Help for a Son with Dysgraphia

Updated on February 13, 2011
J.S. asks from Gulf Shores, AL
13 answers

My son is 10 years old and has struggled in school since 1st grade with his writing. My 6 year old spells and writes more legibly than him. Each year, his teachers blow off my concerns about his writing by telling me that since he's a gifted child (his IQ is 140), he's just thinking too fast to write it all down. I'm not buying it anymore. I've done a lot of research and believe he has dysgraphia (similar to dyslexia, but focused on written language). I've talked with the school, and since he's not functioning below grade level in writing they won't test him (even though in all other areas, he's fuctioning at least 2-3 years above grade level). I've talked with his teacher, and she will not implement any writing strategies for him unless he has a formal diagnosis. In order to get a formal diagnosis, we have to do it privately, which is very expensive. Any thoughts, suggestions?? I would love to talk with other moms who have been dealing with this.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thanks for all the suggestions! I never thought to go through our insurance and it turns out that since we've already met his deductible this year (he has some medical issues), the OT evaluation won't cost us anything! I'm so excited--someone is coming next week to test him. As for his teacher, she's has been less than helpful. For the past couple of years, the teachers have accommodated and allowed him to type most of his work (which has worked well for him). This year, his teacher will not allow him to type at school. So, we're going to get a diagnosis, then fight to get a 504 plan in order to force her to allow him to type his resonses. It's frustrating, but I really don't have a choice. It's nice to hear that other parents have had to do the same thing in order to get their child the help they need.

Featured Answers



answers from Wichita on

It is the law for schools to provide the best education possible for every student. This includes testing! So do NOT let the school bully you---they must test! Threaten to seek legal action if necessary. This usually speeds up the schools cooperation!

More Answers



answers from St. Louis on

Your letter sounds like my life. I have an IQ of 152 but my handwriting has always been horrible. I am both dyslexic and dysgraphic. I had straight A's in school and was in gifted classes.

Is it bothering your son? If so talk to your pediatrican about it. When I was younger I was given pages to copy, mostly shapes, to help with hand eye coordination. Believe it or not video games help alot was handwriting too.

If it is not bothering him then I will tell you from experience that the worst thing you can do is force him to work on it. I HATE writing and I HATED school because of the extra work. Teacher used to tell me I would not get anywhere in life with my handwriting but when I told I was going to be a doctor it always shut them up.

Honestly the thing that worked best for me was having my mom remind me to just slow down when I am writing. My biggest problem that you might find later in school was showing my work in Math. My brain figured out the problems so fast that I sometimes knew the answer was correct but didn't know how to show the teacher how I came to the answer.

Most of all enjoy your gifted child. They are hard enough on themselves and really have alot more pressure them average children.

I just read your other response and I agree that teaching him to type would be a great idea. My life is so much better now that I can type and print papers instead of writing them.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Not responding as a mom, but as a teacher.

The BEST thing that you can do right now is teach him to type. It will be slow and frustrating at first, but once he learns to do it quickly, it will be a skill that he can use for the rest of his life. Honestly, typing is a much more "needed" skill than handwriting. If you can afford it, get him a cheap-o laptop to do his school work on. I have some HS students that bring theirs every day. I think we're probably only a few years away from this with most kids anyway.

For home, you can get him dictating software, so when he has to write a story or something he can just speak it aloud and it is translated to the typed work. He'll then have to go back and edit (because the way we speak isn't the same as the way we express ourselves in writing) but it will help.

If the only problem is his writing, but cognitively he's on the mark or higher, my advise is skip all the money on getting a diagnosis and focus on getting him adaptive help. I could be wrong, but my guess is that most teachers you encounter will be supportive of the typing piece because a) kids have to learn to do it anyway and b) it's really annoying to have to decipher virtually illegible handwriting.

What the school doesn't want to have to do is give him a scribe, which is basically paying someone to sit with your son all day and write stuff down for him. It's expensive, and if you get an IEP it might end up in there. (And, in my opinion, not helpful. Better that he learn to type himself anyway).

Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I'm not going to be a lot of help... most of the dysgraphics I know (mostly from a 2e homeschooling board) type. I'm sure that there are therapies for dysgraphia... but for the practical everyday stuff... the most common thing I've heard are:

- Tape Recorders (dang... digital recorders I guess is what they'd be called now) for "taking notes" in class. Literally just have them run all day.


- Laptops to be schelped about for any and all writing.

2e = twice exceptional = gifted + learning disability

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Peoria on

I really like the getting a script from your doctor suggestion! There are many resources to help with writing depending on the level and problem. Kumon Workbooks and Handwriting Without Tears are both resources that you can buy off the shelf or online and they aren't costly.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Wichita on

Learning to keyboard is definitely your best bet at age 10. There is a handwriting element to the Alphabetic Phonics curriculum that's very effective, but you would likely have to teach him yourself. (You could pay a tutor to administer just that part of the curriculum to him, too.) Although expensive, a diagnosis will be worth it in the long run, though. One question...does he hold his pencil correctly? Teachers don't seem to be taught the importance of that anymore, but it's very important. He should be writing in cursive, too, but there's little-to-no instruction on that in most schools (at least in Wichita where I live).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I can totally sympathize, my son is dyslexic & has the dysgraphia & dyscalculia to go along with it! His numbers do not fall far enough apart to warrant extra help, but the teachers continuously state "he's a problem" in class because he doesn't follow what they are saying. I too had to get a private evaluator & pay for it out of my pocket ($1000), but with this he was given a 504 plan which is for kids who do not qualify for an IEP,but need extra or specified help. Anyways, they can test his fine motor skills, even if he is very intelligent. They can also test for sensory issues & other things, that even though he is intelligent, may cause the writing problem. Talk to the head of your spec. ed. dept. & request testing, if that does not work talk to the Superintendent's office. To address the handwriting issue, they recommend Handwriting without Tears for Dyslexics with Dysgraphia, also typing & voice recorders as the others have stated. My son is also 10 & I don't know how your school is, but ours is still using ALOT of worksheets which causes us alot of problems! Some of the adjustments we have made are: instead of rewriting a sentence they are supposed to correct, we use the "grammar editing marks" (not certain I have the correct name), or we'll just write the part of the sentence that needs to be corrected. Instead of writing a word in the blank for mutliple choice or matching column a to column b, we write the letter or number in the blank, simple things like that. the school wasn't the happiest when I took it upon myself to do that, but they won't help us, so we have to help ourselves. They still don't undestand why my son can't write, even though they have the report in his file! Good's an uphill battle, but stay on them! & defintiely go to the spec. ed dept. If they refuse to test they have to give you written reason as to why & you have a right to appeal!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Ask your ped to write a prescription for testing - your insurance should cover a written request for testing and any "therapy" that is recommended after that. (Our insurance with Aetna covers at 90%). I hope this is the case for you!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

You are in the classic catch 22. As long as there is no educational need for special education, even a formal diagnosis is not going to help him. IDEA is very clear, to qualify for special education the child has to meet a two pronged test: A qualifying diagnosis (dysgraphia is NOT one of them btw) and the child must need special education. Your son will not meet either standard, although, he may meet the standard for a learning disability in Written Expression. My first question is, has he taken the MO state assessment for writing yet? Yo do not say what grade he is in, but in most states, children do not take the state assessment for writing until the end of the 4th grade. If he is in the 4th grade, and has yet to take this test, you may find that his score gives you the evidence to prove need.

I can tell you what assessements you need. You should get an IQ test, a WISC or a Woodcock Cognative, and you need an acheivement test, the Weschelser Test of Acheivement, or the Woodcock Johnson test of acheivement. Both should be full assessments, not "screens" and for the achievment test, you want a full battery of subtests and you need the full written expression score. You should specifically request that every sub test be given in the area of writing and written expression so that every composite score can be expressed in this area. Especially if you are sucessful in getting school testing done, they will not do all the subtests to avoid actually testing him in any area that will show need. The old way to show a learning disablity is to show that the child has a difference of at least two standard deviations between their full scale IQ and their score in the area of disablity (in this case, written expression.) The new gold standard is something called response to intervention, which I will talk about in just a sec.

This descrepancy modle would probably reflect a learning disablity in your son's case, so I would predict that you can meet the first prong of the test will minimal testing (which you can purchase yourself, kind of alacarte from a neuropsycholgist.) It will not show need, need is going to be based on curiculum based assessment, grades, and his score on that state assessment. In some very rare cases, psychological decompensation due to a learning disablity can cause need, but this is a hard argument.

Another suggestion to you is to see an Occupational therapist, they may be able to help him with some therapy, if some of his issue is fine motor, visual motor, or visual perceptual. Some of this therapy may be covered by your insurance. Also, a trip to a developmental optomitrist (OT's can refer you) would be a good idea to rule out an occular motor issue that could respond to corrective lenses, which may also be covered by insurance. Ruling it out is a neccessity.

As for the RTI, or response to intervention, you may be able to argue that he needs some intervention without a diagnosis. RTI is supposed to be implemented for all children who show need (without any diagnostics) hoping to remediate issues and prevent children from needing evaluation and lowering the numbers of children who eventually develop and are diagnosed with a learning disablity. It kind of sounds like this is not going on at your school, but sometimes, if you appear educated about these things, they will magically start to happen. You can log on to and read about RTI, see if you can get anything going without a diagnosis.

You can get the full diagnosis of dysgraphia from a developmental pediatrician. Explore your insurance benefits on this too, you may be surprised about the coverage. You can find developmental pediatricians at every children's hospital, but getting it can take 6 months or more. Just remember, even if you get this diagnosis, you need the full evaluation with all the subtests on the Weschesler or the Woodcock Johnson to get the school to recognize a learning disablity in written expression. Spell it out, be sure you get it, you have to ask, and double check.

For all your private evaluations, if you find that later you get the school to evaluate, and they should have evaluated, you can ask for the school to reimburse you for your cost; however, you must be able to prove that you requested that they evaluate your son prior to you spending that money. The only way you can prove that is if you have a document to proove it. If all your requests have been verbal, put pen to paper and write a request to the director of special education requesting an evaluation for your son and something called "Prior Written Notice" of their reusual if they refuse that lists all the tests, assessments, and measurements that they used to determine why they denied your request. Every time, from now forward, that you have a conversation with anyone at school about this issue, send a confirmation email that day that summerizes everything you say and they say, and at the end, say "if you do not send me a written correction within ten school days I will assume that I have summerized our conversation accurately." If it did not happen in writing, it never happend.

Good luck, if I can answer any more questions, let me know, this is what I do!


1 mom found this helpful


answers from Stockton on

My son is 10 years old and is gifted with dysgraphia.We had him tested with IQ tests, academic tests, Lindamood Bell testing and a dyslexia specialist evaluation and an OT evaluation. In spite of all this we got really nowhere with school because the teacher did not know how to teach to dyslexia and the principal was angry we went over her head by doing it all private and setting up a meeting to tell her what to do. We took both our children through seeing stars with Lindamood Bell to insure their reading and help my son with spelling and hopefully writing.It was worth it. We saw improvements for my son in reading (he was at grade leve but tested out 4 years over after).He improved in other areas and even somewhat in writing I was most impressed with the non academic like esteem and such.But by the end of the school year we could not deal with the teacher and the school and the fact that he hated school. He improved in so many ways but he really did not want to keep going. We now homes school this year and it is the best thing for him and frankly for me too. We still are chasing state standards with our charter program and deciding how much to work on writing and how. I have concluded that Handwriting and keyboarding should be daily but for only a short time maybe 20 minutes. hand exercises and violin should happen everyday too. Reading aloud is actually done daily and we do a lot of work verbally and dictation. I thought we would be able to spend more time doing Lindamood bell and listening therapy and so forth but so far we have compromised for sanity and calmness and not just giving up on grade level material. He is happy and learning. He has a lot of time to do other things to like acting and cooking and playing. Both children are avid readers and read above grade level. Dysgraphia was not accepted by our school and we should have sued them but I find myself too busy with what he needs right now. I am not the only parent who has had these and other problems with our school, by the way it has high API's. By the way we used to spend hours struggling and crying over homework and school makeup/missing class work but home schooling is nothing like that. Anyway, the evaluations and testing were important for us but not helpful with the school (they said originally oh sure good thing to do) and home school gives a safe supportive place to learn.
The best thing we did when in school was to use a light box. He would dictate, I would scribe, we would get the lightbox and use quick release art tape and place a blank paper over the one I wrote his words on and he could trace. This helped him so much. As far as school they made excuses and we lost precious time that he could have had interventions instead of remediation.



answers from Houston on

My nephew that lived with us for 5 years was diagnosed with this. He, too, was gifted but was born premature so he was in OT/PT. He was given special paper to write on with all the lines lifted so he new where to start and stop. I also bought him grips that went on his pencil that really helped out. He had an awesome teacher in 2nd grade that did not let him use this as an excuse to turn in sloppy work. She would have him pace himself and his handwriting was wonderful. 3rd-6th grade his teachers didn't really mind his handwriting and it was horrible. Most things he couldn't even read back to me. His writing is still bad but if he writes slow, he can read it. Good luck with this.



answers from New Orleans on

Your story sounds exactly like mine. I have a 10 year old son that is in the 3rd grade and he has also struggled since the 1st grade. I have a formal diagnosis of ADHD (combined) and in that diagnosis states that it is likely he has Dysgraphia. I have been fighting with his school to have him tested for Dysgraphia. Every year, they say that they are monitoring his work, but do not believe that he has Dysgraphia. He was held back in the second grade because of his writing skills. He was not given any special help for writing, even though he was held back. He is now in 3rd and falling behind again. They still maintain that he doesn't have Dysgraphia, only problems with ADHD. I am now under the impression that they are refusing any diagnosis, so that they do not have to gie any special treatment.



answers from Columbia on

There are ways to work with those who have writing difficulties, unfortunately schools aren't always equipped to help in ways that are truly the most helpful.

Learning to keyboard is a good choice but there are other things, at the core of the difficulty that can be addressed to help with dysgraphia and its related characteristics.

As you mentioned, J., dysgraphia is similar to dyslexia, and in that respect a person with a 'picture thinking' type of learning style is thinking up to 2,000 times faster than someone who is more of a 'word thinker'.

Your son has a lot of things going on in that he's functioning about 2-3 years above his grade level yet has this discrepancy between his writing ability and his other academic abilities.

This is something I commonly see in children who are very intelligent and who are picture thinkers.
C. Cook

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions