Saturday, November 14, 2009

Dysgraphia, dysteachia, dystopia

For some of the prototypically left-brain children I write about in my book, penmanship problems are common. They are worsened by the dearth of penmanship instruction in today's schools. One can ask the same thing about dysgraphia as more and more people are asking about dyslexia: how much of this is merely dysteachia?

Just as dyslexia (or dys-phonics-teachia) ultimately impedes higher-level reading comprehension, so does dysgraphia (or dys-penmanship-teachia) ultimately impede higher level writing. In struggling hands, ideas quickly bottleneck, choking off fluency.

Precisely this kind of writer's block is plaguing a gifted third grader I know. So his mom had him evaluated by an occupational therapist, who confirmed "dysgraphia." Mom brought this diagnosis to the school and asked penmanship tutoring. The answer? "No."

As it turns out, our school district (5th largest in the country) is not obliged to provide support for penmanship instruction... because penmanship isn't part of its official curriculum.

This, despite the fact that, in their many hand-written projects, students are routinely marked off for deficient "neatness."


KateGladstone said...

Ah ... the blunderful world of education, where teachers can fail kids for the crime of ignorance about things that the teachers have kept the kids ignorant about!

My childhood/teenhood sufferings from that imposed illogic (specifically in the field of handwriting, but also in other fields) gave me one of the BIG reasons that I created Better-Letters: the $2.99 at-home personal handwriting trainer that runs as an iPhone/iPodTouch application. This gives kids and teens a way to gain and maintain handwriting competence even if the adults in their lives won't -- or can't -- lift a finger to make it possible. (I say "can't" because quite a few of the teachers/administrators who discourage handwriting instruction -- while commanding handwriting competence -- have made that choice in order to keep from exposing their own inability to handwrite competently or to teach others how to do so.

I should also mention that -- as far as I know -- Better Letters is the *only* handwriting intervention designed by someone who has actually HAD handwriting problems. (Owing to many neurological issues, I didn'r write legibly, let alone fluently, until age 24 -- and then only because I had to teach myself how to do it: discarding a lot of "conventional wisdom" along the way. Now, I teach handwriting improvement classes to hospital doctors and other people with and without disabilities.)

So, if you know someone who could use a suite of full-featured handwriting resources designed by someone who actually knows the territory from the inside out, click here:

Informational page:

iPhone app download:

Kate Gladstone
Content provider/co-designer for Better Letters iPhone app
Founder and CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
Director, World Handwriting Contest

Liz Ditz said...

I haven't had a chance to play with Ms. Gladstone's app yet, so have no comment.

I've spoken with a number of 4th & 5th grade teachers here in California. They agree that the handwriting is a problem, but "there's no time" for sufficient handwriting practice.

The methods for effectively teaching handwriting also aren't in most teacher-preparation programs.

So here again, like math, "after teaching" by parents or by paid professionals is required.

KateGladstone said...

If school administrators want the parents to teach handwriting, school administrators should pay the parents to teach this subject. Otherwise, the school administration is forcing parents into unpaid labor.

KateGladstone said...

For kids whom the teachers/administrators force into "dys-penmanship-teachia," you can do something despite every administrator and teacher who provides no instruction (or provides actual mal-instruction).

Some starting points: