Jul 18, 2013

Using Technologies to Support Dysgraphia


Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing. Dysgraphia affects the development of writing or drawing and can prevent an individual from using writing to clearly communicate (Garate, 2006).  Gubbay (1995) found that children with dysgraphia are 9 times more likely to make mistakes while writing single words, and 6 times more likely to make mistakes while forming single letters at age 13 to 14. Deuel (2002) found that there are main reasons for impairment: cognitive, either linguistic or spatial, or motor function. Dysgraphia is usually identified by a student's poor handwriting and inability to complete writing tasks in a timely manner.
Shawn, 2009
I had an experience with a dysgraphic student during my first years of teaching. I was teaching band at a middle school for 7th and 8th grade. Shawn seemed like a normal 7th boy, or as normal as 7th grade boy can get. He was bright, very social, and he practiced his clarinet everyday. Maybe he would trip over his feet sometimes, but that's normal for growing boy. When I can to chair auditions, I assumed he would do fine. He did not. But we needed trombones, so I gave him one, and told him to go figure it out. He came back the next day and he had gotten the hang of it. By the end of the year, he was one of the best trombone players and leader in the band. In the meantime, the counselors and other teachers had diagnosed him with dysgraphia. The reason why the switch to trombone had worked for him is because to play notes, he just had to move his arm. With the clarinet, he had to move all his fingers independently and in tiny motions. The was nothing wrong with his musical ability, or his knowledge of how to read notes, he just didn't have the fine motor control for his fingers. Changing notes on a trombone is done by a large muscle movement, and he was successful.


There a many tools that can be used in a classroom to help students with dysgraphia. Although many tools can help students with dysgraphia, it is important to still practice handwriting. Handwriting is a life skill that should not be avoided. Sanacore (1991) finds that students with dysgraphia are greatly helped by seeing their writing clearly on a computer.
TextExpander takes small snippets of frequently used text and expanded them. For example, type in ;em and it will expand to your email address. This saves time typing often repeated phrases.
There are many voice dictation program available. A few years ago, you had to buy a program like Dragon. Now, voice dictation is built into Windows and Mac. I'm even dictating this right now. Even cell phones are getting the ability to talk to them with Siri and Google Voice Search. Any of these programs would allow someone with dysgraphia to talk through a paper instead of having to write or type it out.
VoiceThread allows the user to record their voice and attach it to a slide. They can make their slides either pictures, or videos, and other people can comment on the same slide. In addition to not having to write or type, getting verbal feedback from anyone is great.

One of the newer recommendations is a calculator, but not just any calculator. MyScript Calculator lets the user draw on the screen with their finger instead of tapping. This is a huge benefit for a person with dysgraphia because on a screen the size of an iPad, it makes writing more of a gross motor movement than a fine motor movement.
An app to reinforce handwriting would be iWriteWords. It is targeted more for toddlers, and I think the childishness might be a bit too much older kids. Just like MyScript Calculator, it focuses on large motor movements to practice drawing out letters.
Living with a learning disability can be difficult. Every learning disability is different and every child is different. With dysgraphia, it may always take extra time to write a paper, or to do math homework. But there are many technologies that can ease the transition to be better students.
Deuel, R. (2002). Dysgraphia. CONTINUUM: Lifelong Learning in Neurology, 8(5, Learning Disabilities). Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/continuum/Fulltext/2002/08050/Dysgraphia.4.aspx
Garate, T. (2006). Learning disability. In G. Albrecht (Ed.), Encyclopedia of disability. (pp. 1033-1035). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950510.n503. Retrieved from http://knowledge.sagepub.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/view/disability/n503.xml?rskey=vV55Rh&row=2
Gubbay, S. S., & de Klerk, N. H. (1995). A study and review of developmental dysgraphia in relation to acquired dysgraphia. Brain and Development, 17(1), 1–8. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0387-7604(94)00110-J. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/science/article/pii/038776049400110J#
Miceli, G., Silveri, M. C., & Caramazza, A. (1985). Cognitive analysis of a case of pure dysgraphia. Brain and language, 25(2), 187–212. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4063789
Rosenblum, S., Weiss, P. L., & Parush, S. (2004). Handwriting Evaluation for Developmental Dysgraphia: Process Versus Product. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 17(5), 433–458. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.msu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/62077912?accountid=12598
Sanacore, J., & Alio, A. (1991). Computer Applications: A Schoolwide Innovation. The Clearing House 65(2), 77-79. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/stable/info/30188665?&Search=yes&searchText=dysgraphia&searchUri=%2Fbetasearch%2F%3Facc%3Don%26Query%3Ddysgraphia%26wc%3Don