Adapted from Dysgraphia Accommodations and Modifications by Susan Jones (1999)
Two students can labor over the same assignment. One may labor with organizing the concepts and expressing them, learning a lot from the “ordeal.” The other will force words together, perhaps with greater effort (perhaps less if the language and information have not been processed), with none of the benefits either to developing writing skills or organizing and expressing knowledge. For those in the latter group, writing is a laborious exercise in frustration.
When the writing task is the primary barrier to learning or demonstrating knowledge, then accommodations, modifications, and remediation for these problems may be in order. How can a teacher determine when and what accommodations are merited? The teacher should meet with the student and/or parent(s), to express concern about the student’s writing and listen to the student’s perspective. It is important to stress that the issue is not that the student can’t learn the material or do the work, but that the writing problems may be interfering with learning instead of helping. Discuss how the student can make up for what writing doesn’t seem to be providing — are there other ways he can be sure to be learning? Are there ways to learn to write better? How can writing assignments be changed to help her learn the most from those assignments? From this discussion, everyone involved can build a plan of accommodations, modifications, and remediation that will engage the student in reaching his or her best potential. Examples of ways to accommodate, modify, and remediate follow.
Reduce the impact writing has on learning or expressing knowledge without substantially changing the process/ product by changing the following:
Change assignments/expectations to meet the student’s individual learning needs. If accommodations are inadequate, modify assignments in the following ways to remove the barriers without sacrificing learning:
Use options such as these to provide instruction and opportunity for improving handwriting:
A Model of Written Work
Provide the student with a three-ring writing binder that includes:
Structuring Alternative Assignments
Give dysgraphic students the opportunity to substitute an oral report or visual assignment for a written one. Be sure to establish a rubric to define what the assignment should include. For instance, if the original assignment is a three-page description of one aspect of the Roaring Twenties (record-breaking feats, the Harlem Renaissance, Prohibition, etc.) you may want the written assignment to include the following:
Susan Jones has a master’s degree in learning disabilities and has completed graduate work in gifted education and in assistive and instructional technology. She has been working with young adult and adult learners with interesting challenges for about 25 years, and is the founder of the Resource Room (http://www.resourceroom.net/), a website where she shares original articles and resources from her classroom teaching days. Currently, Susan provides tutoring and coaching in the community college setting and explores interactive online learning for diverse learners.
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