Reality check: we are now 3 years post-COVID and beginning to see the ramifications and impacts on our children. I won't be all gloom and doom and say that all impacts were negative. I saw children bonding with siblings and families through their extended time at home. I saw children taking up hobbies that they may not have otherwise. AND I am seeing some major missed learning particularly when it comes to handwriting.
For some kids, they spent a year or more participating in lackluster virtual schooling and NEVER picked up a pencil. For some kids in K-3rd grades that meant those crucial years of foundational writing was missed. Now the expectation is to go into 4th grade and write essays when they struggle to effectively hold a pencil or place letters on a line. I am definitely not disapproving of virtual learning and we have GREAT success with virtual tutoring here at Handwriting Solutions. But we are intentional and purposeful with creating that virtual environment to be nearly identical to in-person learning. Whereas, many schools were thrust into virtual with ZERO clue on how to make it work.
For other kids, it isn't the missed learning from COVID, but a systemic issue where their school is not spending adequate time instructing on writing. Standards are now unrealistic and teachers are being driven to push more and more, leaving little to no time for foundational skills such as handwriting. Kindergartens are now expected to write sentences when they may have never learned letter formations or how to hold a pencil properly. Or even worse, they weren't given opportunities to build up their motor skills for these more advanced academic skills.
So how do we know if it is lack of quality instruction or if there is a diagnosis such as dysgraphia causing our child to struggle with handwriting?
First, we dive a little deeper. A handwriting assessment is the best first step to dive into underlying barriers with handwriting. Breaking down writing into individual skills helps pinpoint where the barriers exist with writing and gives us a bigger picture of our child's learning and current performance. The assessment also guides remediation as we have a plan of action and areas we need to intervene.
Depending on what the assessment reveals, we may recommend a full-scale neuropsychological exam to seek out an official dysgraphia diagnosis. Our handwriting assessment can be used as a tool for support during these evaluations.
However, often we begin handwriting remediation before we decide to pursue a diagnosis. We want to see how a student responds to tutoring and, if they make notable gains quickly, then chances are the lack of instruction was the barrier. Likewise, children who make quick progress are not going to experience symptoms of dysgraphia such as spelling difficulties, grammatical errors, avoidance of writing, difficulty transferring thoughts to paper, and such. There may be other underlying issues, such as developmental delays, weakness, etc, impacting handwriting. But it wouldn't necessarily be a learning difference.
Likewise, the diagnostic criteria for a specific learning disorder in writing (dysgraphia) states that the symptoms should persist for at least 6 months with appropriate interventions in place and targeted help. To learn more about a dysgraphia diagnosis, read more here.
The key here is that the assessment is VITAL to understanding the child's strengths and barriers. The intervention will depend on the findings from the assessment. Whether the child has dysgraphia or simply missed opportunities for quality instruction, it is critical to map out the learning profile of the student to guide how we will help. Now the child can get they individualized help they NEED, no matter the "cause". To learn more about the assessment process click here.