HS #273 Dysgraphia: When a Child Hates to Write with Dianne Craft
Links and Resources:
Dianne Craft, President of Child Diagnostics, Inc., is considered the leader in Alternative Teaching Strategies by several teaching universities. She has a master’s degree in special education and has over 25 years’ experience teaching bright children who have to work too hard to learn. In her quest to learn more about learning disabilities and their causes, Dianne became a Certified Natural Health Professional to better understand how an upset biochemistry can impact a student’s learning. As a nutritionist, Dianne also specializes in natural treatments for kids with sensory processing dysfunction and focus/attention issues.
She has developed the successful “Three-Pronged Approach” to reducing and eliminating learning disabilities: Brain Integration Therapy, Right Brain “Healing” Teaching Strategies, and Targeted Nutritional Interventions. Parents across the country have seen their children overcome learning struggles using these tools. Dianne has since created remedial programs for reading, writing, spelling, and math, which incorporate her powerful midline therapy. Hundreds of teachers and homeschool families are using her alternative teaching strategies to successfully remediate their students. Dianne teaches educators, psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and parents these life-changing concepts directly so that they can also work with their students and children.
Brain Integration Therapy, Vision Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Brain Balance, NACD
HS EP 273
Hello and welcome back to another installment of the Homeschool Solutions Show. My name is Wendy Speake, and I am one of the many hosts we have here on the podcast. Each week you'll hear from one of us inviting one of our friends to join for a conversation about this busy blessed season as we educate our children at home.
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Hello and welcome to the Homeschool Solutions Show, sponsored by the Great Homeschool Conferences. I'm Diane Craft, former homeschooling mom, special education teacher, and founder of a consulting clinic in Denver called Child Diagnostics.
Today's podcast, I think, will interest you. It's called dysgraphia. When a child hates to write.
Learning to drive, we know, is an exciting time for a teen, but it requires some hidden skills. I have frequently received a call from one of our local driving school instructors saying I have this bright young man who is here in our driving school, but I can't get any of my instructors to take him out on the road anymore. He is so scary. He weaves all over his lane. I want to send him over to you to do some of those crazy exercises you do so that he can drive safely.
Well, he sent him over and we worked with him, as we had some of his other students, for a bit showing this boy how his body can recognize midline. Then we sent him back to his instructors. They were happy and so was this young man. Now, what does this have to do with Dysgraphia in writing? Well, at the end of the podcast it will all become clear in just a few minutes.
I love the Word of God, where He says, ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock, and the door will be open for you. Many of our parents have smart, hardworking children, have been asking and seeking and knocking and looking for answers as to why their child hates to write, or seems to be so sloppy, or spell so poorly. I believe in today's message you'll find a big answer. Actually, a real solution to that problem.
What I love about Homeschool Solutions is that I can give boots on the ground solutions for calming common learning or behavioral glitches. So, every year the great debate occurs. First of all, we want to know, am I expecting too much of my child or not enough? Is this groaning and moaning about writing just a discipline problem or a character issue, or is there really a problem here?
Common comments that I hear in the consultation practice that I've had for 25 years, the common comments I hear from homeschool moms is she can tell me the answers orally well, but then it takes her an hour to write it down. Another mom says when he writes his spelling words to learn them, he leaves letters out of the words. Another mom says if he dictates to me the story is great, but he can't write it himself. And another mom said his dad says he's just lazy and unmotivated. He can do the work if he really tries.
One of the most common and most misdiagnosed processing problems in children is a blocked writing gate. This is the number one processing glitch in gifted children. It's in the number one most undiagnosed and underdiagnosed and under corrected of all children and students because we think it's just a trying harder issue. When I was in school when I went back to teaching, I taught middle school, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders and I had a language arts group made up of all gifted children. In the school setting, if you're above 119 on your IQ test, they are considered gifted.
So why were these gifted children in my pullout special ed language arts class? Because they were reading, let's say, War and Peace, but their spelling was W-U-Z for "was" and S-H-U-R for "sure" because they had a disconnect between their intelligence, their reading level, and their writing level. And I just used these methods to catch them up so they could go on their way and become writers like they were meant to be and do well in all the other classes.
So many of these children seem to be allergic to their pencil, and you'll notice this at home. They break out in whining as soon as they get a pencil or pen in their hands or even a keyboard. So, let's look at what is happening in the brain when we ask the brain to write something.
God designed our left-brain hemisphere to concentrate on learning a new task. Like driving a car or riding a bike. You know when you learn to drive a car, you want everything to be silent and don't want the radio on because you're concentrating and all the parts of the turning left or the signaling or the, when to brake. Or riding a bike. You watch a child when they're first learning how to pedal and turn and brake. They don't talk because they're concentrating. The left brains are concentrating, learning new things brain.
So, as you're concentrating on it, then you notice after a while when the child is riding a bike and talking, well, the riding a bike is now in the automatic hemisphere. So, he's free to think about other things and talk about other things. And that's the same thing you'll notice when you drive a car. After a while that becomes automatic. So now you can drive and listen to the radio or listen to music. You can drive and talk to your children. You can drive and do multiplication tables in the car because the driving is automatic and that's what we want we want. We want, after doing some concentrated practice, we want that task that we're learning to transfer over the brain midline, which we call the corpus callosum, into the right brain, which is responsible for the automaticity of the processes. That's why these young people are using so much more battery energy because they have to think about the writing versus thinking about what they're writing because it hasn't become automatic.
So, we can imagine the left brain as a concentrating brain. The right brain is the automatic brain. Now we need to transfer this over so they can think and do at the same time. Think about a process while the, their midline and the spatial and the writing is taken care of. Generally, we know, depending on when you decide to teach your child to write, whether they're five or six, when we teach a child how to write, first-grade teachers know that after about six months of practice that writing crosses over the automatic brain and the children can now think and write at the same time. So, then they can start writing some little sentence because now the writing is basically taken over by muscle memory.
For many children, though this transfer does not occur. Thus, we have to expend so much more battery energy or level of concentration at a writing task than other children. Doctor Mel Levine, in his book, One Mind at a Time, calls these learning blocks energy leaks. I love that thought because as seen, the writing process is using battery energy. It's like if we had three siblings, Jimmy, Julie, and Susie, and they were all within a year of each other and you asked all three of them to copy something from a board or whiteboard. Now, Jimmy and Susie would be copying away, and Johnny would be working so hard and he would miss some words because he'd have to look up and down, up and down, up and down, so often to copy and finally, he'd go, or try to go to the bathroom and then he'd go feed the dog because it's all too much.
If we could see, if they had little T-shirts on, that would show how much battery energy a task took, we would see that Jimmy and Susie used only probably a third of their battery, whereas Johnny would use almost his whole battery of energy for the whole day. So, Jimmy and since he could go on the rest of the day and write things and write their math problems and line em all up and everything's fine. But Johnny is just spent in terms of visual motor activities.
And so, you'll see these, this block learning gate that, we can call it energy leak. It can be called a graph or motor processing problem. Sometimes it's called a visual-motor integration problem or a fine motor problem, or a dysgraphia. Just a quick aside, what is the difference between dysgraphia and dyslexia? Dyslexia comes from the word lexicon, which is read, or which is words, and so with dyslexia refers to reading dysgraphia, think the word graph, and there, like you right on is writing.
So just an example of that. I would have many of my kids in my language arts pull up class what they were, they were often reading War and Peace. They were reading books very, very difficult for them. High school level words because they were not dyslexic. They were, they could remember the names of their words. They could remember the sounds, they could, nothing switched on them. They didn't have a dyslexia, but they, why were they in my class? Because they were spelling "was" W-U-Z, "sure" S-H-U-R? They were spelling in a very primitive level Because they had been taught before how to spell by using the writing learning gate.
Now you and I like to write. When we write our notes, we can write notes while we're listening to things, and even if later on we can never find those papers again, we still remember it better because we wrote it. Because our...our writing gate is a plus for us. It's a helper. We can think and take notes. But for these guys, they can think or write. So, if you ask them something, they give you an answer, but then you put the offending utensil in their hand, which is a pencil or pen, they, it just loses, they just lose it. And then sometimes they break down. Either way, that tells us a story.
So, we find that they have...this is going to explain to you why many of the children learn their spelling words easily by writing them in your workbook. Don't most spelling books come, write, said five times each? And another child can write his word 100 times is still not store that spelling word in his long-term memory. Now we realize that this struggling child has to use his battery energy just for the writing process.
So, the spelling words can't be transferred into the writing brain where our long-term memory is stored. Thus, the method of copying to learn is totally ineffective for this child. I'm gonna say that one more time just so we can kind of let that sink in. Why maybe a particular curriculum might not be working for your child. If it has learning with the offending utensil in his hand, no learning for him until we correct that, which will be about six months, is not going to occur. So, anything that's for that child, copying, we put that away for a while, a season, while we're going to correct this. Eventually, we want copying to be a very good learning gate for him, but our job is to recognize this and to help him open up his writing gate. And this can be easily done in a home setting and that's the good news, and very inexpensively. You can take them out to have the midline work done. Or you can do it at home. We'll give you various options.
But let's further investigate this. Let's look at some of the symptoms that these children of a blocked writing gate are presenting to us daily. One of the real interesting ones is you're going to see them often write a capital B instead of a small B because why? They don't have to think about the left and right with a capital B, but with a small B they do. So, one of the first things that we'll see as frequent are occasional reversals and letters over age seven. I say over age seven, in school I would actually treat it if it was over age six because writing a reversal is a stress on the system.
Sometimes parents will say, oh, they only reverse once in a while, or they reverse and they catch themselves. This is what we know. When the reverse one time and you see it in their writing, we know that five other times they had to think about that letter. But it just didn't happen to turn out a reversal on the paper.
So, we take reversals very seriously. We never circle a reversal on a paper they've done, because that's not their job. They're doing everything they can to remember the whole left-right kind of little poems and pictures and practice we have. Our job like with a young man who couldn't stay in the middle of his lane when he was driving, our job is to give him a very well-defined midline. Internalize that midline so that he doesn't ever have to think about B or D, just like Jimmy and Susie don't have to. So, when you see a reversal, unless it's within the first six months of teaching them the letters, just don't say anything. But keep track of it because, by the end of our nine months, we do this from September through May, we just do a little daily exercise, but it didn't take our teenager that long before he could go back to driving.
But let's do this each day because so many things get so much easier when they have an internalized midline. So, take B and D reversals, take them seriously. Just means, by seriously, I don't mean, oh, we have a big problem. What are we going to do? No, but you are responsible, or whoever, will be having would...to do that for him, cause he doesn't know that.
I have a grandson named Jacob who's going on in his biology and getting his Ph.D. in do...writing articles now. But when he was six years old, he wrote Jacob not just with a J backwards, but a reversal of every letter. Mirror writing. Where his younger sister Cassie wrote it just fine. When I asked Jacob to do the cross crawl, which is touching his hand and knee together, and Cassie was there, and we all three did across crawls, we touched our hand to our knee, he could do it only homolaterally. Touching knee, same knee, and same hand. And he just said the typical thing kids say when things are hard. Oh, this is boring.
But he did the same exercise that we did with our little driving teen, and he even did it in college. He said, whenever I needed to write something, I did the writing eight exercise so that I could get...my thoughts would come streaming out. And of course, he didn't mean writing. Of course, he'd used the computer. So it's so so important to recognize that frequent or occasional reversals in numbers or letters after age seven, is a nice red flag for you. They could have no other symptoms, even though we're going to talk about other symptoms. But if they have that one, they're telling you, I have to think about that left and right all the time. I have to use so much more battery energy.
What's another characteristic? They often will make the letters from bottom to top. Revertical reversal. Again, we just observe. We're not gonna correct those letters. We're gonna observe it. We're going to then give him a midline and watch everything straighten out. For them, writing, number three...number writing is very labor-intensive. It takes...they sometimes cry, break down, throw the pencil, break it. I mean, it's just hard. Or are they just stop, exhausted?
What's the fourth symptom? Copying is poor. It takes them so long, or if they finally would copy something looks perfect, it's like artwork. And we say, oh, you did it so well that time. You can always do that. Not and learn at the same time. So, copying, we always say cut out all copying and all filling in workbooks and worksheets for at least three months, maybe six months. But three months until we begin to give him that midline, and so he can do it easily and think at the same time.
They often mix capital and small letters in writing, and you circle it in red, and I don't know why he does that. He knows the rules. Of course, he knows the rules. Cognitively, he could tell you all the rules, but you probably put the offending utensil in his hand. And remember, thinking and writing at the same time. The sixth characteristic is they, these are, this is so common. They can tell stories that are so good that if you could, you know, just type them up, you could, think you could publish it. But they write very little. In fact, I had a young man like that, he was a seventh grader named Eric, and he wrote such good stories. But the gifted teacher, when she sent him to my classroom, she said we...no one's even seen his name on a piece of paper since he's been in middle school.
Well, he was very dysgraphic, but he did that same exercise that we did fifteen minutes a day.
And, oh, I think it was in March, the gifted teachers said, The Tattered Cover is a place in Denver, a very famous bookstore. They were having a writing contest and she said, does, has Eric written anything lately? I said, oh yeah, he wrote a story that we did together. And so, he, and actually we don't, we did our webbing together. He did the story. And so, I gave it to him, and he filled out the application and I thought to myself, oh, he'll just, it'll be so good for him to just even fill out the application and think he was considered. How exciting. Well, he got third place in this writing contest for middle schoolers. So, we can...the midline is so important that it makes everything a lot easier.
What's another characteristic? Number seven. They want to do all their math problems mentally, to avoid writing them down because it's so hard for them. And that goes up with, on with, nine, number eight, which is lining up numbers in multiplication or division is very difficult for them. The hardest things for them to do are, like, time or money, place value. I know my eighth graders, I looked, and the school had, of course, an analog clock in there. And when I would ask him what time it was, none of them could read it from the analog clock. They always had to look at their digital. Because think of an analog clock with a twelve and the six. Do you see how that's a midline?
And I said, I bet you by the end of the year you guys are going to be able to read that. Oh no, we don't need to, etc. But by the end of the year, they could all read an analog clock. We had not taught the analog clock because we just had given them the midline.
And so, riding the bike, many times parents say, you know, they could ride the bike, but three weeks after giving him the midline, using that writing exercise, they could ride their bike just like their brothers and sisters. We teach this course to OTs into PTs for credit, so we get wonderful papers from them as they put this into practice with their students. And then they write their observations. And yesterday I received a wonderful paper from a gentleman who was an OT and he said all of, as they work with the kids, they noticed they all can now go down the stairs head or laterally rather than one at a time. They're not clumsy. They can copy all the different things that we see.
So, let's look at what are the compensations that we can do? Well, when a parent recognizes that their child has a blocked learning gate and is just not being sloppy or resistant to writing without a reason, then some steps can be taken to alleviate some of the writing burden on a child until the problem can be corrected. So, this is our three to six months of compensating before, while we're correcting, but we know the correction doesn't come in that fast.
So, we have five compensations. Number one, we're going to reduce the amount of writing a child needs to do during the day. Do more answers for chapter questions orally. Limit the amount of writing in workbooks. See if you can give them three months while we're correcting this. So instead of having them write, have them tell you, and you can check off that you did that part of the workbook.
Number two, reduce or eliminate copying for three to four months. Copying is useless for them right now. It's just something to fill in time. Now if you need somebody to fill in time on a workbook while you're working with another child, that's just fine to do. Just don't expect any learning to occur during that. So, reduce and eliminate, for three to four months, the copying. Save the child's battery energy because we're going to write paragraphs and math. So those are the two things that we're going to write.
Number three, we're going to use another method for learning spelling words. One that doesn't include writing in a workbook or writing on paper multiple times. I use right-brain spelling. Using the child's photographic memory. It's an excellent way to teach spelling without writing, and this is available for free at my website dianecraft.org. Just read about the steps that we take. And you can get the 1200 most commonly used words as a list. And we, what we do is we just teach these guys, like I had little Jeremy and he was a second grader and he had a hard time spelling and so he was in my group and I taught him how to, you know, teach, just like how to spell "is". And he said Mrs. Craft, do you have a harder word? And, he said that's so hard for me.
So anyway, what I did, was I took the word, I said, what would be really hard for you Jeremy? And he said, Lamborghini. And so, we spelled Lamborghini. It has an H in it. I didn't know that. I had to look it up. And we put that as that, the exhaust pipe, and he spelled that and he went back to his second-grade classroom and they all said, we want to be in that smart spelling class. Now, this was considered special ed class. But special ed means we use special ways to use our brain. And so, what we have learned with spelling, if we don't use the writing gate for these guys cause they're blocked, and we and we don't use a phonics, because many of their auditory gates are blocked, we can get them to spell anything using their photographic memory. And we have a wonderful article on there that you can...in fact, I believe that we have that also on a podcast. I think that's how to train a child's photographic memory. Just listen to that and you'll learn how to do this.
Many times, at an IEP meeting for spelling, they would say, let's cut down on their spelling words.
And this was done with a very compassionate thought because these children were getting Fs and Ds on, let's say twenty words. They said let's just give them ten. So that gave them what looked like more success. But in reality, that was guaranteed that they were going to be poor in spelling all their life. Because what are happening to the other ten words every week that the other kids were getting? They're never going to get them, so they won't be able to learn them.
So, we went in in our group and we asked the regular ed teachers, give us all the spelling words that your students are getting, and we want the five bonus words too. So, with using color and picture and humor, and zany and gross. Boys love bodily fluids coming out of letters. We would spell psychology, PSYCHOLOGY. YGOLOHCYSP. We can see it forwards and backwards in just an afternoon. Because the photographic memory is so much stronger than the auditory memory for spelling. So, we can get past that. And yeah, check out that podcast on training a child's photographic memory.
So, the other thing is, if...teach a child keyboarding, of course, like you are doing, remembering though, that most children who have dysgraphia find keyboarding quite labor-intensive also, so it's not the complete answer. Besides, that wouldn't have helped him when he was a teen and learning how to drive. Be a scribe as much as you can and give oral answers as much as you can for about three months or so, until we can get some kind of a strong midline. And you'll be able to tell in the writing when the midlines coming in, then they're ready for more writing.
Now we talked about how to identify if a child has dysgraphia. We talked about how to compensate. Well, we're doing that in IEPs. They would say they're sloppy, lazy, unmotivated. We sit and then the next IEP, they'd come with their really good looking papers and they'd say oh, how did this happen? I said, well if they were really sloppy, lazy, and unmotivated, we're really good psychologists. But of course, we weren't at all. All we did was help them find their midline. So that we investigated how, what characteristics we had, what compensations we were going to use. Now, the important thing is the correction. Because that, those reversals are telling us a loud, loud story.
So, it's important to not just compensate for this writing glitch, but also take steps to eliminate it so the child can experience fluency in the writing process and internalize spatial, so they know left and right. They know how to turn. It's so much easier. There are various methods that can be successfully used at home to correct this writing processing problem. Here's the method I found to be the least expensive while being the most effective for eliminating dysgraphia or writing or visual-spatial glitches. I'm gonna give you several places where you can check out how to do midline writing exercises.
Brain Balance is in everybody's community. And they may be expensive, but they do crossing the midline activities that transfers from the thinking hemisphere over to the doing hemisphere. So that is one place to go. NACD, there's a National Academy for Children with Disabilities. They are out of Pittsburgh and they work on midline things that are very helpful also. Vision therapy often helps with this. We know that in school these kids are often identified and helped with an OT, so private OT would help also.
I have a DVD called Smart Kids Who Hate to Write, which demonstrates a daily 15-minute exercise developed by Doctor Gettman and that is what we use, what I used with my students in order to get them to be able to learn and how to easily recognize midline and give him a very important tool. Everything gets easier when you have a good midline.
So, after we have used this daily 15-minute exercise that rehabilitates, doesn't just compensate for, but rehabilitates that visual-spatial system. We call it the writing eight exercise. There's no more right or left confusion. What is the second correction that we used? Meanwhile, I'm not going to help them doing any writing to learn, but we did need to learn how to write paragraphs. But I found again every curriculum had too much filling in the blank, too many details, so I created something I called right brain paragraphing. And we did basically what we call the Blob method. Five blobs we did, I did on the board. We wrote the little trigger words in there and then when they wrote their paragraph, we did no rewrites. And if you are interested in that method that I used, that's just a real inexpensive little DVD called Right Brain Paragraphing and Composition. It's just what, the whole year long, writing curriculum that I used for my second all the way through eighth graders.
But you can find many other places that have ways that you can work with the child where they do very little writing, but they would, can do the thinking of, how do you present a paragraph? A topic sentence. The three important pieces you're going to tell your audience about that sentence. And what your conclusion? And each week when we did that, we would add a little more sophistication to it. So, by the end of the year, by doing the writing eight exercise to give him a strong midline and help them to think and write at the same time. And once a week doing a paragraph each week, putting a little more meat on it, and then doing what we call our zany corrections, where they only get pluses for everything they did right. We ignore what they did wrong because next week we're going to teach it before we teach the lesson.
So those are the downloads that you can get at our website. And please go to this wonderful podcast at the bottom of it, you'll be able to get all sorts of downloads to that.
So, what we know is that these children have a real thing going on. You can make such a huge difference in them when we give them a strong midline. I still have learned so much about that as I hear. We also teach this as a college graduate-level credits and so I get many papers from teachers and they say you know what? Before, I just had such PTSD and I do that writing eight exercise and it calms me down. Just something about crossing the midline is just so natural to the body.
The psychologist told me about Ryan, a sixth grader, and she said I love to watch Ryan come from your writing class because he doesn't take the rest of the day. And he had a Tourette's. Why? Just because there's something very soothing about just plain crossing the midline.
So, this is Diane Craft. I have articles on my website. And I know that there are many good podcasts here that you can hear right on this station. If you want to get free articles, they're all always downloadable. My phone number of the office is 303-694-0532 if you need to do a short consult with your child that can maybe help you get in the right direction. God bless you and have a wonderful day.
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