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DS (Aspergers) and Handwriting Teacher - worth the battle

(17 Posts)
Turniphead1 Wed 12-Feb-14 16:57:28

My DS is 8 dx - mild Aspergers and some ADHD. His handwriting has always been "bad" (he's at a very academic school and they expect them all to be doing quite a neat cursive at this point). He does a kind of print that varies in neatness.

I had first meeting with their Senco last week to discuss his recent dx (they were unaware of any real problems other than quirkiness, v high IQ and his not eating much - as he's only been there since Sept). They said yes his handwriting was an issue - but they weren't "that" bothered & he would be allowed to go on printing as he was producing real volume in his written work etc. ultimately they would be happy for him to use a laptop towards yr 6.

I did however bring him along to a local well regarded handwriting tutor today. She spotted immediately that his grip was dreadful and showed him her method for holding a pencil - using a particular type of pencil.

She now wants him to come along weekly - to a class with another child and do her full programme of letter formation etc.

problem is - he has quite a lot on in the evenings due to being a chess whizz - plus he has swimming and a Scout-type club. His biggest gripe in life is not having enough time to pursue his passions. This is a familiar AsD fixation. He has just gone absolutely bonkers at the thought of having to do this class every Friday. It won't be for that long - maybe 6 to 8 sessions.

Is it worth fighting this one? In general I feel he is holding it together brilliantly since his move to this new school in Sept. but the effort of doing do does cause him stress - and that stress gets taken out largely on me at the end of the school day and the rest of the family.
At the moment we are having more of the negative outbursts at home - I hate myself/my life etc - a cyclical thing which does show us things are tough for him. Is handwriting THAT important?

He's at an independent school, doesnt have SATs and he doesn't have to do CE - but obv s he will be doing normal public exams. Although by that stage, he will probably be touch-typing on a lap top.

I think even in typing this its clear in my mind that this is not a battle for now. He has a GOSH assessment coming up soon and he can always do this course later. I can maybe do some basic grip stuff with him which will help a little. Anyone had any similar experience?

wetaugust Wed 12-Feb-14 17:20:42

I think hand-writing is important. We were aleays told that examiners will not waste their time trying to decipher your hand-writing, so marks could be lost.

He also has to learn that life is not all about doing things you enjoy. We all have to do things we don;t enjoy at times.

You could use the trade-off of 'do the handwriting' and you can they do <whatever hobby he wants>

Redoubtable Thu 13-Feb-14 09:29:38

OT here.

Handwriting is a complex, high level skill involving not only grip but visual perception, visual motor integration, posture, core strength, ability to co-contract muscle groups etc. ( as well as the language elements- not your son, it would seem).
Not dismissing the experience of your handwriting tutor, there would usually be a lot more than just grip at fault in a child who has ASD and handwriting issues...
e.g ability to co-ordinate 2 sides of his body (how well does he do at swimming, can he use knife and fork together)
ability to cross the mid-line ( does he pull the page to one side to write on, does he orientate the page at a / slant to himself to write on, does he read books holding them in one hand)
how does he sit while writing (does he hook one or both feet around a chair leg does he 'slump' on to the table, does he sit on hi sacrum rather than sitting tall)
are there sensory supports that he needs (does he chew his pencil, his shirt, stick his tongue out, hold his breath)
the writing surface- is he better on a flat/horizontal/sloped surface)

I would look at all these elements before grip, although grip may also be an issue.

Contrarily to all the above, at 8, if he has good letter recognition and is academically bright, I would do a cost-benefit analysis on handwriting; I might decide that now is the time to introduce an Alphasmart and typing programme.

amistillsexy Thu 13-Feb-14 09:51:22

Redoubtable I'm looking into technological solutions for my DS who has a similar profile to that of the OP's DS, with a diagnosis of dysgraphia, both motor and spacial.
He's done well in a touch-typing course at school, but doesn't choose to use that skill when word-processing, which means that typing his work is just as difficult and time-consuming as writing it, so he chooses to write instead. I also think there's an issue with him being 'on the computer' in the classroom, which causes other children to want 'a go' and the teacher has to manage this, all of which adds up to him continuing to attempt to write his work, even though this is not efficient for him.
Looking at the Alphasmart neo 2, it seems like a good way for him to record his work using a keyboard, without firing up the computers and all the fuss involved with that.
Can you tell me more about how they are used in the classroom, please? Do teachers find them useful, or is it yet another piece of equipment that sits getting dusty on a shelf whilst the child continues to struggle on hmm?

Redoubtable Thu 13-Feb-14 10:04:17

- firstly i would wonder why the touch typing skill hasn't transferred across to functional use; is it that the course was done in a different environment, is it that he didn't relate it to 'real life' use, was the equipment different, sitting position, lighting, what?

Can he use touch typing at home where he may feel more secure...or conversely would he really dislike for that 'demand' to encroach into his safe space?

re the Alphasmart; IMO it's a really useful, first device because of its size and portability.
But ANY equipment needs management to ensure its use in the classroom- both the teacher and the child need to have a strategy on how to include it- otherwise it becomes a piece on a shelf.

So, as daft as it may seem, I would always advocate using a chart or other record to introduce stuff (and as a parent I would do up the chart and give it to teacher as a ''draft version to save you some time''....that's not to be patronising to teachers, but in a class of 30 with 30 sets of sometimes competing needs, they need all the support they can get from parents part of the solution , not part of the problem)

AND I would ensure that the child was completely comfortable with using it at home first.

amistillsexy Thu 13-Feb-14 12:49:21

Thanks, redoubtable (and sorry Turniphead1 for hijacking your thread). The touch typing 'course' was simply a teacher coming in to school on a weekly basis to oversee him covering the BBC Dancemat course. He'd already completed the first two blocks at home, and was very fast but reluctant to transfer skills. I was hoping the 'teacher' at school would help him with this, but it seems not sad

He's very reluctant to do any 'extra work' at home. Home is for Lego, School is for work (and more Lego hmm ), but I think it's getting to the stage where he needs to be practicing more, and it isn't happening at school, despite me bringing it up at every IEP and YR meeting.

I agree about working with school, by the way, although sometimes it seems as if I'm doing all the work, and they're just picking and choosing which elements they go with (and this is a 'good' school for DS!).

Thanks for your advice. Hope it helped you too, Turniphead1 smile

Turniphead1 Thu 13-Feb-14 15:24:13

Redoutable - thank you so much for your input. I can recognise that there is a lot of other things bar grip going on from your post. Thank you for that. He really does need to see an OT and we are awaiting a referral via GOSH. He does struggle with getting both of his feet to kick at swimming and one side is definitely weaker.

I had not heard of the Alphasmart machines - but looked them up following AmIstill's thoughts about them. The discussion is very helpful - and your DS sounds similar to mine (when its not chess or geneology in our house, its Lego grin). Its interesting that he doesn't use the touch-typing skills. I can see that might happen with my DS. For example he can now swim quite well, but when we go on holiday, he does the bliim doggy paddle that looks so uncomfortable. Clearly, proper swimming is for swimming lessons only. Good luck with however you choose to progress with his recording his work.

We have decided to give the handwriting tutor a go, and see how we get on. I have decided to put one activity on hold so he can go another day still leaving him his Friday's free. The school are supportive of the lessons so I will see if they help him.

Redoubtable Thu 13-Feb-14 17:33:17

Just popping back in to say to both of you to look at dyspraxia resources for handwriting in a child with ASD such as here

Apart altogether from the anxiety/rigidity issues that go with ASD, children on the spectrum may also have the sensory processing and movement/ planning difficulties - that is praxis (see here)

Sunnymeg Thu 13-Feb-14 18:54:56

I second what redoubtable said. MIL was a primary teacher and taught DS (Aspergers) to do beautiful legible joined up handwriting. He can write the way he has been taught at MIL's and here at home but he has been totally unable to reproduce the handwriting in a school setting.

ToffeeWhirl Thu 13-Feb-14 20:06:17

Sorry for another hijack, Turnip, but I wanted to ask Redoubtable another question. My DS1's handwriting was assessed by an OT and judged as below the 0.2 percentile - "that is, just two of a thousand children the same age have equal or lower performance". I used to get him to practise his handwriting daily, but I'm not sure there's any point now. My question is, should he learn to touchtype? He can already type very fast without touchtyping and has no motivation to learn touchtyping, so I wonder how much it matters. It's speed that counts, isn't it?

Good luck with the handwriting tutor, Turnip.

Redoubtable Fri 14-Feb-14 12:17:50

If your child has handwriting at that degree of difficulty, it is going to be very difficult for him to become competent.
Difficult but not impossible.
You dont say what age he is nor if he has a diagnosis, or any other movement problems that he might have (see above- I dont see children having stand alone handwriting problems- there are pretty much always issues with core strength, retained reflexes, sensory processing or movement planning).

The thing is...handwriting is a very complex skill. It teaches children skills around fine motor development, hand strength and endurance, visual perception and integrating hand-eye co-ordination (and lots of other things).

Unless the child has a significant other diagnosis (e.g. CP) I would always continue to work on handwriting (see the Lois Addy programme, which is excellent if you cant get access to an OT locally).

What is needed though, is accommodation from the school in terms of the volume/speed/neatness/legibility of written work.

So for function in school and particularly in exams, typing or a speech-to-text programme may be appropriate. But I would rarely advise giving up on handwriting...even in our touch-screen age.

Redoubtable Fri 14-Feb-14 12:21:34

That didnt really answer your question, did it?
I was ranting because I see so many children for whom the issue is not that they can't write but that they cant perform to the level of their peers.

And that becomes relevant in exams where it is the writing, not the knowledge nor ability to explain, that are assessed.

I think the benefit of learning touch typing is that it is a recognised skill, much like piano-playing. And seems (not an expert on this) to offer much faster speeds than any self-taught system.

Hellosquiffy Fri 14-Feb-14 14:52:45

Ds has Asperger's too. He has always struggled with handwriting, would just refuse the majority of the time but sometimes when given additional time (sadly CT thinks it's ok to use 3/4 of the day angry) he can complete his work very neatly. I have always argued that there is something hindering Ds when it comes to his writing although couldn't quite put my finger on what. He has since been diagnosed with HMS (originally presented as symptoms of dyspraxia) and this has actually been having a very big impact on his work because he has to combine all of the things Red has said above...and then try to fight the fatigue in all of his muscles (including his eyes!) at the same time.

Handwriting is important in the sense of we need to be able to write lists, fill out forms etc. But technology is becoming more advanced everyday so I would suggest that putting focus on typing would be more beneficial for you DS, we are taking this approach due to the increasing workload when Ds reaches secondary school...if the skill is already there it can be used if needed.

Sorry if this is all jumbled up I'm in a rush smile

Redoubtable Fri 14-Feb-14 19:15:40

I'm posting this link for someone who contacted me by PM as its information that's useful to lots of people.

This guy is an OT and I refer people to his videos as they're useful info to follow-up what the OT might tell you in therapy

Wake up your hands

MartinSheensTeeth Fri 14-Feb-14 19:39:14

This is all very interesting - I had put DS' s appalling handwriting down to him not seeing it as important and not worth bothering with (that all ASD kids have excessive attention to detail is bollocks, if it's Mine craft or Lego perhaps: handwriting no hmm) it hadn't entered into my mind that he couldn't just wouldn't.

Given from yr7 it'll all be ipads - touch typing would seem the way forward.

Redoubtable Fri 14-Feb-14 20:21:35

Oh dear MartinSheen (and I luuurve Martin, I do)

See, you have picked one of my favourite rant subjects grin

I dont see that touch typing/using screens is a way of getting out of handwriting. I see handwriting as a stand alone activity with it's own value.

My problem with it in school is; it is the primary way that children can communicate what they have assimilated- but to do so effectively they must be fast and legible and be able to produce volume.

Now, to me, fast/legible/volume are often not consistent with the stated aim of assessing the child's intellectual learning...and in fact are a measure of their fine-motor competency .

Producing neat handwriting is a different skill which I do think is valuable as a stand alone's a good activity for all of the things I've already mentioned. If I am to treat the fine motor skills of an 8 year old in 2024, I can scrabble around for interesting things to do with scissors and glue and tweezers and pennies and Pyssla and so on...but handwriting is, in fact, a perfect therapeutic activity itself.

So for producing schoolwork, once letters have been assimilated (around age 7-8), touch typing is fine. To continue to develop fine-motor skills (a uniquely human skill in sooo many ways), handwriting is ideal.

God, I hope that makes sense.

MartinSheensTeeth Sat 15-Feb-14 19:53:43

Yes. Kind of grin I'm also trying to put what you are saying into how DS would 'process' So he knows he needs to produce a neat volume of work to show he knows it. Well, he knows he knows it so what's the point in that hmm but because he has to do it, he'll scrawl. And because he's not overly coordinated it's hard work, so messy. And there's no point in writing neatly anyway because when he's older he'll just type and besides he knew what he meant anyway.

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