Saturday, 23 November 2013

’ Dysgraphia -The Whys and How’s’ (revised 23-10-13) by Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013



Dysgraphia can affect many people in various ways…it is generally regarded as deficiency/learning difficulty in the ability to put pen to paper in terms of the written word. It can be a handwriting issue, or a cognitive issue (transcription difficulty)…taking thoughts from the mind or indeed the teacher and putting them down on paper, and this can also be down to agraphia. It must be mentioned that as with dyslexia most students have very high intellect; this causes many teachers to believe the student lacks interest or is lazy; this is far from the truth, they have great ideas until it comes to the art of putting pen to paper. Again like dyslexics they are the ones that create the idea in group discussions and are great at the practical side of projects but cannot write a report etc.

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We all have moments when our mind goes blank whilst writing or in conversation… with dysgraphia and agraphia this is more profound and on-going. One of the problem areas is the using of graphemes (single letter and often silent in writing – as in debt). Although this is thought to be very much of a cousin to dyslexia, it does not actually bear any relation in so far as many with Dysgraphia and Agraphia students have little if any problems with their reading or spelling.

Dysgraphia is, as mentioned, a lack of connection from the information stored in our brain and the lack of moving that information when commanded by the brain to the hand (fine motor)…this can be seen as comorbid (exists with other conditions) as it can be seen in children/adults with poor motor skill, such as DCD…Verbal Dyspraxia…ADD…ADHD.

Agraphia, whilst having the same symptoms as dysgraphia, is often caused by damage to the temporal or parietal lobes and also in the motor cortex, which can be as a result of a stroke or other brain injuries. Although we talked about high intellect earlier, this can co-exist with dyslexia in some cases.

Poor motor skills can result in dysgraphia due in part to immature fine motor skills and poor co-ordination (dexterity)… the most common being weak hand/arm muscles. Poor posture can also add to this, especially in DCD children and adults…they tend to tire very quickly and their writing space becomes very crowded.
Students can often present with poor writing and this is down to spatial and even scoptopic issues (visual stress)…they can view the paper as if its tapered top to bottom and their writing moves away from the margin…or their writing simply gets bigger as they work across the page.

Taking down the written word requires huge concentration and you can often find that writing starts off fairly legible and then quickly deteriorates…it can also become slow and laborious due to poor retention of the information being dictated or from a whiteboard, etc.

It is worth checking to see if your child is writing with the correct hand…I too often find that a left dominant student is writing with the right hand and this was never corrected at the early stage of learning to write.
Very often we put people in boxes (jump to the wrong conclusion) and in doing so miss diagnosing the actual cause of many areas such as dysgraphia. The student does not lack motivation or evade the learning process…it is important for all parents and teachers to observe students in their charge as vigilance will tell a lot. It is important to look out for:

Students who work head down covering their work…this is often through embarrassment (fear of their peers looking at their work and making negative comments).
Crabbing the wrist and fingers whilst writing…could also be a sign of using the wrong hand to write with.
Fingers tiring quickly (hand shaking) when writing even short passages of texts.
Constant correction of work (tipex-ing or rubbing out).
Moving to upper and lower case in the same word.
Letters growing in size or, as mentioned, moving away from the margin (visual stress).
Inability to keep up with teacher or peers dictating (writing speed).
Lack of attention to detail (just want to get it over with).
Constantly looking to the board to re-affirm words (also poor short term memory can cause this).
Faint and illegible writing (can also be due to poor coordination and pressure on the paper).
Poor handwriting (can so often lead people to believe that the student is dyslexic).
Poor Comprehension…unable to build a story from scratch.
Students often complain of feeling tired and will yawn a lot while writing.
How can Dysgraphia be helped:
By introducing gross and fine motor exercises…this will improve posture and also arm, wrist, hand and finger strength and as well as reducing fatigue.
Using whiteboards to practice on and gain correct tip pressure of pen or pencil.
Introducing pen and pencil grips or stubby pens and pencils.
Using a multi-sensory teaching package.
Having a test for visual stress and the possible introduction of filters and coloured writing books.
Students with learning difficulties put far more effort into everything they do even though on the flip side teachers will often disagree…these students are, as previously mentioned, very clever and will in usually excel in subjects other than those that involve writing copious notes.
Delivering very visually stimulating and kinaesthetic type projects are so important. Memory recall work is also important to grow confidence in students with dysgraphia, we at dyslexia Dublin have great results in this area.

Dyslexia Dublin.ie carries a huge range of resources to help with Dysgraphia and we ship worldwide.
Please feel free to comment on any of our posts…the information we use in our posts is that of our own opinion and research and occasionally will include the work of others. It is for reading and guidance only and should never be taken literally.

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Wednesday, 13 November 2013

‘How Will Dyslexia Alter The Way I Live My Life?’ by Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

If we see this as a negative and think about the thoughts of others, including those that pour on stigma, we will struggle.  However, there is absolutely no need to feel this way, as Dyslexia brings with it so many positives.
We have to look at the success of others and then focus on those with Dyslexia.  We can’t automatically say that life will be sweet and there will be few hurdles along the way, but take a look at Thomas Edison’s story and many others such as Sir Richard Branson and Leonardo Da Vinci and many more, to see the sky can be the limit. These leaps of faith have been in the face of many around them being negative and offering up smart comments about their lack of literate skill.  I heard someone at a presentation I gave recently say that it was fine for these guys to claim this success but they have, or have had, a team around them.  Very few start with a team… it’s early and often solo success that brings finance to employ that team and again, many like Branson started out in this way.  It’s funny, but these famous people no longer have to put up with people poking fun at them and only have their memories to remind them about the past.  As we speak, unknown entrepreneurs of the future are being diagnosed at seven, eight and nine years of age with Dyslexia.  If you are one of those who have bullied someone with a learning difficulty, watch out!… they could well be your future boss!
 We can offer all the support we can, but it is still down to the individual to accept those words of positivity and also promote the positives of those who have made it.  Many have reached greatness and have withheld their past and, to some degree, it has made their route to the top so much harder… however, they would possibly have used this to motivate and kick themselves forward. This can be a very powerful tool for driving us on, however it can remove the opportunity of others benefitting from watching that person develop, often in the face of adversity.  This can be down to the person fearing failure as they may have failed a few times already.  Dyslexics and many with specific learning needs do fail, but they have huge self-belief and this allows them to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and go forward again, having learnt from their previous mistakes and we know that this always makes a much stronger and better person.
We have heard and I have mentioned on many occasions, that most Dyslexics have a high IQ and the evidence is far too strong for anyone to deny this fact.  They watch and take in many things subconsciously that those without Dyslexia let slip by, this gives them so many tools to use throughout their life.  They, for the most part, are helped in this by having great long-term memories and could tell you what they had to eat last month.  Having Dyslexia doesn’t mean that they will never be able to spell, read, write a letter or email… if they are worked with and helped with their literacy deficit, they will be able to do anything they desire to do and do it with relative ease.  Dyslexia never leaves us but with help, we can learn to manage it.

We have seen in the last paragraphs that with the right help we can go forward and shout from the roof tops that we are Dyslexic and we got there!  I believe that the world would be a lesser place if it was void of those with Dyslexia and often wonder would we be as advanced without the likes of the Edison’s, Piccaso’s and Branson’s being born with Dyslexia?  When you land that important position or start your own company, you will have many Dyslexics working with you and next time you are having your hair cut or eating at a fine restaurant or maybe watching the latest car design on Top Gear, the person behind that could well be Dyslexic!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

‘Dyspraxia (DCD) & Adult Diagnosis’ by Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

Diagnosis of dyspraxia in adults is far harder to detect/diagnose… why is this?  As we go through life, we find ways to compensate in many areas that would highlight balance co-ordination and processing and we can avoid tasks that bring about problems for adults with dyspraxia. Competition is one area, children tend to either get, or want to be, involved in sport during school time or with friends, adults can avoid sports if they wish and it goes almost unnoticed as is so often not the case when young.
We tend to have greater levels of concentration and are more aware when carrying out tasks that require a greater focus, we also develop our short term memory over time and this helps improve our processing speed and reaction time.
It’s also important to understand that dyspraxia has a wide spectrum and affects many in a variety of ways, this can also vary from mild to severe.
There are online tests, which I must add are only a first pointer before seeking a professional diagnosis.  You may have had a child, niece or nephew recently diagnosed and noticed similarities with yourself.
There are professionals/psychologists in the UK that can diagnose adults, although I believe this not to be the case in Ireland, as is the same with qualifications. There are many that work in this field, in particular those that are qualified fitness Trainers (gross motor), OT and SPLT and there are many that support academic areas such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.  You can contact us for advice and names of professionals who work in these areas as we have contacts across several countries.
Dyspraxia affects basic motor skills - Gross (such as walking or sitting upright) and Fine motor skills which include many things (such as writing or picking up small objects), in children as well as adults.  This is something that will last for life and it is recognised by many international organisations, including the WHO.
As an adult, we find that DCD can affect so many things… learning to drive, dancing, playing sport, further education, employment and even relationships.
This can be as a result of being over anxious, frightened of failure and through a general lack of self-belief/confidence and also through poor organisation skills.
It can also bring about language problems and this can be exacerbated through increased anxiety or pressure… we can often throw out random words or indeed full sentences and can also have problems with voice control, including volume, speed and pitch.  We also have a tendency to interrupt others and often have to apologise for cutting in on conversation (due to slow processing speed).
Dyspraxia never goes away but we can learn how to cope with it.  If you think you may have dyspraxia and want to follow it up, perhaps as a result of a family member being diagnosed and you may recognise similar traits in yourself,  given that it is often present or can run in families, first check with your GP.  You can also contact an Educational Psychologist or Occupational Therapist that specialises in dyspraxia... in Ireland you can check with the Psychological Society of Ireland.  If you are in the United States, we have contacts over there that can provide further details.
Dyspraxia is relatively new when compared to dyslexia, however new research is coming to the fore, which is leading to improved diagnosis and the availability of resources. It’s an area well worth keeping an eye on, so you are up to date with the disorder.
All our articles are for guidance only, we strongly recommend obtaining professional advice with regards to any concerns you might have on a given subject Dyslexia Dublin © 2013
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Friday, 1 November 2013

‘Random and Wrong Words Come Out’ by Dyslexia Dublin © 2013


When penning this post, I couldn’t help thinking about the advert for the Random sweets… ’turn right at the trumpet and left at the jelly bean’… well it’s not quite as bad as all that!
Many actors did this deliberately and were gifted in this area including the late Ronnie Barker (Open All Hours) however, this apart, it’s quite an unnerving and completely non-deliberate act, that haunts many of us from time to time. 
I often say during my presentations on dyspraxia and dyslexia, that if I drag or slur my speech it’s not due to me suffering from the “afluence of incohol!” … it gets a laugh and settles me.
 The causes for random or wrong words (malapropisms) to come out are many.  Why do they come our wrong?... it can be deemed a short-term problem when under pressure, for example talking to or reading to an audience, or it can be more medium or long-term and can be as a result of slow or slurred speech and, in many cases, stutter or repeating words and sentences with lots of mm mm’s in particular when we are asked to read out loud or we are generally unsure of the subject.  This can often be found in dyspraxics and in some cases dyslexics.  It can also result from confidence and self-esteem issues, delayed speech or indeed slow processing, to such an extent that we miss the point and put in the wrong word.  Even in conversation, we can go to make a point and, whist waiting for our opportunity to add to the conversation, completely forget what we were about to say and then find ourselves apologising.
I know find it easier to apologise before I set into a conversation and will openly tell people I am dyspraxic and its part of the deal.  This often leads to me being more aware of others speaking and also relaxes me, which reduces the amount of mistakes I make.
 We will also take a look at ‘mondegreens’… these in a way are a sort of aural malapropism. Instead of saying the wrong word, you hear the wrong word. The word mondegreen is generally applied to the mishearing of verbal questions, instruction poetry and song lyrics, although technically it can apply to any speech.  This can be caused by a lack of knowledge, comprehension, processing issues, lack of interest/stimulation or pure lack of concentration.
Slurring your words can lead to unexpected situations; this can also be linked to balance too. Again, it can be caused whilst under pressure, maybe giving a speech, a part in a play or being asked to read out in class or give an opinion to friends.
I remember in my early days as a college lecturer people were giving a suspicious eye to anything that wasn’t the norm.  We had a few heavy drinkers and a few alcoholics across the college and I remember being asked to the Human Resources Department on one occasion as the HR Manager had been told that they thought I was drunk during the day as I have been known to lose my balance on occasions. I found this amusing and many close friends would vouch that I rarely touch alcohol. I explained about my DCD and all fell into place.
 One of the key things with verbal dyspraxia and the above, is due to poor facial muscle tone and correct use of the diaphragm. Many dyspraxics not only breathe through their mouth but they breathe very quickly (short breaths, they also tend to groan whilst eating). They can therefore run out of breath which leads to the breaking of sentences.  We also have difficulty programming our speech cords, which can lead to shortening words and getting letter sounds wrong… this can also be down to incorrect or minimal lip movement.
This can also be similar in the case of:
Auditory – where the individual has difficulty hearing the correct sound… often confusing similar sounding letters or words ending in  i, e, y (eg. spy sounds like spi) and phonetics.
Visual – where the individual has difficulty seeing the difference between similar looking letters or words.
Audio-visual – a combination of auditory and visual difficulties.
As we also know this can be down to dyslexia, with the words have been incorrectly programmed into the long-term memory in the first instance.  This needs to be identified and worked on with the child/adult to produce the correct letter/word sound and repeated until the incorrect word has been overwritten/erased in the long term memory.
Looking at this further, the child or adult knows what they want to say.  Once this has been processed by the brain, however, they cannot say it correctly on a given occasion (stress) even though they know what they want to say and realise that they have said the word incorrectly.
Quite often this is way beyond the control of the child/adult and if this happens on a regular basis (coming out of the comfort zone), it could lead to a stammer.  Planning and promoting confidence is key to avoiding this… it may also be exaggerated when the child/adult is angry or frustrated.
The way forward is through support and, if it’s a constant problem, speech and language therapy should be sought.
This article is for initial guidance only and we strongly recommend that you seek professional advice.
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