Tackling Spelling Difficulties
Written by Melissa Fitzpatrick, Occupational Therapist
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.