Dysgraphia assessment?

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Dysgraphia assessment?
15
Tue, 02-08-2011 - 4:58pm

My ds is dysgraphic. It's an armchair diagnosis I've made. He hasn't been formally assessed because (a) he's homeschooled and so his difficulties have been relatively easy to circumvent and (b) we live in a location and culture which is far less apt to assess and label kids than what I perceive being the norm in, say, the urban US.

But he's now 14 and seems to be wanting to avail himself of the high school credits he can earn by working through course materials at home. And increasingly there are small bits of pencil and paper work expected ... drawing of tables and graphs of quadratic equations in math, labelling angles, algebraic simplifications, physics workbook entries, short answers on written tests and so on. He is able to some of this on the computer but it's fussy and difficult to sort through, collate, submit and so on. We've finally found course curriculums and approaches that he likes, but they don't happen to be the on-line ones, where selection of content and levels is much more limited.

He has good fine motor control, and can write neatly -- he's put in a lot of diligent practice -- but it is sooooo slow, and still much too mentally onerous a task for him to be able to write and also think. There's something specific about the graphomotor work, perhaps a lack of connection between the language-composing and motor-planning parts of his brain. For a long time I hoped we could get him to the point where he could reach a sort of fluidity and it would get easier for him. But having observed him recently I can see that it's still a fingernails-on-the-chalkboard kind of exercise for him, that although he's motivated to do the work, the writing is a real obstacle. He has a very low tolerance for frustration at the best of times, and is a huge perfectionist with some anxiety and self-esteem issues, so he doesn't have the emotional reserves to really push himself through this obstacle. As a result he is beginning to view himself as an academic struggler, which he certainly isn't, and is less willing to take on intellectual challenge as a result.

Since he is quite self-aware I wondered whether an OT assessment might be helpful in getting him to frame his difficulties and potential coping mechanisms in healthier ways, and if so what sort of avenue might be best. Can anyone share any experiences or advice?

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

Pages

Avatar for skystrider
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-14-1999
Tue, 02-08-2011 - 6:30pm

I have a 17 year old son just like that, and also a husband like that.

iVillage Member
Registered: 11-18-2005
Wed, 02-09-2011 - 2:45am

I teach at a university and he would be allowed to complete all his work (including exams) on a computer. Adaptive technology software packages exist to do all of the graph drawing, algebra etc. activities you can think of. Even some of the mainstream packages are pretty powerful. I see many undergrads make use of MS OneNote which seems capable of many of the labelling, writing notes etc. functions that you mention, and that traditionally students with physical disabilities used to struggle through. (One of the most frustrating experiences in my career was watching a super-bright student with low vision struggle to draw graphs and deal with statistical formulae. The technology has improved so much that it would simply not be a barrier now. Despite our best efforts, she dropped out and I wonder where she is now. I see those coming behind her, but with more technological tools in place, excel effortlessly and without a clue of how lucky they are to be born 5 or 10 years later.)

The high school is required to provide the necessary modifications/accommodations to access the curriculum. Your ds didn't ask for dysgraphia (if he is dysgraphic) and he has the same rights to an appropriate education as any other child of Canada. Accommodations/modifications at school would require an assessment and then an IEP, and the school district will have a process in place. They will only accept certain types of assessments, under certain testing conditions, so you should ask the headteacher in the first instance about the accepted avenue, if you want the school district to work with you.

As I am sure you know, assessment is not about labeling. It is not the same thing as diagnosis. It is about identifying barriers to success and putting in place strategies that will allow him to flourish in his educational setting. If his visual accommodation was myopic I am sure that he would find it useful to have his eyes tested and corrective lenses fitted - he isn't being "labelled" by having his eyes tested. The opthalmologist spends much more time evaluating which corrective lenses will restore the ability to accommodate in the standard range than diagnosing a patient myopic. The corrective lenses are simply modifications to his visual accommodation (which I assume he would accept without much mental anguish) in the same way that using a software package which suited his needs help him perform the tasks that the high school (and presumably higher education) requires of him.

Your DS simply doesn't need to struggle with an identifiable neuro-motor challenge in the 21st century. He shouldn't have to. Our knowledge of neurology has improved so much over the last century, why not gain the benefit? An assessment won't make him more or less dysgraphic, and without self-knowledge and self-understanding how is he going to make best use of the opportunities he has and take up his place in whatever societies he chooses? The unknown is always the scariest, but I am sure that he found the dark and under the bed much less frightening when he checked them out. Facing the possibility of dysgraphia is just another part of growing up and learning to understand himself and his world. Once he has this knowledge, he can choose who he wants to share it with.
If it isn't too rude to ask, is he actually worrying about "being labeled", or are you worrying for him?

flameforleo1-1.gif picture by eeyorebabies

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Wed, 02-09-2011 - 5:37am

Thank you for your detailed response. What follows is me working through the food for thought you've provided and mulling things over. This is how I work through things, by hashing them out in writing.

My ds is not actually attending school, which means we fall into a kind of no-man's land. We're in a Distributed Learning Program which allows him to homeschool/unschool while having access to courseware and curriculum should he desire to do Grade 10-12 credit courses, as he's chosen to do this year. IEPs are seldom used in DL programs because learning is already home-based and highly individualized. He and I can simply report verbally, anecdotally, pictorially, photographically, or through blogging or other sorts of portfolios, on what he's been up to with his learning and for most of it there's no need for assignments and tests. It's just that he chose to challenge himself this year by moving into the courseware realm to try a couple of academic courses a year or two ahead of his age grade. He does the work at home, and meets with a liaison teacher once every 2 weeks for half an hour to look over what he's done and discuss his progress.

This DL program is a brand new program, being created as we all work through the year together by a couple of wonderful open-minded teachers -- one overseer and the liaison teacher guy (who happens to also be the special education resource teacher for secondary students in the bricks-and-mortar school, even though his training is in primary and middle school). But in essence my ds is a part of an experimental K-12 school with just 9 students, a total of a 0.2 full-time-equivalent teacher, no pre-existing resources

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-02-2004
Wed, 02-09-2011 - 2:33pm
What about getting a referral from your family doc for an evaluation from private person? You can then present that to the school or SAT or whomever needs it. Or, you don't have to if you don't like or agree with the results. In the US, the schools have to do their own eval, but your school may be more than happy to take what a true professional in the area says.

I am working on getting a Neo Fusion for my 8 year old, but Co-writer may be more appropriate for your son. (It is pricey though.)

Do google for programs to do the charts, labels and such too-there is a lot of free stuff out there. If he can't upload to their computer, can he get a web page for free/low cost that he can post his work on so that the teacher can see it? Or post on a school district adjunct page? Or Facebook, or something that the teacher can log into? Just some ideas that may make things easier to think outside the box!
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Wed, 02-09-2011 - 7:34pm

Yeah, I was wondering about going through the medical system. Good thought. I'm pretty sure the school would be accepting of that.

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-02-2004
Thu, 02-10-2011 - 11:55am

For the worksheets, since he can type well (yay for that!) will they accept a Word document where he just numbers down the side and types the answer?

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Sat, 02-12-2011 - 9:32am

Just a note...the open source screen capture program "Greenshot" takes about five minutes to download and install, has lots of features (like instantly capturing any part of the screen wanted), and sits down in the utility bar on the lower right hand side of a PC screen (mine at least) for instant access with a right click of the mouse.

Also, a techy kid like your son might like Livescribe when he gets into a classroom situation where he has to take notes.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-04-2002
Sat, 02-12-2011 - 12:05pm

My 12-year-old son was diagnosed with dysgraphia last year but the neuropsychologist told us that he was too old for OT to do much good.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Mon, 02-14-2011 - 12:48pm
Thanks for the pointer to Greenshot. That sounds like it'll take about five steps out of the screen capture process, which will make it considerably easy.

My guess is that an iPad/keyboard (with touchscreen for graphics) type of device will be the preferable type of tool in the classroom since he types so easily. To my quick look-see the Livescribe pen looks better suited to dyslexics than dysgraphics.

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Mon, 02-14-2011 - 1:02pm
My ds has no reversals or legibility problems: his writing is just painfully slow (and neat) and writing interferes with his ability to think clearly. My ds would do fine with bubble-filling and would far prefer that to writing out an answer, but handwriting a page in a writing composition class would in no way be within his capabilities. But my ds's dysgraphia is definitely somewhere very central in his brain between the language and motor-planning areas, nothing to do with his fine-motor control which is excellent. Your ds's issues sound like they have more to do with his motor planning and motor control connections.

So I don't really think OT will have much of anything to offer my kid beyond helping his understanding of his challenges and suggesting/facilitating accommodations within institutional settlings.

Miranda

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

Pages