Learning Disability

Helpful Handwriting Hacks

I often get requests from parents to teach their child proper handwriting techniques. Achieving legible handwriting can actually be quite challenging. If you suspect your child is having serious challenges with the physical act of writing, getting an evaluation from an OT (occupational therapist) could be helpful. I have included some of my favorite resources for handwriting here. I am not a specialist or an OT, so I will leave it to the experts! 

  1. Your child may have already developed a pencil grip that inhibits proper letter formation and ease of handwriting. When a child has not achieved appropriate pencil grip, they may tend to hold the pencil awkwardly or with an especially tight grip. This can lead to problems such as fatigue and muscle cramps. OT Mom Learning Activities is a wonderful resource not only for pencil grip, but also a whole host of tips and strategies pertaining to motor skill development. 
  2. You may notice that your child doesn’t necessarily struggle with letter formation, but seems to write at a slant down the page, or that each new line is started a little further to the right than the previous one. This may not be an issue of handwriting, but actually a tracking issue with the eyes. This article provides a clear explanation of tracking issues and even gives an example of what text may look like for a child with tracking challenges. 
  3. Children who have had support with pencil grip, letter formation, and other aspects of handwriting, but still struggle to write or find it painful may be experiencing Dysgraphia. This article explains in depth what Dysgraphia is. In my experience, children who have Dysgraphia can benefit greatly from learning to type. Typing does not seem to cause the same discomfort and challenges that handwriting does and it’s often more efficient. Typing can be particularly helpful for children who struggle with Dysgraphia and Dyslexia as it allows children to organize their thoughts and express them quickly and efficiently without the added stress of letter formation, spelling, and the frustration of trying to get all your thoughts on paper as quickly as they come. 
  4. If you want to give your child some extra practice with handwriting, check out these freebies! Becky Spence is one of my favorite education bloggers and she always has lots of free goodies on her website. She also does free webinars and has a fabulous blog post on handwriting!
March 9th, 2020|

What A Child With Special Needs REALLY Needs

As a person who was diagnosed with ADHD in first grade, I am quite familiar with the fear and stress that families and parents can experience when they learn that their child is struggling with a specific disability. Many parents feel the best approach is to get their child as much intervention and support as possible. They find the best tutors, doctors, therapists, and specialists. They fret over whose class their child will be in. Is their child getting enough academic time? Will they ever catch up? Should they be doing extra homework? How is their time at home best spent with their child?

It’s difficult to know what the right answer is. But I speak from experience as a learning specialist and someone who struggles with ADHD, when I say that all these things are important, but do not let them overshadow your child’s need for free time. If your child’s schedule is filled with school, doctor’s appointments, tutoring sessions, homework, and little else, it may be time to make some adjustments. Every week, your child should have down time ( time to relax, just hang out, or do a quiet activity) and time for something they’re passionate about (not an activity chosen by the parents). I encourage the parents I work with to find out what their child would really love to do. Whatever that activity is, see if you can find a way to make it happen weekly. Your child will feel less stressed, more accomplished, and it will take the focus off of their weaknesses and give them time to do something they are good at.

When I was a kid, I was always involved in a sport and music lesson of my choice. I did this through high school. Not only did it give me an outlet for my energy, but it also gave me a chance to practice something I loved and felt like I was good at (the news came later that I was a terrible athlete and dancer only when I looked back at home videos of games and recitals, laughing at my enthusiasm in spite of my lack of talent). Doing something that brings you joy is important and that became ingrained in me at such a young age. It makes me a happier person and keeps me from getting bogged down by all the responsibilities of life, many of which I can’t fulfill at my best unless I have time to de-stress and enjoy life. I prioritize personal quiet time and physical activity daily. Because I refuse to compromise on this, I am a happier and healthier person. I’m able to do the things I need to do with energy and enthusiasm.

Don’t forget that if your kiddo has a learning disability, that doesn’t mean it has to always be front and center stage. Give them time to relax and think, and time to enjoy the things that make them happy!

April 8th, 2019|

Free and Easy Math Resource

It’s time for my monthly blog post! This month I’ve decided to share with you one of my favorite math resources: Math Aids. This website allows users to create worksheets for essentially any math skill for free. You can customize each sheet and they’re great for basic skill practice.

Worksheets should be used a supplemental tool to quality math instruction and child-centered math discovery and exploration. The purpose of a worksheet or workbook is not to instruct or introduce a skill, but rather to allow the student to gain proficiency with practice. Here are some of the reasons I love this website:

  1. You can determine the number of problems you want on the sheet. I have some students for whom too many problems on a page is visually overwhelming. Even for children who don’t have a learning disability, seeing a page loaded with math problems can be daunting. With this website I can customize the number of problems for many of the worksheets.
  2. It’s not all about the numbers! I like that Math Aids is not just a resource for computation math problems, but also offers word problems. More than half the children I work with face a reading based learning disability. Some of these students are quite proficient in math and have a strong number sense, but when it comes to applying those skills to real world situations or word problems, they are at a loss. I can use this website to create word problem practice.
  3. It has a wide range of math concepts. Math Aids has worksheets for simple mental addition to Algebra II. This allows me to get resources for all of my math students in one place. I work with kiddos as young as 6, and as old as 17. Their ability levels vary quite a bit and as my students progress and face new challenges, I can quickly make worksheets to fit their changing needs.

This website is a super tool for homeschool parents and teachers, but it can also be useful for parents of children attending traditional school. If you know your child is struggling in a particular area, it’s worth checking out Math Aids to find some practice work to supplement the one-on-one work you are doing with your child at home.

December 7th, 2018|

The Positive Side of Dyslexia and Autism

It can be difficult to understand learning differences and disabilities when it seems like all of a sudden over the past 5-10 years it’s been slammed into the mainstream. There is a lot of information out there. In order to understand these learning differences, we do need to focus on what kinds of challenges and problems these create for learners. However, it can be easy to lose sight of the people who face these learning differences and the fact that maybe these differences create gifts and talents that can go unnoticed.

One comparison I really like is between Dyslexia and Autism. People who have Dyslexia are often big picture thinkers and people with Autism are often detail-oriented thinkers. It actually has to do with brain structure. But without getting into the nitty gritty, a good way to understand this one aspect of their learning is to say that people with Dyslexia more easily see the forest and may miss the individual trees, while people with Autism see the individual details of every tree, but miss the forest.

What this leaves us with is two groups of people with very different abilities and even more interesting, very different talents. When you’re looking for someone who can make broad connections, be an innovator, or see things others miss when identifying similarities between seemingly dissimilar things you want to work with someone who has Dyslexia. People with Dyslexia are often great entrepreneurs because they have a knack for seeing a bigger problem and figuring out how to solve it. When you’re looking for someone who can see those tiny details that slip past others, someone who can be meticulous and work with tasks that are often tedious and require complete focus on minutia, take small pieces and fit them together, and closely analyze structure and rules you want to work with someone who has Autism.

Our society is just starting to appreciate all of the wonderful things the ADD and ADHD brain can do. It’s taken us so long to see that while it may be a hindrance in some areas, it outperforms the neurotypical brains in many others. If we can take this kind of perspective when looking at people with non neurotypical brains, we will start to see all of the potential that’s waiting to be unleashed!

April 25th, 2017|