How OT Can Support Dyslexia and Dysgraphia
Before we discuss how Occupational Therapy can support dyslexia and dysgraphia, it is important to understand what dyslexia and dysgraphia is and how it can affect the pediatric population.
What is it?
Dyslexia is a language-based disability that affects a person’s ability to understand written language. The main challenges experienced include recognition of words, reading, spelling and writing. Common indications of dyslexia can include difficulties identifying words, difficulty with spelling simple words and when a child’s school marks don’t align with their intelligence. In comparison, dysgraphia is learning disability that affects handwriting and fine motor skills. Dysgraphia can cause a child to have challenges with their written expressions and approach to writing. Characteristics can also include difficulty with letter formations and difficulty writing within space demands. Children with dysgraphia often have difficulties with their fine motor control and frequently produce poor handwriting. Both dyslexia and dysgraphia are learning disabilities that affect reading and writing skills.
How does dyslexia affect the pediatric population?
Dyslexia can impact a child’s ability to participate successfully in school and home tasks, and can impact a child’s confidence to complete reading and writing tasks. Dyslexia can cause difficulties in a child’s life, and it is important to address these so they can be managed, and your child’s everyday participation and confidence can be improved. Difficulties can include:
o Difficulties with speech production
o Challenges learning rhymes and patterns
o Challenges writing own name
o Poor spelling
o Reversals of letters and numbers
o Poor left right integration
o Difficulties with organisation and planning
o Poor literacy skills (reading and writing)
o Following instructions
How does dysgraphia affect the pediatric population?
Dysgraphia can affect your child’s participation in the school and home setting, impacting a child’s ability to produce writing pieces successfully. This can cause your child to become behind in school and lack confidence to complete writing tasks. It is important to understand the impact of dysgraphia to further investigate how we can help to manage the difficulties and improve your child’s participation and confidence in writing tasks. These difficulties can include:
o Poor handwriting
o Spelling challenges
o Difficulties putting ideas onto paper
o Decreased body awareness
o Decreased fine motor strength and endurance
o Decreased confidence with handwriting tasks
o Poor written communication output
How can Occupational Therapy help?
Pediatric occupational therapy (OT) aims to assist children to participate in meaningful tasks, focusing on participation in both the school and home environments. OT can assist in managing dyslexia and dysgraphia and assist in increasing children’s confidence and participation in reading and writing tasks. Occupational therapy for kids really focuses on building confidence and implementing client-centered care for the child and their families. OT’s can provide strategies for home and school, so therapy doesn’t end after a 45-minute appointment!
How can occupational therapy help with dyslexia?
OTs can provide a range of strategies to assist in management of dyslexia and building effective reading and writing skills. These can include:
o Implementing visualizing to verbalizing programs
o Use of coloured lines and templates to assist with line placement and letter sizing.
o Providing handwriting programs to assist with letter formation and letter reversals.
o Implementing multi-sensory approaches – using other sense to approach learning.
o Using technologies such as voice activated technology to assist in getting thoughts onto paper using voice rather than writing.
o Providing visual prompts to break down tasks.
o Using 'scaffolding' techniques to break down writing and reading tasks into smaller tasks.
o Using modelling techniques rather than only giving verbal and written instructions.
How can occupational therapy help with dysgraphia?
Pediatric occupational therapists can also provide a range of strategies to help with management of dysgraphia, to help build effective writing skills. These can include:
o Provision of ergonomic writing tools (build up pencils and pencil grips).
o Use of coloured lines to assist with line placement and letter sizing.
o Fine motor exercises to assist with strength and endurance.
o Visual schedules and methods to note taking to assist getting ideas on paper (e.g., mind maps).
o Playing word games and word association games.
o Handwriting programs to assist with letter formation, sizing and placement.
Occupational therapy can offer a diverse range of interventions and strategies for children with dyslexia and dysgraphia. OT’s will formulate client specific interventions to ensure strategies are specific and client-centered. It is also important to note that OT’s will also work with other allied health professionals to assist in management of learning difficulties (especially dyslexia), for example speech pathologists and pediatricians. It is important that therapy is implemented if your child is experiencing difficulties with dyslexia and dysgraphia; to assist with development of writing and reading skills. This can ensure your child feels confident with reading and writing.