So today I figured I would write about my experience with dysgraphia, another co-morbid condition associated with Tourette. I recently watched the new Tourette Syndrome Association program Tourette Syndrome in the school, classroom and community, which you can watch online for free.
This is a great resource for parents with children with TS, teachers with students with TS and for students with TS. Although a lot of it focused on the actual tics themselves, there was a lot of focus on co-morbid conditions associated with Tourette.
I have a fair amount of co-morbid conditions that have effected me a lot over the years, so I could really relate. I have OCD and anxiety, which affect me every day and which are two very common co-morbid conditions associated with Tourette’s. But I also have another co-morbid condition associated with Tourette’s that is not as well known even though it is a very common co-morbid condition with Tourette’s.
I have been dealing with dysgraphia since I was first able to write. Dysgraphia is the deficiency and extreme difficulty associated with the ability to write, primarily in terms of handwriting. It is technically classified as a learning disability referring to extremely poor handwriting.
Some of the characteristics of dysgraphia (all of which I have) include:
- Slow and laborious handwriting
- Hand and finger cramping
- Sloppy handwriting
- Uneven spacing
- Irregular margins
- Inconsistent lettering
- Inability to copy correctly from board to paper.
As many of you know, I am a very good writer in terms of content. I can express myself clearly, get across what I want to say and do so in a very advanced way. I am a published poet, have been published many times and I have won many awards for my poetry and short stories.
But dysgraphia isn’t about that. Regardless of how good or clear my ideas are, my handwriting remains a complete mess.
When I was in second or third grade, my handwriting was so illegible that my teachers suggested that my parents take me to an occupational therapist (OT) to be evaluated for dysgraphia and receive therapy for it. I worked with an OT for a long time in hope of improving my handwriting skills to a point where my handwriting might actually be legible.
My handwriting improved to a certain extent, but when my parents realized that we had gotten to a point where progress was at a stand still, my parents decided to stop the therapy and just accept the dysgraphia.
My parents enrolled me in intensive keyboarding and computer classes in hopes that when I was older I would have the skills to never have to hand-write anything important. As my mom says, if I ever need to write something important “never hand-write it, because it doesn’t show your intelligence, and it doesn’t match up with the sophistication of the content of what you have to say.”
I learned so much from my keyboarding classes that my mom enrolled me in during elementary school, and since I have had my laptop since seventh grade, I am an expert keyboarder. I can type much faster than I can write at this point, and on top of being more efficient, typing is a way for me to get around the dysgraphia.
So yes, today my handwriting is just about as bad as it was in third or fourth grade because well … I have dysgraphia. But I am lucky because my entire school functions on a laptop system, and I have the skills and means to type everything that I would need to write. Today, I hardly ever hand-write anything. All my assignments, essays and papers are typed up.
A lot of students with Tourette have dysgraphia, so my suggestion is that if you are a kid with Tourette who has dysgraphia (or are the parent of a kid with dysgraphia), you should really look into what can be done to help the condition. Get evaluated by an OT first and see if occupational therapy or other therapies may be beneficial.
If these therapies don’t help, FOCUS on what you CAN DO rather than what you can’t. Don’t keep harping on handwriting improvement if you have gotten to a point where progress is limited. Instead, focus on improving typing skills and computer skills.
Think about what accommodations in school might help. Will having a scribe help for handwritten tests or assessments? If notes are provided ahead of time, will this help? Will a laptop help?
If a laptop is out of your price range, a great tool is an Alpha Smart. Alpha Smarts are very inexpensive and can be used in class or outside of the home for typing up work, and then later can be hooked up to a desktop computer at home and the word document will transfer right to the computer and can be printed. The key is to teach keyboarding early on! That is what made all the difference for me!