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Writing by Hand
Q: Our gifted eight-year-old boy, who is a great reader, hates to write by hand, and has temper tantrums when he resists doing homework. He's willing to do work on a computer or have someone write what he dictates. How can we get him to be willing to write by hand better? Homework time is very stressful and he is developing low self-esteem because of it. Homework is only going to be more difficult next year. Any suggestions?
A: Talk first with your pediatrician to rule out a physical cause for this problem. If it's a physical issue, your doctor may be able to refer you to an occupational therapist for help. A physical problem might also make it possible to get modifications for your son's assignments that would allow him to use a word-processing program on the computer or dictate to a scribe for both his class work and homework.
Summer is a great time to work on this problem since there's not the added stress of daily homework assignments. Try getting your son some fun pens and markers with which he can write stories. If you and the doctor feel that his fine motor skills need strengthening, encourage your son to build with blocks and Legos, work with clay, work puzzles, and so forth. Craft stores carry scissors that cut in designs, so practicing cutting (an excellent exercise for fine motor problems) doesn't have to mean just straight lines.
Even if your doctor doesn't identify a physical problem, talk with your son's teacher at the beginning of the school year and explain the frustration you experienced last year. You may be able to work out modifications to homework such as letting your son tape record his assignments, type two assignments on the computer and write out the third, and so forth.
Also talk with the school counselor to develop a plan in case your son continues to have problems with tantrums.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.