Writing Strategies for the Reluctant Writer (Including Dysgraphia)

Participants explored some of the reasons students develop a reluctance to express themselves in writing, among these is dysgraphia. Regina Richards, M.A., shared a variety of high-tech and low-tech strategies for reversing writing reluctance. We also discussed handwriting, spelling, and information organization (generating ideas and planning/translating the ideas into written format). Learn proven strategies that may be immediately implemented. Get the presentation slides and handout.


- [Ana Maria] Thanks for joining us today for this CTD webinar, Writing Strategies for the Reluctant Writer, Including Dysgraphia. We're pleased to welcome Regina Richards as our featured speaker today. Regina is a Board Certified education therapist and president of Richards Educational Therapy Center. She's a former director of a multi-disciplinary program for language learning disabilities, especially dyslexia and dysgraphia. And she's the parent of an adult son who has struggled with dyslexia and dysgraphia all his life. Today we're gonna discuss reasons students develop a reluctance to express themselves in writing as well as a variety of high-tech and low-tech strategies for reversing writing reluctance. We hope you'll take away strategies that you can implement with your students. All right, you can go ahead and get started, Regina. Thank you.

- [Regina] Okay, thank you very much Ana Maria. Hello, everybody. I'm delighted to be here with you today. We're gonna talk about writing strategies. Basically, there are two parts of this class. Oh, okay. This is a message from CTD. Okay, we're gonna have two parts in this class. The first part is the issues. So we're gonna talk about dysgraphia's relationship with dyslexia, how to define it, and the importance of demystification. Then we're gonna talk about the strategies. The strategies that are very useful for them. We're gonna talk about breakdown points, accommodations, and basically overall strategies that you can use at home with homework or in the classroom with assignments, whatever. Okay, so, let's talk about, there's a connection between dyslexia and dysgraphia, and students may have a general reluctance to write without having either dyslexia or dysgraphia. So, why might they be reluctant to write? Well, writing's too slow, it requires too much active working memory, they have weak basic skills, they lack automaticity. So you deal with these issues the same way you deal with formal writing problems because of dyslexia or dysgraphia. There are some biological roots and disruptions that relate especially to dyslexia. Dyslexia has been researched a lot more than dysgraphia. So, in dyslexia, we know for certain that there is a prenatal cascade of events that usually occurs by the seventh month of gestation, and it causes a disruption in the brain when carrying out phonological tasks. It also causes a great deal more energy usage when the student is dealing with phonics or writing or reading. Sally Shaywitz and her husband Bennett, they're co-directors of the Yale Center for Study of Learning and Attention, and they're doing a lot of research using functional MRIs to track blood flow through the brain. And the areas in the brain that receive the most blood flow when they're working show that those areas are working the hardest. And so as they analyze what parts of the brain a dyslexic or dysgraphic child or adult uses, they say that, this is a quote, "What we believe is that dyslexics are trying "to find another way to get at the sound of the word." And this is one cause the reading problems, is inefficient pathways. And it's been proven that dyslexics use at least four times as much brain energy to process sound. In some studies, they've shown up to 16 times more brain energy. It depends on the students and the tasks, but they do use more energy. But, what's really interesting in the study from University of Washington, they, after remediation, just one year, they went down from, in this case, 12 times as much energy usage to only 1.8 times as much energy usage, which shows that the brain can learn how to do the tasks more efficiently, but it does take intensive remediation. Okay, so the connection between dyslexia and dysgraphia. Dyslexia and dysgraphia are like cousins. They're both language based, they both have a root in sequencing, and primarily, dyslexia affects reading and spelling. Excuse me. And dysgraphia affects spelling and writing. You will notice that spelling is affected by both of these issues. Let's talk about some specific similarities between dyslexia and dysgraphia. They both have difficulty with sequencing. Their sequencing struggles and causes problems in organizing information or movements in specific order. And because of this, they struggle to develop automaticity of many performances, particularly reading and writing. Their skilled performance is labored. It results in decreased efficiency and poor automatic use of their hands for the pencil or the eyes for reading. Both dyslexia and dysgraphia involve a struggle with automatic visual recognition, and this may cause them to reverse letters because they're not remembering which one is a B or which one's a D or which one's the M and which one's the W, but in other areas, they may have a real strength visually. And this has caused a lot of confusion for many people, but there's not just one way to process information visually and that's the reason. Both dyslexia and dysgraphia benefit from similar strategies. They require systematic instruction. That's very important. It has to be explicitly taught. They require multisensory techniques, and this makes the learning more fun. And so this is a good thing that multisensory techniques are very useful for these students. And they focus on making connections. You have to explicitly show them how to make connections between different concepts or whatever through visual organizers and stuff like that. One thing's that's really good in terms of a compensation or a strategy is to use staging. That's, take a task and divide it into the subtasks, and then just work on one subtask at a time, particularly in writing this is really important. They both benefit from the similar compensations. Maybe external assistance like books on tape or dictation of papers, extra time, computer word processing, these things are beneficial for both types of students. Fluency is a big issue with dyslexic students. It's also critical for dysgraphic students. And with dysgraphic students, it's affected by the fluency of motor movements. And this is really important because that's part of why they just don't do things automatically. And for some of these children with dysgraphia, they have a real struggle developing automaticity of letter form. Ana Maria mentioned that I have an adult son, and he is dyslexic and dysgraphic, and he still doesn't have automaticity when writing. I mean, our name is Richards. He's written Richards I don't know how many zillions and zillions of times, and he still has to stop and think, is it A-R R-A? It just doesn't automatically flow for him. I ran a school for these children, and we had a student, he was eight. He really, really, really wanted to learn cursive, but he had severe motor planning problems which interfered with his learning to write. So we had to really look at what are the prerequisites? How can we identify where his performance is breaking down and then how can we teach him to achieve the fluency he needs for cursive? So, one thing we have to remember constantly, and this is a really valuable teaching tip, too much, too fast, it won't last. So we knew we could not go too fast because then he wouldn't last. And we had to break it down into the smallest parts. So we started with the letter L, made big loops, and we did air writing where we would stand in front of him and we would do it and he would do it, and he would follow the motor movement we made and say, L, L. And he'd do it 'til he could do it really good and do it without us doing it. Then we went to the board and we drew an L, and he was to trace the L. And we did this many, many, many times, and then he said, okay, I'm ready to do it on my own. And this was his first attempt of doing it on his own after all of that practice. So, he still did not develop it automaticity. Eventually he did, though. In the first semester of school, we taught him probably about six or eight letters. And that's all. But he knew those letters, and he knew the motor movement, and the second semester, we finished the alphabet. So once we could trigger in and get him to start doing it, then he was able to continue. Let's talk specifically about dysgraphia. What is the definition of dysgraphia? Well, it's of Greek origin, and it means the condition of having impaired graph or letters. Graph production and graph means letter in the Greek. It is a specific language disability. It's one of the language based learning disabilities. Developmental motor coordination can be ruled out because some of these kids have really great motor coordination. I've worked with many dysgraphic kids who were also artists. Now, you'd think that was conflicting. How can they draw art stuff, but they can't write letters? And the issue is sequencing because with writing letters you have to remember the sequence of the movements, and this is one of the main issues they have problems with. They also have unusual difficulty with subword letter form. Now, subword is the individual letters within the word. So they have trouble producing legibile letters. Another part of the definition, it's a written language disorder. Now sequencing really is a major part of this issue. So it's a serial production of the stroke. Serial is related to sequencing. And to form a handwritten letter, whether it's printing or cursive., It involves motor skills but also language skills because you're relating it to what it is you're writing. You have to find, retrieve and produce letters. And this is what they call sublevel language skills, the dealing with the individual letters. And then impaired handwriting can interfere not only with spelling but also with composing, because handwriting is a developmental sequence. There's this little story that I like to share because it tells about what we need to do in terms of recognizing each individual child's skills. Some of you may be familiar with this. I called it one size fits all. Well, once upon a time, the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a new world so they organized a school. They adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. To make it easier to administer, all the animals took all the subjects. Well, the duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, better than his instructor, and he made passing grades in flying, but he was very poor in running. Since he was so slow in running, he had to stay after school. He also had to drop swimming to practice the running. By the way, this reminds me of something that when we had the Fonz, Henry Winkler, come and talk to us, he talked about he was not allowed to do drama in high school because his grades weren't high enough. He had to bring his grades up before he could do drama. So it's the same thing with this duck. He had to drop swimming to practice the running. So, back to the story. This was kept on until his web feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming. But, hey, average was acceptable in school, so nobody worried about that, except the duck. Then it goes on to tell you about what happened with the rabbit and what happened with the squirrel, what happened with the eagle. At the end of the school year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceedingly well and also run, climb, and fly a little, had the highest average and he was valedictorian. Now I ask you, how many of us are like the duck who's excellent in swimming and good at flying, but we spend a lifetime running, only to wear out our feet, and in doing so, we neglect our true gift. That's something that's really important. Dyslexic kids and dysgraphic kids have many, many gifts. We have to be able to celebrate these gifts of these kids. But they also need the skills, and we need to take time and do the skills. But we need to not ignore their gifts. Mel Levine wrote a book, he wrote many books. One of his books was Keeping Ahead in School, and it was written for teenagers, and in it he discusses each area of academics. When he's talking about writing, he calls it the awesome juggling act. Why? Because writing requires a simultaneous organization of multiple facets. This requires a great deal of active working memory. When you write, you have to remember many things at the same time, and that's why Mel Levine says that writing is like juggling. In this picture, the boy's trying to juggle the most important parts of of writing, the grammar, the spelling, the puncuation, the words, all of that. He's trying to juggle all these things. He has to keep all of the balls in the air at the same time. And when you write well, you have to keep all of the parts of writing in your working memory while you are writing, and this is very complex for many kids. This is just a cute cartoon from Peanuts. Peanuts does a lot of great cartoons related to learning differences. So Lucy says indications of a possible learning disability, has a slow recall of facts, makes spelling errors, has an unstable pencil grip. And at that time, poor Charlie drops his pencil. He has a poor pencil grip. Yes, Charlie does have learning disabilities. Okay, so one of the aspects that can be helpful in working with developing writing skills, especially with young kids, I don't do too much with changing pencil grip when an older kid comes to me, but when we have younger kids, I do try to get them started with the right habit right away at the beginning. But once their habit's really solid, it takes so much time to change it that we just don't have enough time to do everything, so we just let it go. Here are some pencil grips that are ineffective. Many times students, especially, lots of students have poor pencil grips because it's not always taught in the classroom, and they just pick up the pencil and start using it. In number one here, on the left you see the hand of a student who keeps his thumb over the next two fingers as he writes. The small joints in his fingers can't really move. Therefore, a lot of his writing takes place at the wrist or with the big knuckles. Even his elbow may move during the writing. And on the right here, the student's hand holds the pencil very, very close. The point is straight up and down and it's extremely tight. This is a problem. In this one, the hand of the student is bent inward like a hook. This stretches out the muscles on the back of the hand, which, because you need those muscles. If you're holding it this way, you need those muscles to control the pencil, but it's very fatiguing. Our dysgraphic kids find writing extremely fatiguing. Okay, this student has trouble keeping track of where the pencil is while he's writing, so he keeps his eyes really close to the page. Since he has to concentrate on the location of the pencil point, he finds it difficult to also remember spelling, good ideas, and the other parts of writing. No wonder these kids complain about getting tired when writing. Now here is an appropriate pencil grip. The muscles of the thumb and the middle finger are responsible for most of the pencil and letter formation. The second finger, right down here, goes along for the ride and controls the pressure of the pencil on the paper. The pencil is held about three quarters of an inch from the point, and the upper part of the pencil is resting against a knuckle. The pencil is held at a 45 degree angle with the page, and this is probably for many people the most comfortable and efficient pencil grip, and it causes the least amount of fatigue. There are many videos on YouTube with a variety of ideas on how to teach the normal pencil grip. Just search for pencil grip. Okay, so demystification, that's so important for all kids how learn differently. It's especially important for the child with dysgraphia because it's such a mystery for him. Why can't I write? Why can this kid do it and that kid do it, and it's just so hard for me? I start out and the first line is really neat, and then it gets sloppier and sloppier and sloppier as I go down. Well, what you have to do is take the mystery out of it for the child. And that's where demystification comes in. Mel Levine talks a lot about demystification, and many other writers do, too. You take the mystery out. Say something like, hm, writing is hard because you struggle to hold a pencil correctly. That's why you also need to learn how to type. Or maybe you'll say, writing is hard because you have trouble remembering the words you want while you also work on sentences. That's why we have a list of some of the key words over here before you start. So, you explain what aspect is hard, the small part, and then give a cue on how you're gonna work on it in a positive way. This has to be positive for the child. You don't want to say anything really negative to him. So what are some specific characteristics of dysgraphia? Well, it takes a great deal of effort, it interferes with the ability to convert ideas, there's inefficient prerequisite skills, inefficient prerequisite skills for letter form, for use of space, causes great energy drain. It's this great energy drain which is really critical because this is what interferes with the higher level performances of the written expression., and this is where they have their problems. The overall issue is a difficulty remembering and mastering the sequence of motor movements for writing letters and numbers. Some kids don't have any trouble with numbers, other kids have a great deal of difficulty with numbers. And just because, by the way, a student reverses a letter or reverses a number doesn't mean they're dysgraphic or dyslexic. This is a completely normal development up to second grade, and many kids will struggle with this. The problems are generally out of harmony with the person's intelligence. For example, the student may be able to give you a great verbal story, but then when he goes to write it, it's really poor. And it's out of harmony with the regular teacher teaching. You can have the best teacher in the world, and the child may still have trouble. You have to use specific types of strategies to help them. And it's out of harmony with the use of a pencil in non-learning tasks. That's why I was saying that visual motor problems may or may not relate to dysgraphia. A child can be an artist and still be dysgraphic because visual motor integration, which is copying a design, and you can copy the design in any sequence you want. It's not the same thing as remembering to write a letter in a specific sequence. So what are some specific symptoms of dysgraphia? Okay, there's poor processing. In other words, getting it all together in your head so you know what to do and where you're going. It causes tremendous fatigue. It interferes with communication. The information may be poorly organized, and it could cause inattentiveness, particularly inattentiveness to details. In the next cartoon, I was doing a talk for a group of teenagers at one of the International Dyslexia Association conference's teen days, and there were about 200 kids in the room. And I showed this picture and everybody cracked up, and they started saying, don't you hate when that happens? well, what's happening here is the student had lots of good ideas and he knew how to do it, but he just missed a detail and the two ends don't match. So, that's kind of like what writing is for them. They miss one or two or more of the details while they're writing. Communication. You know the football game in Peanuts cartoons. It's been going on for how many decades? So, Patty throws the ball and he goes to catch it. Bonk. And so she says to him, Chuck, coordination and communication, those are your problems. Your mind tells your body to do something, but your body doesn't obey. Your mind and your body have to work together. Chuck says, my mind and my body hate each other! I love this cartoon because I had a student, she was just beginning junior high, and she was very dysgraphic, and she said to me one day, you know, I wish my brain was in my elbow. That's one of those things that you go, oh yeah, really? Okay, but instead I just said, that's interesting, tell me more. And so she said, well, if my brain was in my elbow, then the message wouldn't get so lost on the way to my hand, and I could write better. I thought that was really pretty good for a seventh grader. Okay, so, one of the things about dysgraphia as well as other writing issues are that there's many, many myths about this topic. People may think the student's lazy, and that's why it's sloppy, and they think they're not trying. They may think they don't care about doing a good job. They may think, oh, it's just sloppy. If they would try harder, it would make it less sloppy. Or they think the child's just in general a very sloppy kid. They may think he's careless. They may think it's a visual motor delay. Now, these things are all so negative and so wrong. They do not apply to dysgraphia or to most writing issues. There maybe some kids who aren't trying or aren't caring, but most kids come to school wanting to succeed. When they stop wanting to succeed, generally it's because they've received too many negatives, and they figure, why bother? By the way, laziness comes all too often. There's a wonderful book. If you've heard the word lazy used too much, the book, The Myth of Laziness, is awesome. It's a wonderful book. Okay, so, let's talk about what you'll notice, what you'll see in dysgraphia. You'll see letter inconsistencies, irregularities, unfinished letters, general struggles, cramped fingers, odd positions. Okay. I was supposed to show the picture, but the picture is not coming up. Oh, gee. Okay, well, odd positions and I have a picture of a kid who's just all kind of discombobulated, turned, and her head's one way and her shoulders the other way. She's really in an odd writing position. Inconsistencies, general illegibility, and a heavy reliance on visual. This, oh, sorry, you can't see the picture. This kid is really, oh, there it is. There she is. See how her head is one way and her shoulders are the other way, and she's, what? Okay, and she's, she's very relying on the visual. This is another student. This was during the testing session, and this is his writing posture. And I said to his mom, does he do this a lot? She says, all the time, I can't get him to sit on his bottom. So, we had an occupational therapist, and she evaluated him, and, yeah, had very poor core strength, very poor postural stability. And so we gave him another way to sit. First of all, he was short, so his feet didn't always reach the ground, so we put a block under his feet. We first tried a wooden block, but we decided the kid was a bit ADD, and so the wooden block didn't do very good because it made all kinds of sound. So then we used a foam block, it was much better. We gave him a slant board and help with the writing direction. I don't know if you can see it, but he's using a pencil grip. This kid ended up with great handwriting, and it was truly wonderful. So it can be done. But, of course, he was a young kid, so we could work with it. Some more specific observations. Inefficient speed in copying, decreased speed of writing. Or maybe it's excessive speed when writing. Too fast, too slow, it's not efficient. Inattentiveness about details, especially when writing. Slow implementation of verbal directions, and concurrent sequencing issues. I keep mentioning sequencing issues because this is the base, this is what's going on. And, some general strategies for remediation. But before we get into these, I'd like to stop and answer a few of the questions. Ana Maria, I can see the questions. Should I just go and answer them?

- [Ana Maria] Yeah, please go ahead.

- [Regina] Okay. How does visual motor integration relate to dysgraphia? I think I may have answered that that they're kind of separate because the dysgraphia really is based upon the sequencing problems. At what age can you determine a student who's dysgraphic? Well, they have to have had some written instructions in the classroom. You can tell if they've got major sequencing issues as early as preschool. They may have trouble learning to tie their shoes, they have trouble reciting the alphabet. Things that other kids can do, they're not doing. Someone else asks, is there a checklist or assessment for diagnosing dysgraphia? There's no formal assessment that I know of because there's such a wide range of variation that it's very difficult to get standard scores. I wrote a book where there's an informal assessment, and it's called The Source for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia, and it is in the references at the end of this list. The Source for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia. It's now published by PRO-ED. It was published by LinguiSystems. And someone wants the title of the lazy book. It's The Myth of Laziness by Mel Levine. Are boys more prone to this? Some studies say yes, and others say no. So I think that it's up in the air. And, Ana Maria put in a link for The Myth of Laziness. Okay, thank you. So let's talk about general strategies. You need to focus on automatization. You need to help these kids develop automatization so that they have an automatic ability to write the letters. You don't want them starting to write out and get to M and think is the M with three or two or which one is it? By the time they go through all that thinking, they've totally forgotten what they're writing. You need to make the letter form automatic. Scaffolding. Scaffolding means you give them as much help as they need and then bring it back, so you give them less and less help while they're doing it. You always must model. I was Slingerland trained. I'm Orton-Gillingham and Slingerland trained. And in Slingerland we learn to write all the letters backwards. Why? Because air writing was a major component, and now it's a major component of many multisensory programs. But we were taught to write the letter backwards so we could stand facing the child. We would make a letter A so it would come out the same way the child is making the letter A. And that's the issue of modeling. You have to think about where is the child. You don't want to make a letter backwards. Or if you make it the correct way with your back towards the child, how are you gonna see what the child is doing? You have to separate the breakdown points. In other words, when the child is unable to do a specific task, figure out where's the issue. What's going on? And then deal with it that way. Staging is breaking it into small parts. Have multiple formats. Don't want to always do things the same way. And make sure you deploy the strengths of the child. Help him celebrate his strengths. Use specific strategies and directed retraining. It needs to be very explicit. So I'm going to go quickly through the developmental hierarchy for the sequence for writing. The basic, the base of all this learning, everything you have to do in writing, is the underlying processing skills. So what are the underlying processing skills? It's all the physical components, holding the pencil, holding the paper, and all of that. The motor performance, speed, efficiency, automaticity, active working memory, language formulation and ideation, and awareness of metacognitive strategies. Metacognitive is knowing about knowing. So can they think about what they're doing when they're in the process of doing it? Can they work to give themselves feedback about what they've done or do they just work to get it on the paper and turn it in? That's the underlying processing skills. Then we go on to the mechanical skills. There's both lower and upper mechanical skills. Okay. So, these are a lot of different things, like the spelling, the grammar, the punctuation. All of that. Oh, by the way, if your child's having trouble with learning the letter form, remember that up is up and down is down. But we're having them write on a desk, especially a flat desk, then up is away from, and down is toward, and that becomes all confusing to a kid. So have them work at the chalkboard. Much more efficient. Also, if you want to teach them letter form, use verbal commands to verbalize the movements. For example, the lower case A is around and down. Again in the book, Source for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia, it has all the alphabet cues. So these are the mechanical skills that I just went over. And to help with spelling, provide pattern recognition. We don't want them to just memorize rules. That's not efficient. Many of the rules that I was taught when I was a kid have been proven to not be, to maybe only apply to only 10% of the kids or something. So, you need to help them. You need to facilitate the learning of phonological aspects, orthographic aspects, that's what the word really looks like. Like laugh is not L-A-F, although it would be phonetically. But orthographically, it's L-A-U-G-H. And the morphology, that's so important. It's a critical aspect of learning to read and spell. Morphemes are the smallest unit of meaning in a word and so morphological aspects are being able to break apart a word into smaller parts and do word endings and that kind of stuff. You can accomplish a lot of this through exploration, especially if it's active and construction. The brain likes novelty, so you can't do things over and over and over and over the same way. You have to have variations. They have to be active. Okay. Now, we also have spell checkers. And spell checkers, they're all around, but this is one, a little paragraph that I found that I felt was really cool. It kind of explains what the spell checker on a computer tends to do. I have a spell checker, it came with my PC. It plainly marks for my review mistakes I cannot see. So, phonetically, it's okay, but it's not taking into account all the variations in English. You have to consider that tremendously when you're trying to get a spell checker for your child. The one we have found so valuable to the kids is a spell checker that provides auditory reinforcement. It reinforces the phonetic analysis, it helps connect the phonetics to eidetics, which is the actual way of spelling it, and it provides auditory reinforcement, and it compensates for sequencing problems in dictionary work. These kids, well, I'll use my son as an example. He can use a dictionary, and he kind of knows M is in the middle. But then if the word start with L, he has to think, okay, is L before M? Let's see, A, B, C, D, you know. It takes him so long, whereas I've said, oh, I've opened to M, I want L, I go backwards. That's not automatic for him. That's not automatic for many of these kids with dyslexia and dysgraphia. So that's why these spell checkers, whether you use an app like Easy Spelling Aid or you use the Franklin Speller, which is what we used in my school before all these apps were out and around, and I still think the Franklin's wonderful. Okay. The upper level mechanical skills are integrating the lower skills with content and pulling in grammar, semantics, speed, clarity, precision. Okay, let's talk a minute about semantics. Semantics is word usage. Have you ever had a student who writes using the same words? I had a student that needed to write a report on a given state. Every week was a different state. At the end of each report, he'd write, I'd like to visit Michigan because it has a lot of lakes. Or the next week he'd write, I'd like to visit New York because it has a real big city. Et cetera, you get the idea. Every concluding sentence was essentially the same. He needed to work on his semantics. One of the ways we do this is through a thesaurus, but not a traditional book thesaurus. Our kids really like the Visual Thesaurus. And this is an app. You can get a free trial before you have to buy it. But I think if you have kids that need a thesaurus, this is really worth it because, like, if you put in the word search, it will give you a bunch of words that relate to search, and it will color code them for which are the most prominent and which are least prominent. It's an awesome program. The majority of the kids I've used it with love it. Okay. So before we go into content skills, let me take a brief break for some of these questions. Okay. Some of my fifth grade and up dysgraphic students are now keyboarding but still have trouble with idea generation, organization, et cetera. Is this common with older kids? Oh, yes, very common. We're gonna get into a section on visual organizers, and that's one of the ways that can be really helpful for these kids. Just remember sequencing is a main issue, and a paper needs to be sequenced. But these kids don't think all of the time, or some of the time or any of the time in sequencing ways. So, using visual organizers is very, very useful for helping them come up with idea generation, and then they can organize it. It's better for them to brainstorm first and not worry about the order, and then go through, okay, what's first, What's second, what's third, what can be combined, and that kind of stuff. What's the correlation between motor planning and dysgraphia? Motor planning applies to the whole body. Dysgraphia particularly applies to the writing. Dysgraphic kids often have motor planning problems when it comes to writing, but they may not have it when it comes to drawing. And so, that's kind of the issue there. For some reason, PowerPoint is in and out. Will we get access for review? The PowerPoint on the screen is in and out? Oh, okay, Ana Maria answered that. Okay. So let's go on then. The content skills. Remember we had the processing skills then in the middle was the mechanical skills and the content skills, the lower level content skills are just what Lauren was asking about, so formulating ideas, organizing ideas, and representing ideas with clarity and in sequence. These are really important. Okay, so organizational strategies. Visual organizers is so valuable. Using an organizer such as Inspiration or Kidspiration is extremely useful 'cause you can also add an auditory component. I've had kids go into Inspiration, they were doing a book review and they were typing just a bunch of random ideas, and then they wanted to do the characters, and so they would auditorily say, well, Johnny was an important character because he liked to blah blah blah, you know, and then they wouldn't have to type it all, and that was so valuable for this child and for many others. Now, the definition of a visual organizer is a visual display that demonstrates relationships between facts, concepts, or ideas. It can guide the learner's thinking as they fill in and build upon a visual map or diagram. So it helps the student learn the relationship between the facts, ideas, and concepts. It helps them organize complex information into a concise visual map. Why does it work? 'Cause it does. And many kids really really like them. Now Inspiration and Kidspiration, they're two versions of essentially the same program, but Kidspiration is for younger kids, and has appropriate symbols and word usage for younger kids. And they have a symbol library on the left, and you can scroll through, and you can have lots of pictures to represent words to use. Or they can type in the words. They build an organizer which is like a mind map. So let me show you some of them. Okay, and by the way, they also give you demonstration ones when you go on for their program. So this was defining the word globe. This is so much more valuable for the child than just looking a word up in the dictionary. What it means, the globe is round, model of the world, round map of the world. To recall the word, the world is round and the globe is round, and you write a sentence, and structure the word, one syllable, long vowel, and has two consonants. So this is with writing. Now this is where they, here's the symbol library, and this is called a SuperGrouper, and grouping, organizing, is a very very valuable activity for so many kids. So they want to find things that are living and things that are not living, so they pull in the various pictures, bee, tree, et cetera, for not living ice cream cone, dresser, bus. Then when they get all their pictures in, they click this little icon, and it will turn to the written format. And this is what comes up for them. The things that are living, and then the child finishes the sentence. Things that are living, what's the commonality among them. And then for each one of the pictures in things that are living, they list it, and then things that are not living the same thing. So it's very helpful to help them organize it. You can also elaborate a little bit more. Which critter is which? Look at the different kinds of animals in the symbol libraries. Find as many examples of each kind as you can, So find as many insects, birds, mammals, reptiles, then you go to the writing view, which is what I showed you in the last slide, and let them write it. This is to work with grammar. The kids have read The Story of Babar. So the instructions are drag each part of speech to the correct SuperGrouper box. So things that are people or places, actions, description words. And you just pull 'em down into the appropriate box, and this was made with Kidspiration. Okay. And then this just kind of got a little messed up in the transference. Okay, well this box of the reference, the Source for Learning and Memory, was supposed to be over here, so pretend it is. So this is, okay, and that was clear up, antonym was supposed to be here, synonym was supposed to be, categories here, linguistic structure here, okay. So, this is a word tree, and you can start with the base word, you can make it simpler than facilitate, you can start with a word like form, and brainstorm variety of words that have form in it, formula, formulate, whatever. This one is using facilitate, and in the trunk they're putting the basic definition, then the teacher can decide which items you want for each of the branches, and I recommend not having more than four branches, it gets a little complex. And you can have the kids go through and put the information there. I'm sorry if you're not seeing the images. You can get the handout, and the handout, this one is number 47, and hopefully it'll be clearer for you. Okay, this is another way to help organize information. This is called flower writing, and this is for writing a basic paragraph with details underneath. So we put in the main idea in the center, and then we have five details, or you can make it three details, however you want. Okay, Becky says that the handout's easy to follow along with your presentation. Oh, whew, I'm so glad. So you can use this as a basic to help them organize, to help them organize what they're doing and what they're writing, and that way they don't have worry about getting it in order, they just think here's a detail, put it down, here's another detail, put it down, another detail, put it down. Then they can go through a number, well, I'm gonna do this, this is the first one, this is the second one, et cetera, and then they write a conclusion. Here's another similar one, and some of the kids, you know how kids love dinosaurs. So we have the top, which relates to the topic sentence. We have to start a paragraph with a topic sentence. And then the neck reminds us about the supporting details, and then the conclusion is the tail. So these are the three main parts, and this is for a paragraph, for a whole paper, it can be for a story, can be for a report, 'cause the same sequence of different things can be used in all of these. Okay, here's another one. Notice these are all kind of similar, they're getting a way to tell the student what are the components. So this one is the hamburger organizer. So they have the topping, what's the topping? The topic sentence. What's the filling? It's the ideas, the details. And they can write those down on another piece of paper. And then the ending, that's the conclusion, and so then they can put it all together, just like you're making a hamburger. And depending on what the kid's style is, they generally love these kinds of graphic organizers to help organize their writing. Now whichever one you use, self-feedback is really important and maybe one of the most valuable strategies of all. You give the child the goal criteria, and again you're gonna vary the goal criteria based on the child's age and what your goals are for the class, and then have the child check his or her own writing to look for these, and I put down KISS. KISS is keep it simple, silly. So you don't want it too complex. So for example, you could be, for a younger kid, capitalize the word I every time you're using it. Always capitalize the first letter of a sentence, always put a period or a question mark at the end, those kinds of things. So here's an example, so here, this is an organizer where the child draws a picture and then writes a sentence about the picture. Introduction, support, supporting details, and conclusion. And then at the bottom, I knew you couldn't read it so I typed it over, it says did I use correct spacing, capitalization, punctuation, or spelling, so the child checks it four times, once for spacing, once for capitalization, once for punctuation, once for spelling. Do I have my name date and title, yes or no. Did I write neatly, yes or no. Do my sentences make sense, did I stick to the topic? Notice they're slightly different. So this is a good way to get them self-checking, and it's a very important metacognitive idea. Another option for self-feedback, did I use correct capitalization, punctuation, spelling, did I write neatly, do my subject and verb agree. You can put whatever you want in there, and for older kids you can help them be more sophisticated, and then with ones that are simple like this, I like to have, when the assignment is that they have to do a draft, do the self-feedback, edit it, and rewrite the final. I want to know how many changes or corrections they made. Kids like to turn in their draft, and maybe they erase something and make one change, well that's not what we want. We want them to really edit it and make it better. And so we have to talk a lot about that. Okay, so the content skills upper level, these are getting more and more sophisticated. We want kids to be flexible in the writing process, we want them to understand the viewpoint of the reader, we want them to use writing as a vehicle through which their thoughts are developed and discovered. These are much more elaborate, complex concepts, that's why it's the upper level of content skills. One strategy that works well with the kids is to teach them plan, write, review, revise. And they say that plan, write, review, revise, okay, I need to plan what I'm doing, then I write it, then I review it, then I revise it. And so it gets them hanging on, in a linguistic way, hanging on to the various components. Okay, another thing that must be taught explicitly is the bridge words. It has to be taught explicitly, meaning very concretely, because kids need to have familiarity with these critical elements, the numbers and synonyms, and, the but, degrees of certainty, consequences, results, all that stuff. Now, here's one way to use some of those words, and at the same time help the student add complexity to a thought. So you give the students a root clause and have them complete the sentence. The root clause would be fractions are like decimals because, and so you give that to them, if you want them to use three words, you say fractions are like decimals because, fractions are like decimals but, fractions are like decimals so. And then students have to complete the sentences. And so here's just some examples. Fractions are like decimals because they're all parts of wholes. Fractions are like decimals but they're written differently. Fractions are like decimals so they can be used interchangeably. This is really valuable for them. While you're working with these different words and different types of functions, you need to explicitly talk about when do we use because, when do we use but, when do we use so, and give examples through it. Okay. Now what about persistent problems? We need to help them learn to compensate and bypass. Compensation is when you alter, change a little bit, and bypass when when you, for example, do typing instead of writing. So when do you use which one? Bypassing, you're going around the problem. The child needs to be given understanding and demystification, a why he or she is struggling. So one way is to allow either print or cursive, whatever's their thing. Have them use a spell checker, computer, voice activated, whatever they need. Give them extra time. Provide alternative forms of testing. Adjust assignments for them. Compensation strategies. This is when the child's doing the same assignment, but you're making some variations. So you can have them do keyboarding, and you can not take off for spelling on the first draft, and then you can decide, do I want you to correct 50% of the words, I want you to correct 70%, whatever, you can set it up with the child. And be sure to encourage your children to proof after a delay, because if they proof right after they write it, guess what? They're just writing what they thought in their head, I mean they're just reading what they thought in their head, they're not reading what's actually down there. So they have to proof after a delay. Staging is break it into small parts. And provide for breaks, that's really important for them, 'cause they need the breaks 'cause writing is fatiguing for them. Perhaps the biggest problem with writing issues is self-esteem. Now, many of these kids feel like they're stupid or they're dumb or whatever, 'cause they can't get it, and they can't do it right, they can't do it like the other kids, and their self-esteem suffers. And this stuff is the biggest problem with dyslexia, by the way. So we need to teach the skills, but we also need to cherish and to value their self-esteem and help them. Okay, so I'm going to read a brief amount that my son, he wrote a book, well we wrote it together, and he's talking about different writing assignments and different things, he talks about the pros and the cons and the values of school and all of that. So here he is, he has homework to do, and he says I think I'll start with the one I hate the most. Writing's definitely the worst task of all, just way too hard to remember all the things I need, like periods and capital letters, and it's almost impossible to think of how to spell words when I'm busy trying to think about the story. It's hard to remember what I'm writing about. I remember I picture I saw in a book about a kid juggling all those balls. The author explained that juggling is like writing, you have to think about a bunch of pieces at once. I figure it's easier to write just a few sentences. That doesn't hurt my hands so much, either. My teachers complain, but I just keep writing very short stories. After all, teachers don't understand what it's like to struggle and struggle to write and still have the paper turn out sloppy and full of mistakes. They always tell me how messy my papers are. Why can't they just understand how hard I try? No matter how carefully I work, the words don't look the way they look for other kids. Sometimes I know how I want the word to look, but it just doesn't turn out the right way. It's so awful to get a paper back with all those red marks. It seems that the teacher wants to make the paper bleed it's so red. I'm determined when I grow up I'll never use a red pen. And guess what, he doesn't. So that's just an example of some of the thoughts that one dysgraphic kid went through, and many others go through very similar thoughts. You have to ask yourself, where does the performance break down? Do you need to remediate? Do you need to compensate? Do you need to bypass? How can you discover the breakdown point? Well, if a student can verbally tell you what he wants to write, but he can't get it out on paper, that's a breakdown point. He knows it but he can't get it down. Use a visual organizer. If a student can get his sentences down on paper, but most of the words are misspelled, that's the breakdown point. Don't worry about spelling, get the ideas down first. There's also something called the three Ps. The three Ps are a very important little mnemonic for us as adults that we can remember, we need to prioritize what we're going to focus on, we need to give the child lots and lots and lots of positives, and we need to be patient in working with him or her. Okay, some takeaway thoughts. Anybody can be reluctant to write, but especially if they have a dyslexic pattern. There's so many reasons, it has nothing to do with being lazy, intelligent, or the motivation. It's just the processing is not fully developed and they can't get it all organized. Strategies help, they really help, they must be taught explicitly. You can't just say, okay here's a strategy, go do it. You've got to show them, practice it, model it, help them with it, and then take your help away slowly. Remember to ask yourself, where does the performance break down? That's so important. Be aware of where the child is. Encourage self-monitoring and feedback, and remember the three Ps. Prioritization, positives, and patience. I'm gonna go back to the questions now. Okay. You have the handout thing, and you can, take the flower drawing from that. Can I have a download for the primary organizer? Yeah, that's in my, let me go through the references right now, 'cause this may answer some of the questions. There's the thesaurus, obtain an interactive concept map, to create visual supports, this is so cool, free technology toolkit for UDL, and UDL is Universal Design Strategies. There's a Co:Writer Universal for Google Chrome, and it uses grammar and word prediction and topic dictionaries, speech recognition, Draft:Builder, Easy Spelling Aid, Evernote, these are all programs that I've used with kids, so I'm not recommending anything I haven't used, and Inspiration or Kidspiration, I mentioned that. Microsoft Lens is an iOS app, also for Android, and it has real good text to speech. Notability is great for note taking. Snap&Read Universal, ThinkMap Visual Thesaurus, the Universal Design for Learning toolkit, Write:OutLoud. And here's some books. Dylexia, Dysgraphia, OWL, Other Writing Learning, Learning Disabilities and Dyscalculia, Helping Students Make Connections, Eli, The Writing Road, The Source for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia, Source for Learning. I had to take, that's what I had to check. I had to take the organizer reference out because they're no longer providing that, and so they asked me to not publicize their company any more. So you can copy anything you want from my PowerPoint, and that should work out okay, you can scan the page and then adjust it. Ana Maria says that they will send everything out tomorrow. Can I speak specifically to handwriting and how to remediate for high school kids? Well, here's my feeling about handwriting and high school kids. They have so much else to do, why bother? Teach 'em to type. Because you can remediate it, but it would take a lot of time and they'd have to practice it a lot, 'cause think of how many hours they've had doing it the wrong way, or the way they already do it. So if you want to do something specifically, I would do a handwriting program with an auditory component, like A is circle around, line down. A high school kid, you have to prioritize. Think of all the things they need, and handwriting is not the highest priority. So that's why I would definitely teach 'em to type, and teaching them to type, the way I've taught kids to type, is have them practice on one of the typing programs, there's so many out there, and have them practice five minutes a night. That's all. Hey, surely you can spend five minutes a night. So that's what they do, but they have to do it efficiently and consistently and not worry about what the dog's doing or whatever. There's some handouts Todd and Ann Maria are putting up. If a student is identified as dyslexic are they often dysgraphic and vice versa? They can be, but it's not essential. It's like, well I can't draw it for you, it's like an overlapping thing, and there's some people that are just dyslexic and they can write fine, their sequencing is fine, it's the organization stuff and spelling that's a problem, there's some people in the middle that have both, and there's some people at the other end that are just dysgraphic. Okay. I think that's the end of the questions. Does anybody have any other questions? I hope I've answered all your questions and that you've enjoyed the information. Someone else is typing, someone else is typing. We'll wait a couple minutes and see what they're typing. Now it's saying multiple attendees are typing, okay. Here we go. Okay, well thank you for the thank yous, I really appreciate it. And on the title page I put my, I think my email is there.

- [Ana Maria] It still looks like we have a couple more questions, Regina. Samantha's asking what would you suggest asking your pediatrician to get a referral to an OT?

- [Regina] Well, laws are different to different states, and California may not be operating like the east coast is operating, so that's really tricky. Sometimes it is better, more efficient to get an OT referral, well in California, sometimes it's more efficient to get an OT referral from the student study team or your IEP team. Around here, I met a lot of pediatricians who don't really understand the learning issues, and therefore don't understand why you need a referral to an OT. And by the way, if you're taking a child to an OT, make sure it's an OT who is familiar with pediatrics, 'cause it's a totally different format to the pediatric OT or the adult OT. By the way, I did put my email on the title slide, so if you have a question you can email me. Is there a checklist for assessing or diagnosing dysgraphia? Yes. I belong to IDA, International Dyslexia Association, I'm with the southern California tri-counties branch, we have a whole section on dysgraphia, and it includes a list of symptoms at various age groups. There's no way I can type it is there? I'll put it down here. Okay, there it is. So you can go in there, and it's socal.dyslexiaida.org, and you will find a symptoms list for either dyslexia or dysgraphia.

- [Ana Marie] And we also have something from Lauren, saying they've had trouble getting schools to recognize dysgraphia as a LD and not as laziness, any advice for how parents talk to teachers and IEP team?

- [Regina] That is a major problem, because dysgraphia does not lend itself to standardized testing. And believe me, we've worked on that. Some of the parents around here have taken, there's activities in the book, Resource for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia, that if you do them it will help you, it's like a simulation for dysgraphia, and it will help you experience it. Some of them have shown the symptoms list to their IEP team. There's no one thing that is 100% successful because there's so many different ideas about learning issues throughout the country. New New York law dyslexia bill also includes dysgraphia should be mentioned and the New York Department of Ed. will be writing a memo to school that they may now include it on IEP. Woah, way to go! That's wonderful. Language is loose, but it's better guidance than we currently have. Yeah, right. We have a California dyslexia bill, and they took out about half of what he had proposed to be in it, but it's a start, and that's what we need. We need to get our foot in the door with these laws, and just keep on moving, keep on going with them. So thank you all, all of you that work on legislation, thank you all, it's so important. Any other questions, did I miss any here?

- [Ana Maria] I think you got everything.

- [Regina] I want to thank all of you who have written thank you and nice little notes, I appreciate it, and I'm glad that it was useful to you, and I hope that you will enjoy the materials, and I know I went a little bit fast, especially at the end, but good luck, and explore these references and have fun with it, and enjoy your teaching. Thank you all.

- [Ana Maria] Thank you Regina, that was great.