment than it is for the majority of students in the class. The extra capacity they are using to accomplish a writing task should be recognized and support should be provided on a regular basis.