All of you have been so helpful in giving advise for our new CM approach this coming year. I have only one last obstacle to overcome: how to apply the written narrations and essay skill development to my son who has struggled since he could learn to hold a pencil. Both my children have had learning challenges since they were very young, and a variety of potential diagnoses from well meaning Sp.Ed experts and doctors ( ADHD/Asperger/PDD etc none ever seemed to agree). Some of the early intervention services my son received were for occupational therapy, which helped to develop his fine motor skills. He is now 13, and we are heading into our 2nd year of homeschooling and are very excited about trying the CM approach. My only concern is he truley struggles and therefore hates to write more than 4-5 setences. In addition, no matter how had I try to help, he cannot form certain letters correctly and he has a "uniform" size for all letters with no regard for proper capital/lowercase usage (his teachers at the school he previously attended were apparently indifferent about this,. as they never raised any concerns to us...) After our first year sitting with hm day after day, and seeing his frustrations and cryptic style of writing, we became very concerned. We did not push him, hoewever, for fear of making matters worse. We could probably seek out a "reevalution" by the o.t. folks, but, I don't see how 30min twice a week can help more than our daily lessons and practice. My question is: do moms with boys such as these finally decide that "it's as good as it gets" and switch to typing or a word processor? I dread the battles we will face if I expect too much... but he is 13 and needs to be able to write in some legible fasion to make it in this world. We are not concerned about perfection and straight A's for our kids.. they are beautifully and wonderfully made and God gave them to us to love just as they are. We only want to be sure we do the very best to challenge them, not break their spirits. Any suggestions? Thank you again for all your help in all other subject areas; this is my last worry for now I hope!
Advise please: Writing expectations for a child who struggles with handwriting skills(13 posts) (8 voices)
but he is 13 and needs to be able to write in some legible fasion to make it in this world.
Marie, I know you are not being funny here, but I did chuckle when I read this because if you saw my DH's handwriting ... he has a Civil Engineering degree and now owns his own business. Not many people can read his handwriting LOL! He admits it is that bad.
My suggestion to you is to yes, relax, at least for a while, and allow your DS to use the keyboard. If he is not well-versed in speed typing, allow him some time to work on that skill. Let's face it, being able to type is a very valuable skill set in today's world. There was a recent thread where several great on-line links were shared with free typing lessons. I would recommend any of those if you needed a resource for speed typing practice.
My oldest son, also 13, does not have great handwriting, but I have noticed when he is writing for fun, it is much better. Do you encourage your son to write creatively? If not, I would recommend that. What floats his boat? My sons is very serious about his Scouting, and so he prints out the Merit Badge requirments at boyscouttral, and works on those during his free afternoons (incentive to get his other work done!). His writing is so much better on that than when I just give him an assignment for handwriting sake per se. So I don't!
My point is to help your son work on his handwriting by encouraging it when he is doing something he loves, whatever that is. Maybe he has an interest in a particular subject. Encourage him to research it on-line and/or with books from the library or that he already has and take notes. Maybe change it up a bit by giving him lined notecards. Just something to mix it up.
But at the end of the day, no, I wouldn't stress too much and definitely don't want to break the spirit. I so struggle with this with one of our sons, who also has ADHD (though not officially diagnosed). Interestingly, his handwriting is superb, but boy, his habits and strong-willed character just about do me in some days.
It is tough to know when to push and when to let if go. I think you are thinking it through, and that is what is important. And no, I don't think OT with the PS would help at all, especially given his age. Does he work with LEGO bricks or anything small like that? I would think fine motor activities would only help, because his finger muscles may just be weaker than the average and/or have not been developed as much as same-age peers.
My dd has sensory issues and does the same with her capitals and lower cases; I just make her redo them. Overall, I don't think you should settle for what you're explaining. You shouldn't stress either, but it needs to done, IMO. He's going to need to be able to print legibly in the future; I don't think everything is going to be electronic. Besides, it's a good skill and can give him a sense of accomplishment. Some ideas:
1.strengthen his grip strength. If he's like my dd, his hands lose their strength after a while. SO it's like most things, you have to work them to make them stronger, even if it's neurologically based. There are green balls at Wal-MArt or Target that one can squeeze to work-out the fingers and hands. They're not as big as tennis balls, but not as small as golf balls. I think they were int he exersice section? Ask you son's OT for a 'thing' or 'things' to strengthen his hands at home. Other than that, I wouldn't bother with OT as PS.
Also, I'm assuming his pincher grip is off. You could retrain that by having him go back to using a small pencil to force him to hold it correctly. Of course, as long as his hand isn't too big. YOu could also try those rubber pads to place on the pencil for a softer gripping experience.
2. have you looked at Handwriting Wihtout Tears? It was designed by an OT for her special needs son. It sounds like he may have some visual issues, too and the lay-out of their writing paper is specificallly for those tpyes of people. Even though he's older, I'd say start him back closer to the beginning. I think that the workbooks do not have grade numbers on them-they are level oriented only to preserve his dignity! I'd suggest looking at Printing Power (just tell him ignore the bunny coming out of the hat) and then move on from there:http://shopping.hwtears.com/product/PP/HWT
HWT has the pencils that I mentioned:http://shopping.hwtears.com/product/PEN/HWT
3. Another option is to let him choose for himself which printing style he likes. At his age, it's very important to have their cooperation if you can get it. My dd, the one with sensory issues, actually found that D'Nealian was easier for her; but have him do some samples of different styles and let him choose what feels best and then start at the beginning of one of those styles. There's no shame in being at the beginning even if it's juvenile. When people learn foreign languages, much of the time they are most succesful when they use children's materials.
4. An idea that just came to me that you can accommodate his age better with is Startwrite: after he chooses his style of preference, you can design copywork sheets with starting dots, arrows, and light tracing lines. That keeps him starting at the right spot and following the tracing lines, keeps him moving in the right direction (without all the bunnies and such of elementary materials).http://www.startwrite.com/
Lastly, I would just encourage him to rise above this; that he has developed bad habits, but that with determination, he can develop legible handwriting and build up a tolerance so that gradually he writes longer and longer passages. It's a good opportunity for him to practice perseverance. YOu just need to figure out how to strenthen his hand and and correct his grip and/or wrists/body positions. Practice, Practice-but just in short spurts, frequently during the day. Over time, the selections will get longer and his tolerance will get better-especially by strengthening his hand and grip, which is also useful in other areas of life.
Having him write about things he's interested in is helpful, too.
Looking over my post, I think him choosing his style, using something like Startwrite to make your own copywork with starting dots, arows and tracing lines, combined with hand strengthening excercies and frequent, but short writing selctions will make a difference.
I've only skimmed through the last couple posts but I will share with you my experieinces. My 11 year-old has very similar issues. He has dysgraphia. His handwriting is improving some with regular copy work (we've only homeschooled one year so far) and I expect that regualr copy work and printing will continue to help this improve. My dh also has very pathetic handwriting, and when was the last time you were able to read a doctor's perscription? Don't sweat it so much. sare his handwriting will never be perfect. I would continue copy work for the sake of conventions --work on things like holding the pencil correctly, forming letters correctly, spacing, letter size, etc. Over time his handwritng will improve and he will be able to write longer sentences and paragraphs. Having a reason for writing is very important. By all means, start typing and refine that skill. Ask him to type his narrations. Save printing/handwriting for copy work and note-taking or list making. You could let him use a pen -- they tend to write much smoother causing less drag and therefore can be less tiring. My son was always pushing too hard on his pencil, often breaking the tip and his hand would tire so easily. You should remind him that pen can't be erased, so he will need to be extra attentive in how he forms his letters, etc., especially if using it for copy work. Hand exercises are a very good idea. Don't lessons requiring writing back-to-back. Give him a break in between and encourage him to stretch his hands before writing assignments, in the middle and at the end. A stress ball or pinching clotjhes pegs with the tips of the fingers, or picking up small objects with a pair of tweasers or salad tongs are really good, too.
Are spelling, grammar and organizing thoughts on paper difficult for your son even though he's good at oral narration? These are real problems for my ds. It's hard work, but I have every confidence that with consistancy and encouragement that these things will improve significantly over the years. I think the key for us will be to set very clear goals from year to year. It is sometimes easiest to start with what you want the end result to be, figure out the things that need to be accomplished to achieve that goal and in what order, then go from there.
I forgot about the pen idea. YES!!! My oldest son gets so frustrated with a pencil smearing. This might be an issue for your son too though he might not have articulated it. My son didn't for a long time and then one day, he told me it really bothered him--the smearing.
OTOH, pens are permanent. IN August, I found some great deals on the PaperMate Erasermate pens. They do erase amazingly well.
Wow! Thank you so much for ALL the suggestions! We will definately check out the Handwriting Without Tears, and the other links mentioned. I never thought about using a pen, what a simple thing to try! In regards to difficulty w/ spelling etc; yes. He gets it from me! In all seriousness, he is pitifully behind in spelling and grammar... this is what was so shocking to us.. He had speant the last 5 yeas plowing through crazy spelling lists at his private school, but apparently never retained the words to memory. As we began our homeschool last year, we were horrified by the SIMPLE WORD mistakes that popped up in his basic writing assignments. We are to blame for not paying closer attention to his work when he "went to school", however, we were never told this was a problem either and assumed he was doing fine. They just kept passing him along to the next grade. We can't go back, but we want to do better in the future. What a blessing to have your input and ideas; we don't have much encouragement from the family if you can relate. They keep saying we should go back to public school becasue we are not trained in special ed.; but based on what we observed in this last year he was not "getting it" in most all subjects yet he kept passing somehow...??
I read each of these ideas with great interest. I know we want our children to enjoy learning and that is why we homeschool the way we do. When my oldest son was six he begged to learn to write in cursive. So I taught him and he developed a beautiful handwriting. However, the same year he would cry when he wrote with a pencil. He said he couldn't stand how it felt when he erased. I couldn't believe it. I had never heard such a thing. Well, he had big hands for his age so I taught him to type. This is where his writing creativity really took place. I wanted him to want to write and to get his feelings and ideas on paper. Not just to be able to write (penmanship). I let him type his English and Science papers, etc. He did have to write one Bible verse in cursive each day. I didn't want him to forget how to write in cursive. He did have to use a pencil, sometimes pen in Math. I know we have to do what works best for each child and each child has different strengths/weaknesses. I just wanted to say that was like yesterday. Now my son is 18, in his second year of college and Aced his English class. He mostly types. He was hired permaneantly in the IT dept. where he goes to college at only age 17 out of 15 other applicants. I don't mean to brag. I just wanted to point out that his stength was computer programming and troubleshooting and he started all that at age 11. Yes, his handwriting isn't all that great but legible but he has been a happy child growing up. And did that happen too fast.
Marie, you're son sounds very much like mine. I know what you mean about people not understanding. How does your son do in terms of narration? My son is really able to narrate well -- I find he's primarily an audio learner and can narrate very well. He communicates very well orally, but there is a real break-down when it comes to written narration. One thing you might try is having him dictate to you what he wants to say. Be his scribe, write it down word for word. Then allow him to read it over and determine if he has really communicated what he wants to say. Allow him to revise. You will probably need to help him to make further revisions if he has difficulty identifying run-on sentences, or incomplete sentences, or if he has trouble with keeping facts in order. You could then have him either type the whole revised narration out for his notebook or just a part, or use a part of it for copy work depending on the length, purpose, etc.
Have you determined what kind of learner your son is? Have you tried using letter tiles (scrabble ones will work) when working with spelling words? That's good for visual-kinetic learners. Saying the letters out loud while spelling with tiles adds a audio element. Bouncing a ball while spelling aloud can also help a audio-kintetic learner. There are lots of ideas and if you know what kind of a learner you have you can really find a lot of resources.
Don't let people make you feel like you are failing your son because you are not trained in special ed. The PS system was failing my son, too. It was his oral skills that made up for what he couldn't do with his written work. He was failling math also because he had a lot of difficulty writing numbers and lining up his work into the correct columns. If he was in PS they'd eventually put him in a special class but still keep passing him and he'd give up and think he wasn't smart enough for anything better. That's exactly where his cousin is. You spending the time one on one, having patience, understanding his challenges and his needs is the exact thing he needs. You can do it.
Are we answering your question, or do you feel you're looking for a more speific answer?
Wow, I am not the author of this post, but I could have been, and I am so grateful for all the wise and helpful advice you ladies have given. 4myboys, your words really encourage me tonight, as I was JUST discussing with my husband how worried and frustrated I feel about some of the areas my middle ds is struggling with, including handwriting and spelling. This is an example of "a word aptly spoken"' so thanks to all of you who took the time to respond and offer advice! I love the SCM discussion forum!
I didn't read through everyone elses post, but it seems like you could let him type his narrations or other work where handwriting is not the purpose of the lesson, and then work on his handwriting as just handwriting. I don't see a need to make history or any other subject miserable because of a fine motor skills issue.
4MyBoys, you all have answered this and many other concerns for my kids, , i can't thank you enough! I sat my husband down to read the responses last night and he was so encouraged also (he actually did most of the teaching last year as I'm self employed- we paln to tag team this year at the office/vet clinc) As for narration, my son is an expert! In fact, he will narrate an entire movie of interest or a song (in its entireity) with the accuracy of a recorder. I never thought of writing a dictation for him, what an awesome idea! I think we may practice this over weekend ( he could use the lap top to type it). He can use both hands at the same time on computer whe he paly a train or flight simulator game- he has a train and plane obscession- (one for keys, one for mouse) I bet he will shock us with what he is capable of doing with the keyboard for writing purposes! I feel like a real dummy now! Sometimes the answer is so simple it goes right over my head...oh well. I will also try the scrabble tiles, never thought of that either. It's sad when I can give advice all day for dogs, cats, flea problems etc.; but when it comes to teaching my kids I feel ignorant! I guess we also never studied the different types of learning catagories... If I had to bet, it would be auditory and maybe kinetic, since he can repeat things he hears with such precision, and for the fact that he can't keep his hands still while working (we have to remove any/all debri from the table during school or it will quickly become part of an air raid at Pearl Harbor, or a BNSF engine headed to Birmingham... We'll let you know how our test run goe
I highly second the bouncing ball for spelling words, especially based on your latest update. You said you have to clear the table ... what about a stress ball? Or even a tennis ball? He might NEED something to keep his hands busy to actually focus. No, he can't be setting up war scenes LOL, but he might need to keep his hands busy in a non-distracting way.
I am seriously considering one of those balls kids can sit on too. I really think one of my sons would greatly benefit. He will read while lying upside down off the edge of the couch. I will swear he isn't retaining what he is reading or I am reading aloud, and he is by far my best narrator.
Have you seen the news stories about workplaces who are now going to different work stations? Some allow the employee to choose if they want to stand or sit, and some have gone so far as allowing the balls instead of chairs! GENIUS!
And Marie, don't be so hard on yourself! We have ALL been in your shoes! What is that saying? We can't see the forest for the trees. You love your son so much and you are trying so hard to help him find his best, and it grieves your heart when you see him struggle. We can all take a step back and read what you've shared and help you brainstorm without the emotion of your Momma's heart for YOUR son. Not that we don't have the Momma's heart, but we haven't been seeing your son struggle firsthand like you have.
I have a child who really grieves my heart at times and I have a dear friend who I can confide in when I feel like I'm failing him miserably, and she always helps m to step back and see the masterpiece he is instead of just seeing a flaw in detail. Sometimes we have to step way back to see the big picture. And if you are a vet, you are one VERY SMART person. I canNOT even imagine all of the science and math you are a genius at LOL! Where is the hug emoticon?
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