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Daughter Diagnosed as Dysgraphic
Q: There seems to be very little information available on dysgraphia. My nine-year-old daughter was just identified as dysgraphic. She spoke early (full sentences at 15 months) and read early as well. She has an IQ of 147. When she wasn't producing (writing), her teachers kept telling me not to worry -- but I should have been worried. Please let me know what I can do to help her.
A: This must be very frustrating for both you and your daughter! Due to the many children being diagnosed with learning disabilities these days, it is my belief that there is now a tendency to avoid labeling young elementary children too early because they might improve on their own. Special education services are also very overburdened. With this in mind, some children may wait for diagnosis and for help. This sounds like the case with your daughter.
Dysgraphia is a serious dysfunction in the ability to write fluently and coherently in a developmentally appropriate manner. It is diagnosed by a learning specialist using standardized tests and writing samples. An excellent source of information on this topic is the book Dysgraphia: The Writing Dilemma by Regina Richards. This book gives recommendations for teachers, parents, and students. In addition, visit the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) website at www.cec.sped.org. The CEC provides fact sheets for parents to download on various learning disabilities. I suggest you investigate this informative site.
Gifted children understand only too well the problems and frustrations a learning disability brings. It is important that you help your little girl understand that this is not her fault, it is not occurring because she isn't trying hard enough, and that she isn't "stupid." (A sad word that LD kids have used to describe themselves to me.) This is just another way that her interesting brain works! With some self-help skills such as a use of a word processor, proofreading habits, and guidance from a learning specialist your daughter can make many gains in her writing ability.
I have only been able to give you some limited feedback here on the very large topic of dysgraphia, but if you look up the references I have suggested I believe you will find them helpful. Good luck.
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Noreen Joslyn is a licensed independent social worker in the state of Ohio and is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has a master's degree in Social Work, specializing in family and children, from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a psychiatric social worker in private practice with Ken DeLuca, Ph.D. & Associates, where she counsels parents and children.