Monday, May 14, 2018

When your Child Struggles with Handwriting and Fine Motor Activities

One of the reasons we homeschool for Caleb is we often have to do things differently.  His brain is wired different by his Autism so he has to learn in different ways.  Homeschool gives us the flexibility to be the different he needs. When we began to introduce school time to him we hit some roadblocks and learned exactly how differently we would need to do things for him to progress.   

Many skills came easy and one of the professionals who saw him even called him gifted.  There were still areas that he struggled with.  There was no tricking him into writing.  We had to be creative!  How do you complete a handwriting workbook when he won't pick up a pencil?  I gave up even trying for the first half of his kindergarten year. we put his workbook away because it led to tears.  I knew he knew how to form letters but doing it on paper was a struggle.  He wasn't ready for it yet so we waited and did other activities instead we read books, we did cut and paste, we did math work books.  First and foremost I wanted him to love learning, tears had no place in our classroom.  It meant we needed a new way to teach it, and I didn't know what that was.  

One day quite by accident we happened upon a new idea. He was copying his sisters drawing on the chalkboard of an octopus.   drawing lines off a circle and calling them tentacles.  And since all works of art have titles, I asked him to label his drawing, and that was when the magic happened!  

Me: Caleb that's a great drawing, what is it?
Caleb: ITs an octopus.
Me: that's great, lets label it.  (I had no idea if he would take the bait.)
Caleb: Ok how do you spell Octopus, i know it starts with an O?
Me: O-C-T-O-P-U-S, to which he dutifully wrote each letter in a mostly straight line!
To say we celebrated was an understatement.

Around the same time, a friend who also has a struggling writer told me about a workshop she had attended.  She explained to me that writing vertically, like on a blackboard, is a building block to writing on paper. (More information from an Occupational Therapist HERE)  It was all the confirmation I needed to embrace our new writing method!  A few times a week he would pick out an animal and I would tell him the shapes to draw and add to his picture and we would label it. IFten this was followed by a picture text to daddy or (out of state) grandma to share our accomplishment.  We didn't touch a handwriting book that year but we did go through most of the animals in our Step by Step Drawing Book

By the end of the year his animals and his handwriting was more legible and his confidence had improved.  He was able to create and express himself.  He really could write after all, and he was ready to write on paper without any tears.  He completed his Handwriting book with no tears, in record time during the last month of the year.  

Sometimes our differently wired kids remind us that the skills they need are there all along we just have to work with them to find the way to release the skill and talent.  This was 2 years ago, and he has slowly but surely showed me that he wants to write but he is doing it in his own time and his own methods.  A generic sentences aren't worth being copied in the book but give him a story about Star Wars and he will copy the whole page.  Its taken 2 more years but he is finally writing in a journal and picking up a pencil to draw his own pictures.  It takes time, Mama, It takes time.  

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