Dealing With Dysgraphia

My son has recently been diagnosed with dysgraphia. This is to writing what dyslexia is to reading. There has not been a lot of research done into it therefore it is less well-known - even by 'experts'- than other specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia or dyscalculia.

Dysgraphia, which is sometimes called agraphia, is a specific inability to express one's thoughts via handwriting. Along with serious problems actually forming the letters when handwriting, it can cause issues with grammar, capitalisation and punctuation which often disappear when writing with a computer instead of a pen or pencil.

My son scored above average on all tests to do with reading, comprehension, spelling, reasoning, but his handwriting speed is slower than the lowest 10% of all kids his age, writing twice as slow as a 13-year-old of average writing ability. Inside him is a very clever kid who has been unable to get his thoughts down on paper.

I mentioned in my post on Montessori nurseries last week that even when my son was very small it was clear he had some kind of problem with handwriting. The fact that he's only been diagnosed at 13 – after years of problems at school and three assessments by educational psychologists – tells you that dysgraphia isn't easily recognised or understood.

When he was first learning to write he would do whatever he could to avoid doing any writing. As he got older and started getting homework not only would we have battles lasting 2-3 hours to get him to do the homework, but things that were supposed to take him 15-20 minutes would end up taking him an hour or more.

From Year 4 his work output started to fall behind the rest of his class. He was always the last to finish his work and often would be asked to stay inside at lunchtime in order to finish the work he was unable to finish in class.

As he got into secondary school, his problems really started to take their toll. Teachers assumed he was lay and got angry when he'd only turn in a few nearly illegible paragraphs which contained hardly any capital letters or punctuation.

Along with his handwriting problems, he has always been very, very poorly disorganised and seemingly unable to follow even the most basic routines without my guidance. This means that when I am not around to help him, he finds it nearly impossible to be organised enough to bring the right materials to class. This means he's been getting endless detentions at school.

It hasn't been fun.

Now that he's been diagnosed, he is going to start using a laptop at school and for exams which should help him enormously. The first thing that needs to happen though is that he needs to learn to touch type. And along with his previous issues, he also shows a few hallmarks of ADHD as he has issues with inattention, distractibility and impulsiveness – so whether he can concentrate for long enough in a typing class remains to be seen.

He, however, is very relieved. He's spent the larger part of the past 10 years feeling like he is stupid. He is very, very happy to realise that he's as clever as I've always been telling him he is.