Sunday, November 6, 2011

Week 8 & Dysgraphia???

It's amazing what I've learned about myself and Capt. N in the 2 short months we've been homeschooling. And, because of all these discoveries I'm changing our schooling a little bit. I've spent all weekend cleaning out my craft room, which we use as a school room. It was filled to the brim with various crafting supplies and to add the school stuff was just too much for this little room. I rearranged our bedroom and closets to make room for most of my craft stuff. Because I'm such an organized person, I can't function as a teacher in such a chaotic room & since Capt. N gets distracted so easily it wasn't a great setting for his learning. I hate giving up my craft room, but it needed to be done.

I've gone to the library and browsed the web to find information on dysgraphia. I had never even heard the word before I met with the reading specialist. But, I think Capt. N definitely has some form of it. I have no idea where to put him on a scale from 1 - 10, but he has many of the symptoms. I can read his handwriting, but it is sloppy & he struggles a lot with it. This may explain why he did so terribly on the reversal's test at vision therapy. Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder and a learning disability. The definition from dyslexia A2Z states: ‘Dysgraphia means having severe problems with the written word, which is affected by extreme difficulty with fine-motor skills - in spite of having normal intelligence and ability’. I am unsure how severe Capt. N's problem is. It seems minor to me, but it definitely is a bit of a problem. It explains why when I ask him about a journal topic he can ramble on and on and on, but when it comes to actually writing it down he only writes a couple sentences... and it takes him awhile to write those few sentences.

This is a list of symptoms from Eberly College of Arts & Sciences. The ones in red are the ones Capt. N has.
1. Students may exhibit strong verbal but particularly poor writing skills .
2. Random (or non-existent) punctuation. Spelling errors (sometimes same word spelled differently); reversals; phonic approximations; syllable omissions; errors in common suffixes. Clumsiness and disordering of syntax; an impression of illiteracy. Misinterpretation of questions and questionnaire items. Disordered numbering and written number reversals.
3. Generally illegible writing (despite appropriate time and attention given the task).
4. Inconsistencies : mixtures of print and cursive, upper and lower case, or irregular sizes, shapes, or slant of letters.
5. Unfinished words or letters, omitted words.

6. Inconsistent position on page with respect to lines and margins and inconsistent spaces between words and letters.

7. Cramped or unusual grip, especially holding the writing instrument very close to the paper, or holding thumb over two fingers and writing from the wrist.
8. Talking to self while writing, or carefully watching the hand that is writing.
9. Slow or labored copying or writing - even if it is neat and legible.

At this point I'm not going to take him to a specialist to check more into this. We are already going to vision therapy once a week and do daily exercises for that. I don't want to add something else to our days. But, I actually think a few of the vision exercises may help him with this too. I also stumbled across Dianne Craft's web site & she has a ton of great information. I'm going to have him quit doing most of the copy work he's been doing and instead do the writing eight exercises Dianne Craft mentions. I have a feeling this is going to get quite tedious for him, but it says to stay at it for at least 6 months and you will see great results in their writing ability. I've got to have him try it. I'm also going to use Dianne's method for learning spelling words.

I've also been doing a little research on ADHD. At this point, this is the least of my worries, but I've realized he may have some form of this, too. I feel many of the inattention & hyperactivity symptoms describe him, but not the impulsive symptoms. I've read that many kids are misdiagnosed with ADHD, when they really have vision problems. So, I'd rather focus on fixing the vision issues and see if these symptoms improve. But then, I've also read that many kids with ADHD also have dysgraphia. So, maybe he does really have it. His reading teacher this summer did mention he was kind of wiggly and had a hard time focusing. Before he started kindergarten, I remember a friend of mine, who taught kindergarten, say to me to not be surprised if his teacher says he has ADD. She told me, though, that she didn't think he had it... or maybe she just didn't want to tell me the truth. His vision doctor has asked me a couple times if he always has this much energy... and the answer, is yes.

I can't express how weird this is for me. Last year at this time I had no idea that he had any issues, except that he reads too slow. I wasn't overly concerned since the school put him in Read Naturally, which was supposed to help kids like him. I figured he'd improve & that's that. By March, I was beginning to think something else was wrong or if not wrong, just not something the school was fixing - which is when I began investigating homeschooling. And now here I am with the realization that he's got far bigger issues than just reading slowly. Whether it's right or not, I have to admit I'm a little irritated at the school. Aren't they supposed to be watching out for my kid? Aren't they supposed to catch any issues he's having? They never mentioned any of these things. They just said he reads slow, so lets send him to the typical class for that problem. Then when it didn't work, everyone just told me to have it read more. Are you kidding me? Couldn't they see there was more to it than that? I did, which is why I'm 99% sure I will continue to homeschool my kids next year. I can't put my trust in a system that didn't help him or see any of these issues. I don't care if they are not typical problems. The fact is, they couldn't help him - so he's not going back. And, even if they could tell me he had these issues, they aren't things he can work on in public school. So, then he'd have to struggle all day in school and after that work on all these exercises that actually help him. And, meanwhile, I fear he would lose lots of self confidence. At home, he knows he's working on things to help him get better, but he doesn't feel bad watching his peers perform better than him. My complaints are about the school system in general. I really love Mr. T's kinder teacher. She's the same one Capt. N had & I think she did a fantastic job teaching him, too. I think he may have been worse off, if it wasn't for her teaching him to read in a way that worked for him.

Now, I just gotta scream - "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!" I know parenting isn't supposed to be easy, but jeepers! A few minutes ago, Mr. T came over and said to me, "I think you should take a break from school and hang out with your children." Talk about, taking a knife to my heart. I have spent a lot of time this week reading up on dysgraphia and ways to help Capt. N with it. I don't tell my kids exactly what I'm doing, I just say I'm working on school stuff. And because I had the house torn apart trying to rearrange things, the hubby took the kids to Sunday School & play practice for me so I could get the house put back together. Mr. T said to me when they got home, "Wow mom, I haven't seen you all day." I think he's still trying to get used to being at school every day, even though it's only for a couple hours. Then, when he gets home I'm doing school stuff with Capt. N. I read blogs about people who say they do homeschool for only 2, maybe 3 or 4 hours per day. I wish we could do school that quickly, but Capt. N is soooo slow. We could probably get school done more quickly if I got rid of the fluff. But, the fluff is the stuff he likes. I don't want school to just be the boring, hard subjects for him. I need just a couple more hours in a day. I'm going to have to try harder to spend more quality time with Mr. T.



Pics from the Week:

ART
Gertrude, the Geometric Witch. Capt. N made her on Halloween.
I got the idea for Gertrude from this book.

Just for fun, I had the boys paint with shaving cream. It was a quick project, but they really enjoyed it.
I love the way the colors mix together... but, don't mix too much or you wind up with gray.
A shaving cream & paint masterpiece.



LANGUAGE ARTS
We did a little comprehension lesson using the book, The Widow's Broom. I had never heard of it before, but I thought it was a great story. Capt. N liked it, too. It definitely kept his attention.
Instead of writing out all the answers, we discussed them & he drew pictures.



MATH
For math, he was learning about number lines. The task he was asked to do was to make a number line counting by 2's. I was thrilled when he asked to make another one. He chose to make this one counting by 5's.



SCIENCE
We talked about animal life cycles this week. This page is (obviously) on insect life cycles. We also discussed amphibian, salmon, and extreme life cycles such as a tortoise who lived to be 250 years old. He knew all about a butterfly's life cycle, and he found it interesting to learn that the ladybug & mosquito have similar life cycles.



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