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handwriting - argh! need someone - a teacher - to explain...

(49 Posts)
bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 06-Mar-17 21:27:32

Why I seem to be experiencing a groundhog day style time loop over this issue? Sigh.

Ds is in yr 8. He is good at maths, in top set, great attitude to learning, determined and works hard. Ds has HF ASD, anxiety, sensory issues and a tic disorder. He has to wear ear defenders to block out the noise and chaos at school, he has sensory issues around veins and hates his wrists being touched, holds his pen awkwardly as a result, has wrist and neck tics. His writing is truly bloody awful. He struggles to read it, let alone the teachers!

It is not likely to improve due to the above issues. I have clearly explained this to the school, in email, in person, we have had meetings requesting that ds uses lap tops instead of pen and paper. He is doing a 1/2 gcse equivalent paper this summer the school applied for ds to have extra time and a separate room for ds to complete his paper due to his diagnosis - his issues are well documented in other words.

So why has ds come home saying he stayed behind in maths to redo work that his teacher could not read. Then he was asked to come up with 2 ways to improve his handwriting by next lesson? Now if this is ds getting the wrong idea, I will happily back down.

But ffs! Ds needs more time, an alternative to writing in pen, a scribe...? We have literally spent an hour at the school with his teacher discussing why ds handwriting is bad and why it is not likely to improve so what do they want from him/ us?

harderandharder2breathe Mon 06-Mar-17 21:34:24

While I can see that the teacher needs to be able to read his answers to check his understanding, the answer in this case is obviously not as simple as "improve his handwriting".

Sounds like another meeting is needed to emphasis the effect the lack of appropriate help is having (teacher can't read his writing so he had to stay behind, teacher can't read his writing so has no way to know if he understands the subject or not, leaving him vulnerable to struggling). Why isn't he allowed to use a laptop in class? Or if the subject isn't suitable for the available software then a scribe? Will he have a scribe for exams? If so he'll need time to get used to working with one for it to be effective.

I'm sorry he's having such s hard time and that you're having to fight the school for support

arbrighton Mon 06-Mar-17 21:35:49

contact relevant teacher to check your son has understood and spell out

arbrighton Mon 06-Mar-17 21:37:36

apologies, it posted too soon

Spell out son's needs. As secondary teacher, even if the relevant information has been communicated to relevant teachers, they may have forgotten which child has which issue, it's not that they don't care, just very difficult t remember for every child.

SweepTheHalls Mon 06-Mar-17 21:37:52

He needs to use a laptop. I have students that do, and it makes the world of difference. Keep pushing with your SENCO. Good luck.

StarUtopia Mon 06-Mar-17 21:38:43

What does his IEP say?

He should be able to type his work. End of.

I would ask for clarification from the school.

Broccolirevolution Mon 06-Mar-17 21:39:18

Are you sure this teacher has all the information? Did the teacher ask your son to re write the answers in a supportive way or in a cross telling off way?
I'm looking for a positive spin- maybe they thought they were giving him another chance to do it himself before he has to rely on a scribe? It must be so frustrating for him to be good at something, to know the correct answer but not be able to put it across. Maybe the teacher is hopeful that if he just keeps trying it will get better, even a little.
I think you should get an appointment with the teacher though to check.

arbrighton Mon 06-Mar-17 21:39:31

And having been a TA, including scribing for exams, if that is granted (it has to be applied for at a certain time and certain criteria), as PP said, it takes some training to use the scribe effectively

YorkieDorkie Mon 06-Mar-17 21:41:19

Definitely request a meeting with the SENCo. This teacher doesn't sound like they have a full grasp of your son's needs.

Ele13 Mon 06-Mar-17 21:42:23

Is there any way you can get your son a doctors note explaining how he will be unfairly disadvantaged if he has to hand write his exams and therefore should be permitted to use a laptop?

Schools are likely to want to push handwriting as far as possible as it's regarded as an important skill. Exam boards might be the same. Schools will also suffer extra costs if he needs a scribe - this may also be influential, though obviously it shouldn't affect anything.

You say you've had meetings - did anyone seem more receptive than others ? Were they with a suitably senior member of staff - obviously one doesn't start at the top, but it can help to shift meetings up the ranks to someone with direct decision making power.

Can you ask them what you need to do/provide for them to achieve "not discriminating against your disabled child" by "putting him at an indirect disadvantage" - making sure things are written in equality act language has often proven helpful to me in the past.

trinity0097 Mon 06-Mar-17 21:46:53

It is quite common to ask children to come up with strategies that they they think might help, I often do this with children, as often they might have the clue which I can then put in place or might not have thought of, as we mig be teachers but we don't have the answer to every problem!

E.g. In Maths could he have a centimetre squared book not 7mm or 5mm squares, this can help with a bit more space to form the numbers. I've found this helps.

I've taught a child with awful handwriting, he had sensory issues and could not touch paper. Is your son like that, so is not resting his hand on the page when he writes (which is essential to be legible) - if this is the case then a laminated bit of card to lean on whilst he writes might help, if he prefers the feel of the plastic over the feel of the paper when writing - it is very successful for the child I taught.

How is the teacher meant to assess the work if it is illegible, and it must previously have been legible, perhaps it wasn't up to his usual standards which the teacher knows he can do?

Sadly though Maths (my subject!) is one subject where all the aids in the world are not going to be much use, a laptop just doesn't work for calculations etc... other than children who physically cannot write at all I have never seen children who use laptops in exams use them for Maths. Scribing your calculations just takes so long if a scribe is used for other subjects.

bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 06-Mar-17 21:52:46

Hello thanks for your thoughtful answers.

At risk of outing myself.

Ds maths teacher only teaches one class, he attended the meeting we held with school just before Xmas about getting extra time and separate room for his exam (this has been granted by exam board and should set precedent). Teacher even made suggestions about how to reduce writing in class. Laptop idea has been raised regularly. Had parents evening a couple of weeks ago and teacher v complementary, handwriting was still raised as issue I said "we know" - it is going to continue to be an issue!
Ds will be starting a new school in September so part of me wants to limp along best we can till we leave as there is clearly insufficient will to help ds use laptops in every lesson.

There is no iep, and unlikely to get one in this school. As ds is top sets across the board and considered gifted in several they seem to think that means he doesn't really need help he just need to write better. It is very hard to break down the ingrained attitude.

Northernlassie1974 Mon 06-Mar-17 21:56:20

He most definitely needs an alternative way of recording. Unless the lesson is specifically a handwriting lesson, then there is no reason to make him write. Of course he needs to practise it to stand any chance of ever getting better, but there is a time and a place for that. Having to write all day for a every lesson must be draining for him and would be counter productive as it would affect the quality of the overall work he is completing. If he is HF ASD then he is obviously capable of achieving well, expecting him to hand write everything would just hold him back and kill his enthusiasm for his work.

As a senco, I would be looking down the route of occupational therapy here (has he seen an OT?) they could advise about assistive technology and liaise with school to help them help him. Hopefully this would also be sufficient to gain him modifications during exams also.
Does he have a Statement/IDP? Is so, I'd also suggest a review sooner rather than later where this is discussed and written into it to ensure it happens in all subjects.

trinity0097 Mon 06-Mar-17 21:57:38

Exam dispensensations can only be given if it can be proved it is a normal way of working, not something just used in exams.

Year 9 in a new school is essential to get right in this respect to enable the EO and SENCO the ammunition needed to put forward an access arrangement application that will be accepted. Laptop use can be delegated to centres, but not all things can be.

Some lessons are not cut out for laptops though, however much the teacher knows that they are needed, e.g. Things where it's a fill in the blank, or fill in on a worksheet type thing. They work best for lengthier sentence or longer type answers.

Originalfoogirl Mon 06-Mar-17 22:06:58

Has he seen an OT? Ours gives lots of advice about that sort of thing, there are special pens with different grips, would that help?

It's frustrating schools are still on with this shit. My handwriting is crap for no physical reason, it's just crap. My brain seems to work faster than my hand. 25 years ago my French reacher refused to recommend I do the French writing option on my o grade exam. She used to make me to handwriting exercises in English. I complained to the head of department who put me forward in the exam, at which, I went on to get one of the highest marks in the region.

38cody Mon 06-Mar-17 22:09:13

It doesn't matter that he's in top set - if he has these conditions diagnosed then he needs an iep to list what's in place for him to access curriculum - headphones etc.
Get another meeting and say you want an action plan and in it discuss that work should not be repeated if he's made best effort. Does he write better in biro or felt tip? If so he can have this in class.

bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 06-Mar-17 22:11:17

We have been talking to the school continually though trinity. I think asking ds to come up with the answer is well meaning maybe but not necessarily the right approach. I do understand the frustration. But ds is so stressed by the situation he has difficulty processing this request and has no ideas about what to do. He has very rigid thought processes and is highly literal, he does struggle with touching paper and holding his pen and has awkward crab like grip on pen which he will not change.

So I appreciate that situation probably wont be resolved easily but I also know ds tries his best and has to overcome a lot of hurdles to manage at school. He doesn't ask for help, just understanding. I want to find an answer but have yet to find one.sad

malmi Mon 06-Mar-17 22:15:03

Could something like this help?

I'm not sure if they ship to the UK through the website but maybe if you email them.

TheFurryMenace Mon 06-Mar-17 22:15:14

Hi OP, I'm a children's occupational therapist. Sounds as though the maths teacher is not on board with your son's difficulties. Ask to be referred to your local NHS childrens OT team. They can do a thorough assessment ( this may include a range of handwriting, physical, sensory and visual perceptual assessments and observations)
and write a report (and hopefully liaise) with school setting out clear advice on what strategies should be put in place e.g a scribe, speech to text software or onward referral to adaptive technology specialists e. g Cenmac.

If your son does not meet the service criteria or if there is a long waiting list, can you consider a private OT assessment? If you do, make sure the OT can carry out standardised assessments to support any recommendations.

Good luck

IThinkIMadeYouUpInsideMyHead Mon 06-Mar-17 22:15:57

I'm not sure of your financial situation, or your DS's specific issues, but could he write on a tablet? I use a Samsung tab with S-Pen at home and have a Microsoft surface with a pen at work. In both cases, I write legibly without touching the tablet with my hand or wrist.

Also, I'm not a maths teacher but I assume that literally everything in a maths book is typed and printed using software rather than hand drawings? So the software must be available to get the maths from your DS's head onto a laptop? I stand open to correction on this.

Finally, how is his speech? Could he use dictation software like Dragon Naturally Speaking or the like (this toolbar has a free version of it as part of a suite of free accessibility software for use with Windows) I'm not personally familiar with the software use in maths but if you contact the company they might be able to tell you.

I'm suggesting all these things but I've no idea how acceptable they are for your DS's context, but I have found that if you present people with a solution, they're more likely to accommodate you.

TheFurryMenace Mon 06-Mar-17 22:22:34

Ps , given your sons difficulties and age I think it is unlikely that any sort of specialist pen or amount of handwriting practice would make a significant improvement unless he is highly motivated to work on it. Also grasp patterns are indeed difficult to change and may not be the source of the illegibility. Likewise, trying different writing aids may not make much difference. I'd definitely advise getting an OT assessment. You can ask your GP to refer if school are slow to respond.

bigmouthstrikesagain Mon 06-Mar-17 22:24:07

Thank you again everyone it is so helpful to get your input. Really appreciated. I shall look at your suggestions malmy, furry and ithink (and others upthread) in detail tomorrow. As I just bumped my head ... Greetings from dyspraxic mother of gorgeous autistic children!blush I am going to lie down now. Thanks again.

Sara107 Mon 06-Mar-17 22:24:23

Can he not use a laptop? My dn had 'low muscle tone' in her wrists (hmm) and was allowed to use a laptop for all school / course work and exams. Surely children with special needs are allowed the support they need to reach their potential? Is there somebody else you can approach for support - the school governor responsible for SEN? It seems very unfair, he's never going to write well if he can't bear to touch pen and paper, and really, handwriting is one of the least important skills for children in the digital age.

WhenTheDragonsCame Mon 06-Mar-17 22:25:26

If you get a referral to Occupational Therapy they will be able to do assessments that look at the legibility and speed of handwriting. They can then give recommendations to school to help your DS and their findings can be used towards getting extra time and the use of a laptop in exams. Your GP can do the referrals or depending on where you are you may be able to do it yourself.

SpoofersAreLosers Mon 06-Mar-17 22:25:54

So why has ds come home saying he stayed behind in maths to redo work that his teacher could not read

I wonder if it was his actual writing or the general presentation that she couldn't read. My DS's have truly awful writing but it was exacerbated by the fact they really didn't care about their presentation and format either. For example they wouldn't bother underlining the end answer in a maths question. It wasn't just that the letters and numbers were poorly formed it was the general messiness of their work. Otherwise they were good students - their awful handwriting was literally the first thing mentioned by every teacher in every parent-teacher interview we ever had. They were both very strong in math and as they could jump to the answer in their heads didn't see the need to show workings. I wonder if it's something like that that has happened to the OPs son.
Neither of my DS had any SEN - they are now at Uni and one is studying a math based degree. Fortunately their awful handwriting hasn't held them back at all and no longer seems to be an issue. They still don't think it was every a problem.
I'm certain that they must have lost some marks in their Alevels though.

BTW how is your DS with other things that require fine motor skills. My DS's were perfectly adept at using gaming controls.

My DDs both have beautiful handwriting. 💁🏼

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