Dysgraphia – Part 4

We’ve looked at three reasons why writing skills don’t develop as they should. Remember Tim, the first grader who struggled to process spatial information so he “melted down” over tasks that required writing on paper? Then there was Sophie. She had a phonological processing deficit, or dyslexia, that made spelling accuracy a “hit or miss” proposition. You also met Jason, the young man in high school who wasn’t making complete and accurate images for the language he read or heard, so didn’t have good usable images stored in his head to use when he needed to write about a subject he had studied in class. All of these students exhibited symptoms of dysgraphia – or “difficulty writing.”

There is one more processing function that supports good writing skills. It’s called orthographic processing, and it’s the brain’s ability to retain the orthography of a word – the letter symbols we use to represent the sounds involved. Students with weak orthographic processing tend to “drag their feet” when it comes to writing. They consistently misspell the sight words they’ve practiced for years. They struggle to retain a “picture” for the irregular spellings – words like should, they, and laugh. Spelling in general is phonetic, but the right spelling doesn’t tend to stick.

Joyce is a child we worked with for phonological processing development in the 3rd grade. She made rapid progress and her reading skills took off. Her parents called us three years later, however, when she was a 6th grader to say that she was still reading accurately – though slowly – and her writing skills were pretty far behind. We retested her and found that her phonological processing had held up nicely. However, her orthographic processing needed another boost. We worked with her on an intensive daily basis for about 6 weeks doing lots of “symbol imagery” for sight words and high frequency words. Symbol imagery is the process of seeing the letters for a given word in the mind’s eye. Once she had the image created we’d ask questions designed to make the image stronger. We also looped her parents into this round of treatment with some homework every night. She took home the target sight words and pictured them again with their help. Along with this heavy dose of symbol imagery, we had Joyce doing a lot of reading and writing. As her sight word recognition improved, her reading speeded up. As for writing, it became less of a “chore” and more of an adventure!

If you suspect your child might be dysgraphic, give us a call. We can help you determine what it is that’s causing the problem.

Read more about orthographic processing here

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