Q | A student’s handwriting is illegible. How can she show that she understands the work?
A | Several accommodations can be made for children who struggle with handwriting. But first, has your student been evaluated? Does she already have a 504 or an individualized education program? If not, it is imperative that you refer her for an evaluation, given that her inability to write legibly is interfering with her functioning in the classroom.
Your student will likely qualify for accommodations. She may also qualify to receive additional supports, such as occupational therapy. A recent review of handwriting interventions suggested that effective OT for improving handwriting must include adequate practice. Your student’s occupational therapist can make appropriate recommendations that integrate the evidence base with her individual needs.
As for activities that might help your student show she understands the work, there are several options with assistive technologies. For example, she could use a word processor and type her responses instead of writing them. She might also use speech recognition software that allows her to dictate her responses and record them.
What more can you do? Apart from encouraging her efforts, it is important to grade the content of her work separately from the quality of her handwriting. You are clearly sensitive to the difficulties she is having, and she is fortunate to have you as her teacher.
Question for Dr. Fernandez?
Melanie A. Fernandez, Ph.D., ABPP, is board certified in clinical child and adolescent psychology and is director of the Parent-Child Interaction Therapy Program at the Child Mind Institute (childmind.org).