In recent times, I have been talking to a lot of students who have either diagnosed or suspected dysgraphia. We often talked about our poor handwriting, dysgraphia in school, assistive technology that helps with dysgraphia, classroom accommodations, types of special education service plans (IEP, 504, SAP, etc), word processors, and many other things. Inspired by this, I have put together a list of accommodations I had in school, all the way from elementary school to the present day in college. Here are my tips for managing dysgraphia in the classroom, and dysgraphia accommodations for students with IEPs, 504 plans, and student assistance plans (SAPs).
What is dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia is a type of learning disability characterized by illegible handwriting. Some other signs include uneven letter sizes, awkward pencil grip, incomplete letters, and others. There is no cure, but occupational therapy services can help. The condition seems to be very common for students with low vision. Read more about print disabilities here.
When I was in fourth grade, my teacher required that students use cursive writing when writing in their journals. Even though I had documented dysgraphia, my teacher still encouraged me to write in cursive. After realizing it was impossible for me or for them to read my cursive, they allowed me to start writing using standard print letters in my journal, something I very much appreciated! To this day, the only cursive I can write somewhat legibly (emphasis on the somewhat) is my name.
There is lots of assistive technology for dysgraphia, the most common being high-tech devices like laptops and iPads, which I have personally used since high school. Before I got my laptop, I used a portable keyboard that could input notes into my home computer called the DANA system. I did not care much for it because the display was difficult to read and it was not a lightweight device.
My mom bought me pencil grips to encourage me to hold a pencil more naturally. These helped somewhat, but I do not use them now as I have not used a pencil in years due to my issues with contrast. Here is a link to similar pencil grips on Amazon.
Scribe for bubble sheets
Scantron and similar bubble sheets are very common in the classroom. Because I have difficulty filling them out, I have a scribe do it for me in the classroom.
Scribes for standardized tests
For standardized tests, my case manager or similar staff member fills out my bubble sheet while I read the answers. Another staff member then compares the bubble sheet with the test booklet before submitting it. Read more about my testing accommodations here.
Typing long assignments
For any assignment longer than a paragraph, I type out my responses on either my computer or my iPad, to ensure the teacher can read whatever I am writing.
Using high-contrast writing utensils
I love my Sharpie pens and scented markers for when I am writing. They are easy for me to hold and I find it more easy to distinguish what I wrote. I use extra-fine tip Sharpie markers and pens. Read more about what I bring to class here.
While this isn’t used very often, I appreciate being able to dictate information as needed, whether to a human or to a piece of software, and having something else do the writing. I use a voice enabled keyboard for the most part.
My accommodations state that teachers can not give me lower grades due to my handwriting, even though some teachers still do so anyway. I would report these types of violations to my case manager, since I could not really fight with the teacher about grades.
Dysgraphia is a very common condition that a lot of people don’t know how to accommodate. With these tips, students will be able to thrive in the classroom- perfect handwriting or not.