Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Because he's mine, I walk the line

When it comes to school for Joseph I feel like I'm walking a fine line between coddling and facilitating. For example, Joseph's teacher realized very early into the school year that it wasn't really working for Joseph to take part in the daily group reading activity. It was too much for him, the noise the activity, the having to pay attention to what everyone else was saying. It was throwing his whole day off. The solution she came up with was to let Joseph is someone away from everyone else (like at her desk) and read his own book (often not even what the rest of the class is reading) to himself. It's a solution that works well for everyone because Joseph is already way ahead of his grade level in reading anyway and this way he's able to maintain that sense of order and control and personal space that he needs to function.

To me that is facilitating. We see his needs, look at his strengths, accept his limits and come to a solution that take all of those things into consideration. It allows him to be the best student he can be without forcing him to fit into the mold of a typical student, a role he just cannot play. Now if Joseph decided tomorrow that he wanted to go play Legos during reading time and I said ok to that then that would be coddling. I wouldn't be doing him any favors by letting him get away with less than he's able.

We had parent/teacher conferences last night and we heard the same thing we always hear. Joseph is very smart, he's a delight to have in class, the kids love him, he thrives in leadership roles and he will do pretty much anything required of him to get computer lab time. All of that was great to hear. I know what a wonderful kid he is and it's nice to hear other people say it too.

One thing about the conference bothered me though. It turns out Joseph is really struggling with cursive writing. If you've ever seen Joseph write you would know he struggles even with writing in print. Honestly, he writes like a toddler. I don't say that to mock him, it's just a matter of fact. His letters are large and floppy and sometimes backwards. To make it worse he's hard-wired himself to write certain letters in unusual ways. For example, when making a lower case "r" he makes the little arch over the top then goes back and makes the line down. A "g" is a misshapen circle with a backwards "c" beneath it. Translating those odd letter formations into a smooth, flowing way of writing is just not working for him. I honestly don't think he can do it.

And I'm wondering...... Does it matter? Does he need to learn to write cursive? Can't we just let him have his half-success at printing without making him stress about trying to master something that's beyond him? And really, who writes in cursive anymore anyway? When was the last time you used cursive for anything other than to sign your name? I don't even know if signing you name counts as cursive. Most people just sort of scribble anyway and someday Joseph can learn to do that on his own.

We have an IEP meeting coming up next month and I am very seriously considering asking that we just drop cursive writing out of his curriculum. Maybe when the rest of the class is working on cursive writing his para-professional can help him out with practicing printing. On the whole, school is such a positive experience for Joseph and I would hate for cursive writing to become a stumbling block.

So here's where I walk the line. By getting him out of cursive writing am I coddling him and making things too easy for him? Or am I facilitating a positive learning environment for him by making sure he's not facing insurmountable obstacles?

21 comments:

Juliette said...

I have no children and am completely unqualified to make a judgement here, but I'm going to try anyway. ;-) To me, it makes sense to drop the cursive and focus on printing. My thinking is - isn't it better to be good at one thing than crappy at two things? Especially if that one thing will ease your way through life? Hopefully it's not completely tactless to state it that way - I would like to reiterate my lack of qualification. ;-)

Barbara said...

I would focus on printing until he has it down first, then focus on cursive. It doesn't make sense to run before you can walk right? I don't think it's coddling, it's just making sure he has the basics right before moving on.

Torina said...

I am with you on the cursive thing. My mom is 55 years old and does not remember how to write in cursive anymore. She is a nurse and always had to print when she wrote on charts so she lost the cursive thing. She is still a fully functioning member of society. I have never ever been able to read a doctor's writing. My daughter is almost 14 and cannot write in cursive (granted she is developmentally delayed, but who cares). Just as long as your kid can communicate in some sort of written form, he will do fine. Go with your gut. I don't think it is coddling at all.

courtneyryan369 said...

Its really odd that you mention this. I know 3 children with Aspergers and they all have handwriting issues. One actually makes the "g" the same way you discribed!

I would think that it's not coddling to IEP the cursive out of his day and focus on the printing...it would be coddling to say, "oh, it's ok, everyone types now so you don't have to practice ANY writing!"

He's going to develop his own handwriting anyway down the road. Get some good basics in there to start with.

NGS said...

As a teacher of high schoolers, I have to say your kid needs to learn how to write. Period. Who cares if it's cursive or print? As long as it's legible, what's the big deal? We get our fair share of kids who honestly can not communicate at all on the written page and they'd have been so much better off if their parents had just focused on printing!!

I don't think it's coddling. I think it's looking at the big picture!!

Tori Evans said...

I think Barbara made an excellent point: don't run before you can walk. Cursive uses what you already "know" about the shapes of letters and kind of screws with it. If you don't have the printed letters down then learning cursive is just going to make both printing and cursive difficult. I don't know if you'd be interested but I recently saw a printing helper that could easily be made at home or school that has some really awesome data to back it up. If you'd like the info email me: [tori dot rosalez at unt dot edu]

Slyde said...

my son is 6, and im dreading when he starts cursive writing... i dont think he's going to be able to easily grasp it without getting frustrated...

Laggin said...

Have you have Joseph evaluated for dysgraphia? That's one of Eldest's diagnoses. It makes her eligible to skip handwriting altogether and type all her work. She's been turning in typed work since about 3rd grade. For three or four of her public school years she carried around a keyboard/mini computer that saved 8 word processing files. She kept one file for each class. When she needed to turn something in, she plugging it into the teacher's computer, what she typed opened in a winder on the teacher's computer and they would print it. Pretty darn, spiffy!

If you want more information, leave me a message and we can e-mail.

Sara said...

As a mother of a child with autism, I don't think what you're asking is out there. Plain and simple, people who have autism, can't write worth crap. My daugther is in 6th grade; AP math, AP science & AP reading. Oh, and she doens't write cursive at all. She prints and that I can barely read. We for a time were questioning if she should be typing and working everything up on a computer at school. This may be an option for Joseph in the future.

Laggin said...

That would be "window", not "winder". *sigh*

Ben said...

Hey, you know my feelings on the subject. All I remember from third grade is learning cursive. "You have to know this!" they said! "It's the only way you'll write when you're an adult!" they said! Lies, damned lies! I have literally never written one thing in cursive since 1988. I don't even remember how to make an 'S'.

Lala said...

Jack had fine motor delays that hamper his ability to write, print you name it. If Josephs printing is legible I think you're ahead of the game. Try filling out a job application with out legible writing skills......

Momo Fali said...

I don't think it's coddling, but I wouldn't give up on it either. It may be something he's not ready for at this point, but something may "click" next year. I only say this, because my special needs son is doing thing we never thought he would do...and I'm referring to everything from talking, to running, to getting a report card so perfect that the county wants to discontinue his therapy funding.

wendyedit said...

I got my son out of cursive writing--similar situation, really, I was worried about bigger issues and thought the time could be better spent helping him overcome his severe dyslexia. The problem now (in 7th grade) is that he prints so slowly that already boring work is a tedious chore: writing in cursive is actually a whole lot faster than writing in print, so everyone around him can get the work done far more quickly. If I had to do it over...eh, I don't know what I'd do. But if you could do as Laggin suggested and get him approved to start typing, that sounds like the best of both worlds to me. Otherwise, I think I'd persist in cursive unless it starts to ruin his school days because even if he'll never use it as an adult, it'll make middle school and high school a lot easier if he can write at a reasonable speed.

Becky said...

I absolutely agree with you Jenny. Why have him learn cursive when he still needs improvement on his printing? I would think that would only frustrate him. I think with some one on one time Joseph could become successful with printing and then move on to cursive. And I would be happy to help. :)

monkseal said...

My cursive is so bad that I'm the only person who can read it, no matter how much I gussy it up. Therefore I've had to learn (as an adult of 23) to print fast enough to keep up with human beings. I've no idea if that means anything to you, but it's a pisser for me.

Emma said...

I would say the only people I know that write in cursive are the much older population. I was always terrible at it since we learned in 3rd grade and never completed mastered certain letters such as z and an uppercase S... which was unfortunate because of my last name.

Anyway, it is never required of me anymore, and I don't think it's ever expected of... well anyone anymore. They'll probably quit teaching it in schools altogether, honestly, at some point.

I don't know if it's coddling or not though. I guess I don't feel I can answer that. But it seems to me that working on his printing would be of much better use, since you say his printing isn't quite up to par, and that is going to be something he will use.

KateGladstone said...

Did you know that research shows that the fastest legible handwriters avoid cursive? The fastest legible handwriters tend to use print-like shapes for the letters that "disagree" between printing and cursive, and also join only some letters, NOT all of them (making the very easiest joins, and skipping the rest). This sheds another light on "cursive writing," doesn't it? Learning to write cursive takes months (or longer), and often fails even then -- learning to *read* cursive takes 15 minutes to an hour, and then you have the skill for life (so that you can read everyone's handwriting even if you don't write the same way).

Even signatures don't legally require cursive, and never have (Yes, I checked this out with legal counsel. Anyone saying that "signatures require cursive" has misrepresented the law of the land.)

By the way ...
Your son and I have a lot in common; I didn't write readably (let alone at any practical speed) until age 24. (It turned out that this related to two disabilities, dysgraphia and Asperger's ... both of which, it seems, your son has too).

I eventually taught myself to handwrite well at age 24 -- but only succeeded in this by throwing out about 99+% of the "cursive" stuff (and about 50% of the stuff about "printing") that everybody had tried to ram down my throat as what good handwriting "needed" to have.

Basically, I went back to the earliest published handwriting books for our alphabet, almost 500 years ago: the style that both printing AND cursive came from, which has the best/easiest features of both. From that, I went on to become a handwriting improvement specialist -- the only one who has diagnoses of dysgraphia and Asperger's, who actually knows "from the inside" why the writing of folks like us turns out the way it does (and what to do about it).

I would like to help you help your son, if you can send me an e-mail with "Problem Girl" or "Handwriting Help" in it, so I know who sent it -- e-mail handwritingrepair@gmail.com .

Your son and you will probably also enjoy my Handwriting Repair web-site at http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com ... so please visit, both of you, and let me know what you think!


Kate Gladstone
Founder and CEO,
Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works handwriting instruction/improvement service
Director, World Handwriting Contest
http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

Jen said...

I know I'm just a magpie at this point, but I agree... focus on legible handwriting that he's closest to succeeding at (printing) and screw the cursive for a bit.

littlebobleep said...

As another parent of a child with autism, I vote to drop kick cursive concerns. My 5 year old can spell from memory very, very long and complicated phrases with fridge magnets. Yes, we have hundreds and hundreds of them. But his brain is just now tuning into writing, ever so gingerly, his name on a magnet board. As Sara said, ASD kids suck at actual writing.

We live in a keyboard age and this is such a blessing for our kids. Cursive is a great "fluff" skill in my opinion, coming from the perspective of a parent whose child has plenty of higher and more pressing priorities.

Stimey said...

I'm way behind on commenting here, but it seems that the school should work on his printing with him before skipping ahead to a whole other way of writing. It seems like one should happen before another.