What’s Writing Got to Do With It? (Spedcast 7)

Screen Shot 2013-01-16 at 6.13.58 PM


I.          What is it?

Dys     = impairment

Graph = Greek for handwriting/letter formation

ia         = having a condition


Having a condition or impairment the affects handwriting and letter formation, or impairments that affect how people acquire written language. Dysgraphia affects written language in terms of letter formation, handwriting, and perhaps even spelling.

II.        Causes

Research indicates that Dysgraphia is a deficit in the Orthographic processor of the brain.

Brain research has come into the limelight here lately with data that reveals the brain containing several processors that need to work in tandem for reading and writing to occur.

The Orthographic processor is the coding center of the brain that makes sense of letters, symbols, and words. The brain stores unfamiliar words and information about print in the working memory of the brain as it constructing meaning .  How quickly a person can access this affects fluency and comprehension. Children whose processor is not working correctly, struggle to form the symbols correctly. These children may also have trouble planning coordinating finger movements in terms of how to hold the pencil correctly and where to place letters on a piece of paper.

III.      Signs

  •             illegible handwriting
  •             Poor letter spacing
  •             Positioning on the page with regard to lines and margins
  •             Inconsistent print/cursive
  •             Strange wrist, body or paper position
  •             Talking to self while writing and closely watching hand while writing
  •             Slow labored copying or writing even if legible
  •             Content that does not match the child’s other language skills

IV.       Accompanying disabilities

  •             Dyslexia
  •             ADHD

V.        Strategies for the Reluctant Writer

  • Encourage creativity!
  • Think of ways to engage and inspire your students who struggle with writing!
  • VISUALIZE! – letter, phrase, concept, or story
  • VERBALIZE!  – allow students to verbally share their thoughts as a precursor to writing them down
  • DRAW! How many of our students LOVE to draw and doodle? Capitalize on it! Allow students to get the juices flowing through creating, drawing, cartooning, doodling…Allow this to replace brainstorming as a springboard into great writing!
  • COMPOSE! – Open the door to writing lyrics, poems, or short themes to build excitement and sustained engagement for writing

Other reminders:

-Write for a purpose

-Persuasive writing

-Creativity with the computer or tech device

VI. Accommodations

  •  rate of producing written work
  • volume of the work to be produced
  • complexity of the writing task
  • tools used to produce the written product
  • format of the product.


1. Change the demands of writing rate:

  • Allow more time for written tasks including note-taking, copying, and tests
  • Allow students to begin projects or assignments early

2. Adjust the volume:

  • Instead of having the student write a complete set of notes, provide a partially completed outline so the student can fill in the details under major headings (or provide the details and have the student provide the headings).
  • Allow the student to dictate some assignments or tests (or parts of tests) a ‘scribe’. Train the ‘scribe’ to write what the student says verbatim (“I’m going to be your secretary”) and then allow the student to make changes, without assistance from the scribe.

3. Change the Complexity:

  • Have a ‘writing binder’ option. A laminated template of the required format for written work. Make a cut-out where the name, date, and assignment would go and model it next to the cutout.
  • Break writing into stages and teach students to do the same. Teach the stages of the writing process (brainstorming, drafting, editing, and proofreading, etc.).
  • On a computer, a student can make a rough draft, copy it, and then revise the copy, so that both the rough draft and final product can be evaluated without extra typing.

4. Change the tools:

  • Allow the student to use cursive or manuscript, whichever is most legible
  • Encourage primary students to use paper with the raised lines to keep writing on the line..
  • Allow students to use paper or writing instruments of different colors.
  • Allow student to use graph paper for math, or to turn lined paper sideways, to help with lining up columns of numbers.
  • Consider whether use of speech recognition software will be helpful. As with word processing, the same issues which make writing difficult can make learning to use speech recognition software difficult, especially if the student has reading or speech challenges. However, if the student and teacher are willing to invest time and effort in ‘training’ the software to the student’s voice and learning to use it, the student can be freed from the motor processes of writing or keyboarding.


For some students and situations, accommodations will be inadequate to remove the barriers that their writing problems pose. Here are some ways assignments can be modified without sacrificing learning.

1. Adjust the volume:

  • Reduce the copying elements of assignments and tests.
  • Reduce the length requirements on written assignments — stress quality over quantity.

2. Change the complexity:.

  • Develop cooperative writing projects where different students can take on roles such as the ‘brain stormer,’ ‘organizer of information,’ ‘writer,’ ‘proofreader,’ and ‘illustrator.’
  • Provide extra structure and intermittent deadlines for long-term assignments. Help the student arrange for someone to coach him through the stages so that he doesn’t get behind. Discuss with the student and parents the possibility of enforcing the due dates by working after school with the teacher in the event a deadline arrives and the work is not up-to-date.

Change the format:

  • Offer the student an alternative project such as an oral report or visual project. Establish a rubric to define what you want the student to include.
  • You can evaluate the student’s visual or oral presentation of that same information, in the alternative format.


Consider these options:

  • If the writing problem is severe enough, the student may benefit from occupational therapy or other special education services to provide intensive remediation.
  • Keep in mind that handwriting habits are entrenched early. Before engaging in a battle over a student’s grip or whether they should be writing in cursive or print, consider whether enforcing a change in habits will eventually make the writing task a lot easier for the student, or whether this is a chance for the student to make his or her own choices.
  • Teach alternative handwriting methods such as “Handwriting Without Tears.” (This is certainly not the only appropriate method.)
  • Even if the student employs accommodations for writing, and uses a word processor for most work, it is still important to develop and
  • maintain legible writing. Consider balancing accommodations and modifications in content area work with continued work on handwriting or other written language skills. For example, a student for whom you are not going to grade spelling or neatness on certain assignments may be required to add a page of spelling or handwriting practice to his portfolio.

Dr. Susan Jones (Resource teacher)


Handwriiting without tears

National Center for Learning Disabilities


 Text to Speech software

  • Windows Vista – Windows Vista contains built-in speech recognition software, but the features and accuracy are less robust than other products.
  • MacSpeech Dictate This successor to MacSpeech iListen is similar to  Dragon Naturally Speaking, but is designed to run on Mac computers

Leave a Reply