Written by Melissa Fitzpatrick, Occupational Therapist

April 9, 2020
This Week’s blog post was written by Melissa Fitzpatrick, OTR/L and Certified K-5 Dysgraphia Specialist.

She graduated from Eastern Kentucky University and has been an occupational therapist for over 20 years. She began her OT career in Rhode Island while working in a private sensory-based clinic for pediatric therapies. From there, she worked for thirteen years at a private school in Massachusetts for students with autism spectrum disorders. A job opportunity for her husband lead them to Florida, where she was able to take time off to begin a family. She currently works at a private regular education school as a part-time preschool teacher assistant and a part-time private occupational therapist for school-based services. When not working, she loves spending quality time with her husband and two children.

I completed The Handwriting Brain-Body Dis-Connect Course. It equipped me with a greater understanding of dysgraphia and provided me with strategies to help support students and teachers overcome challenges in the classroom.

While working with a 3rd grade student for handwriting challenges, the student’s teacher also informed me that the student was struggling with weekly spelling tests. I began incorporating strategies I learned from Cheri’s course.

I introduced color-coded letter cards based on the Size Matters Handwriting Program.  Pink represents tall letters, yellow represents small letters, and the green represents fall letters. I placed the letter cards in random order and had the student scan and spell weekly spelling words.

Once the student aligned the letter cards to spell a word, the student finger-tapped the word, starting with the left pinky finger and moving left to right, each finger taps in unison with saying each letter aloud. The student repeats this sequence up to 5 times before moving on to the next spelling word. The color-coding and finger tapping supports memory through visualization, consistency, and repetition of auditory and motor patterns.

Additionally, I made a ring of spelling words on index cards that corresponds with the color-coding letter cards for the student to use as a study tool.

Even with these strategies in place, this student scored a 11/20 on a traditional written spelling test within the classroom. The teacher and I agreed to have the student take the spelling test orally during my individual session; in which the student scored 13/20. Taking the test orally improved the score by 10%; although still low compared to grade mates.

I decided to see how this student would do if I provided a multiple-choice option for spelling. I wrote 3 variations of each spelling word in a row with one correctly spelled. I used black cardstock strips to use as a visual block, revealing one row at a time. I would say, “Find the word _________” and the student was expected to circle the spelling word in each row.

During this variation of the spelling test, the student stated, “This is the best spelling test I’ve ever taken.” “I wish all spelling tests could be like this!” Upon completion of this activity, the student scored 17/20, a 30% improvement from the written spelling test.

Utilizing the information gleaned from the Handwriting  Brain-Body Dis-Connect Course, I could tease out the visual-spatial dysgraphia. This activity with the student’s success tells us that the visual perception is not the main issue, but is most prominently visual-motor and visual-memory issues that are impacting word-formation dysgraphia.

Follow Us

Get Updates!