When I went in to formally withdraw little man from his school, I saw the Principal and a few other friends who were wondering how he was doing. I mentioned the dysgraphia diagnosis from Dyslexia Haven and they nodded blankly.
Indeed. A very fundamental skill that we all take for granted. The irony of it struck me this morning as I was talking to little man about all his terrific talents and skills. I realized that writing is one of the skills I’ve always had an easy time with. I fell in love with the pen, the ink, the flow of ideas from my brain onto paper and eventually every medium imaginable.
People with dysgraphia can often write on some level and may lack other fine motor skills, for example they may find tasks such as tying shoes difficult, but it does not affect all fine motor skills. People with dysgraphia often have unusual difficulty with handwriting and spelling which in turn can cause writing fatigue. They may lack basic grammar and spelling skills (for example, having difficulties with the letters p, q, b, and d), and often will write the wrong word when trying to formulate their thoughts on paper. The disorder generally emerges when the child is first introduced to writing.
Our schools are hyper focused on writing. It is how a child or student demonstrates progress. For a child with dysgraphia, there is no way to be successful unless the teachers can recognize it and give them support and encouragement. Prodding them verbally is probably not enough. I am sure little man got all kinds of verbal encouragement to keep at it, “go ahead,” and “you can do it.” But if your hand muscles tire easily, your working memory cannot hold a visual image of the letter at the same time the brain is recruiting energy to coordinate the muscles, and your results are so poor, you might want to just give up.
Little man’s struggles in school since his last year of Montessori make so much more sense to us now. And sadly, for him, it only took two years of frustration to begin internalizing the message “I’m dumb.” But rather than becoming withdrawn and sad, he acted out and became defiant. I suppose I should be grateful he’s a fighter, defending himself with his six year old coping mechanisms so all the adults in life would pay attention…