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OT Assessed My Child Incorrectly
Q: My third-grader was recently diagnosed with Dyslexia and she has dysgraphia. The school's occupational therapist (OT) recently evaluated her at my request. The OT told me that her motor skills are normal and her manual dexterity skills are excellent. The child I see still uses a pencil grip and hates cursive writing. Her writing is awkward, often off the lines. It takes her forever to print, and she constantly erases her work. Why is my daughter's OT assessment normal when she struggles so much with writing?
A: I don't know why the OT evaluation did not pick up why your child is having such trouble with handwriting. Sometimes kids can marshal the effort to perform well on a brief evaluation, but struggle to maintain that effort in real-world situations. If your daughter has to stop and think about how to form each letter, her written output is bound to be slow and labored.
There is excellent program that was developed by occupational therapist Jan Z. Olsen that may be able to help your daughter. It is called Handwriting Without Tears (http://www.hwtears.com). You don't have to be a teacher or an occupational therapist to use it with a child. After instruction in formation of the letters, it involves only five minutes a day of concentrated practice. You might want to ask the OT who did the evaluation if she is familiar with this method.
Also, you might want to consider introducing keyboarding skills to your daughter. I like Diana Hanbury King's Keyboarding Skills book available from Educators Publishing Service. Although the program is designed for older children, I have used it successfully with children your daughter's age. The fact that the keyboard is introduced in an alphabet format within a catchy rhyme ("Little finger 'A', reach for the 'B', . . .") rather than the traditional "asdfjkl;" order really seems to make a difference in students being able to master the keys quickly without looking.
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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.