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Handwriting year 4 boy - how to help

(40 Posts)
Gotabookaboutit Sun 14-Nov-10 21:20:59

I knew my son was not overly keen on writing but as most homework is spellings and maths had not noticed how much he is struggling with handwriting. At parents evening I was told he does not finish tasks on time and I need to give him tasks to do within set time limits. I have started to do this an have instantly realised that is not lack of application or focus just incredibly slow painful and messy writing.

How can I help? he has a crap upright pencil grip - forms letters incorrectly and does not join up at all. I have always been against homework in primary school but now feel I have to really address this issue at home.

stoatsrevenge Sun 14-Nov-10 21:29:44

He's 4.

He's obviously not ready to write. Lots of exercises for fine motor control will help.

What kind of school is pushing a 4 year old like this? hmm

choufleur Sun 14-Nov-10 21:33:04

Year 4 stoats.

stoatsrevenge Sun 14-Nov-10 21:36:12


crazygracieuk Sun 14-Nov-10 21:49:27

If you've ruled out eyesight and hearing problems then I would focus on improving his pencil grip. I would get some triangular pencils and try the pens marketed as handwriting pens to see if they help.

If it seems to be a physical problem then I'd ask to see the SENCO or see GP about an OT referral. There are exercises that can be done to help develop writing muscles (both in the hand and arm).

BCBG Sun 14-Nov-10 21:56:38

Sorry, feel very cross about this as have lots of battles re DD (Yr $ - aged 8) with same disorder (now diagnosed, thank God). The problem sounds the same - dysgraphia (Google it) a problem which forms part of a dyspraxia diagnosis. My DD is so bad that the Ed Psych has said that she will never write quickly enough to keep up with her ability, and that she must have access to a laptop and develop keyboard skills asap. More and more primary schools are accepting that children with this problem do better when freed from the mechanics of handwriting: they can learn to write neatly, but never quickly, and the effort of motor control in writing interferes with learning. Please, please push for a proper diagnosis before he gives up on himself sad

BCBG Sun 14-Nov-10 21:58:59

Incidentally, to test this, get him to complete one of the homework tasks you have set ORALLY - i.e you scribe for revolutionised DD's confidence and output

Gotabookaboutit Sun 14-Nov-10 22:01:22

Erh appreciate the advice but not sure I ready to get him''signed'' off with a disorder before I make a real attempt at helping him.

I have a 12 yr old with dyslexia so am aware of many of the problems - but think my 8 yr old sons problems probably have more to do with his lack of interest in school in yrs 1/2 and a not brill teacher in those 2 years

BCBG Sun 14-Nov-10 22:07:15

hmm, well DD is dyslexic and dyspraxic - and if his brother is dyslexic DS2 may be as well? As for being 'signed off' with a disorder, I have 4 DCs from uni down and it has been a battle to get the help DC4 needs. She has an IQ of 136 but cannot write properly: an ill-spelled and crossed out sentence with a pencil translates to two paragraphs using Dragon Naturally speaking and she has only been using it since September. Fine to try and help your son, but then why ask for advice ? [hmm}

charlieandlola Sun 14-Nov-10 22:08:15

Agree entirely about referral to OT.
Ds ( y3)has this problem, and its clear that his brain is working faster than his arm and fingers can catch up with.
We have started doing short bursts of writing, no more than 5 minutes or 2 lines a day - and the non pressured practise is working. I can see him becoming calmer about the processing and letter formation.

Agree re triangular pencils - posture is also v important, maybe a sloping writing board or sitting with his feet elevated so his body is better aligned.

We have also taken DS to a cranial osteopath to try to help.

Please don't baulk too much at a label - the sad fact of the matter is that kids with labels fit into boxes better, so become entitled to better help, eg typing their exams instead of writing. Its a case of he who shouts loudest etc.

Gotabookaboutit Sun 14-Nov-10 22:09:25

sorry BCBG that has come across as very harsh = What I mean to say is I would prefer to try to help him for a few months at home before I would go down any other routes

Gotabookaboutit Sun 14-Nov-10 22:17:33

;) at the ideas of labels as have a dyspracxic, dyslexic with ADHD and ASD - so without being dismissive, have to a degree been there done that

My 8 yr old is very sporty, well coordinated with great gross and fine motor skills - I know this does not exclude dysgraphia but feel there are other more prosaic reasons I would like to explore 1st.

Think this has more to do with poor initial teaching and also my lack of parental involment

Wordsmith Sun 14-Nov-10 22:36:47

Stoats, if it helps, I read it as 4 yr old as well.
Maybe we both have some sort of reading disability!

Gotabookaboutit Sun 14-Nov-10 22:55:34

Nope probably the way I wrote it as I am also dyslexic

IndigoBell Mon 15-Nov-10 08:38:44

Try Speed Up. It is a daily program specifically designed to speed up handwriting.

Gotabookaboutit Mon 15-Nov-10 08:40:50

Thanks Indigo - looks fab will also be trying the pen holders and see if I can get hold of a slope ;)

mummyrex Mon 15-Nov-10 11:13:39

I was also going to mention Speed Up however it is something that is better done at school if possible and you will need to get yourself a mini standup blackboard - perhaps you can suggest it to the SENCO, your son won't be the only child in the school who could benefit.

I would also see the GP to get him referred to an OT if only so that you can quantify the problem - ie how good/bad is he.

sarahfreck Mon 15-Nov-10 11:46:47

If he is still struggling with letter formation, you may be better starting with "Write from the Start" rather than speed up. This can be done more easily at home as you only need to photocopy sheets. Although it is aimed at younger children, I am using it successfully with Yr 4 children and because it isn't handwriting as such, they seem to be relaxed about doing it! Agree that GP referral to an OT is a good way forward. The OT will have seen many students so will have a good idea how severe the problems is. Also you are likely to have to wait 6 months or more for an appointment so you might as well get the system rolling - you can always cancel the appointment if your dc has improved enough by the time you are offered it!

IndigoBell Mon 15-Nov-10 11:59:39

I don't think Write from the Start will help with writing speed. It has no OT component to it at all.

Write from the Start helps with visual perception problems which are totally different.

My DS has both these problems - visual perception problems and slow handwriting caused by dyspraxia.

My DS's slow handwriting is caused by his poor hand strength and his lack of core stability. So we are doing OT with him every day to help this.

His messy handwriting is caused by his poor physical strength and his visual perception problems and bad ingrained habits.

We have done Write From the Start with him, and it didn't help because it didn't address the underlying physical problems.

Gotabookaboutit Mon 15-Nov-10 14:21:43

BCBG - I have googled dysgraphia - unhappily there do seam to be a lot of similarities though he does not complain of pain

Have phoned to make a referal to the OT and going to buy a slope for school

How do I get a diagnosis if thats what it comes to ?

sarahfreck Mon 15-Nov-10 14:48:33

Referral to an OT is the first stage in getting a dysgraphia/dyspraxia diagnosis. To try out a slope before spending money, use a ring binder or lever arch file with spine to back of desk to make a slope and see how he gets on with that. (See whether height of ring binder or lever arch is preferred and buy slope that will adjust to a suitable angle)

Gotabookaboutit Mon 15-Nov-10 16:48:07

jollyma Mon 15-Nov-10 19:42:52

I agree about OT referral, it won't do any harm and might help. Also about looking at positioning when seated and trying different pencil grips; if his pencil is upright try a 'Handiwriter' or make one yourself from a hairband. I think Taskmaster sell them?

Speed up can work well but ONLY if the child is motivated, if not you could be wasting your time. Even if he isn't motivated and you decide not to do the whole programme still do the warmup and strengthening activities daily to improve his shoulder stability.

Letter formations needs to be dealt with separately and will require lots of patience as the habits for incorrect formations will be well established.

BCBG Mon 15-Nov-10 20:07:30

Gotabookaboutit this is what happened with us: referral to OT for assessment identified poor muscle development and motor control issues. Recommended OT exercises daily and weekly (very very helpful), also a writing slope and a wobble cushion, triangular grips (there are different ones) and handwriting programmes of which Write Start was one (useless smile). Only after handwriting problems continued despite improvement elsewhere as a result of OT did we start to look elsewhere. As she had such an obvious phonic deficiency despite reading well it was sensible to get an Ed Psych to assess her properly. we were very surprised to find out that her dyslexia combined with her poor motor control/dyspraxia meant that handwriting was a bar to learning. It was explained like this: to write something down, she has to think, formulate the words, remember the spelling AND begin to write them on the paper. Most of us do this semi automatically. In DD's case, the effort of turning words in her head or on the whiteboard into writing becomes so all consuming that she stops learning/absorbing the information. This was easily demonstrated back in school when the science teacher showed us a beautifully labelled diagram DD had taken a lot of effort to produce in class. When he asked her to explain it she had no idea what it all meant, because she couldn't take it in at the same time as produce it, which is the opposite to how many children learn. Conversely, is the information is given to her orally or visually she seems to have the memory of an elephant grin

Maberry Thu 25-Nov-10 07:58:38

Try hhtp:// They have workbooks that help with letter formation and joined up handwriting.

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