My oldest child, who is 8 years old, has struggled with writing his letters and numbers, consistently writing his characters and often even whole words backwards. I once held a page of his writing up to a mirror and the entire thing was perfect when viewed backwards (except for being out of order, of course). While that is a fascinating talent to have, it isn’t quite a recipe for writing success. With the help of a couple of friends and a good book–I set about finding ways to help him learn how to form his characters correctly.
David is not dyslexic. He never mixes up letters while reading, and his reading level is far above what’s expected for his age. I’m not even sure he is dysgraphic, despite his difficulty with writing. What I am sure of, is that his brain and body are not getting along very well. He is right-handed, but the rest of his body is left-oriented. I could go into a lot of neurological mumbo-jumbo about right-brains and left-brains and handedness, but I’ll spare you all that and cut right to the solution to the reversals problem.
This is a simple exercise called a Writing 8. We call them Magic 8’s, though, because the difference in my son’s abilities is so pronounced after just a few months of therapy. Doing the 8 (three times a week, for us) helps the child learn to use the dominant sides of his body and brain together. In addition to helping correct his number and letter reversals,I’ve found that the length of my son’s attention span is drastically improved on the days that we use this therapy. It really does help rewire the brain!
A word of warning: The first few times you do this with a child who has these difficulties, it may be stressful. David cried buckets, it was so frustrating for him at first. I had to sit him in my lap, put both of my hands over his, and do it with him (rather forcefully) the first three times we did this. You’re not dealing with a disobedient kid, so don’t get angry. This can be really, really hard for a disordered brain to do at first!
Use a sheet of paper large enough to stretch across both halves of the child’s body. Using a marker, make a line down the center of the paper, and place a dot (a parking place) in the center of the line. From that dot, draw a large circle—I’ve found a paper plate to be just the right size for this exercise—touching on either side of the line.
Now draw a couple of arrows, clockwise on the right circle, counterclockwise on the left:
(Now, this is where I disappoint a little bit. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be violating any copyrights by telling you how to do each letter on the Writing 8, but I’m not sure how best to describe them. I can give some hints, but I really think you’d be better off buying the Brain Integration Therapy Manual to get a very clear picture of how it is done. There are several other exercises that struggling students can benefit from, also, so do buy the book. Anyway, onward.)
Have your child sit with the line at the center of his body. (With mixed dominance issues, training the hand that is in use to cross over the mid-line of the body is the main goal, it seems. My son is incredibly awkward when working with anything on the left side of his body with his right hand, or vice versa.)
With whichever is his dominant hand, have him park his crayon–we like a big fat one that won’t break easily–on the dot. The free hand should always be holding the bottom of the paper, even if you have to hold it down yourself. With the writing hand always moving in the direction of the arrows, have the child form each lowercase letter over top of the circles. Some letters will lie over the right circle, some over the left. It’s fairly intuitive, but really, buy the book for better instructions. After each letter or number, he will trace around the ‘8’ three times, while staying as close to the track as possible, stopping on the dot before moving on to the next letter. After the entire alphabet is done, have him do three more times around the track to finish it off.
David’s work has improved by leaps and bounds using this method. I couldn’t be happier with the progress he has made! It’s magic! Or science. Whatever. It works!
What surprising solutions have you found for your child’s special needs?