The Writing Glitch: Hack Dysgraphia No Pencil Required

In today's episode, Jennifer Porter of Special Needs Spa shares the importance of helping one another to support students. As a mom of several children with disabilities, she understands how important lifelong learning impacts her kids. Her kids' disabilities include ADHD, anxiety, Down's Syndrome, and, most likely, autism. She shares how dyslexia and dysgraphia were also part of her daughter's struggles. She is also a special education teacher in a closed autism classroom. In addition, she has a graphic organizer that she shares that can be used with images through long paragraphs. Corrected Link:

She is the author of The Frozen.

Show Notes

In today's episode, Jennifer Porter shares, "As a teacher, they teach you a little bit about dysgraphia and dyslexia and other disabilities like ADHD. You get a very shallow overview. And so when you get students who. Those disabilities, you tend to do a little more research into it because you get a student like that. But when you're a parent, you don't have a clue that your kid has something other than what the doctor said they had. And I believe, and she now believes also, that she has both dyslexia and dysgraphia."

She owns Special Needs Spa, an online place to stop and take a breath and get support for students with ADHD and Autism. But, no, her business is not the typical spa.

She shares practical tips and materials that she has gleaned from 20 years of teaching in high school English and K-8 special education. Having several children of her own with disabilities, she lives the special education life everywhere she goes.

We discuss the impact anxiety, ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia have had on her daughter over the years.

She offers a graphic organizer that students can use images through writing paragraphs. The link is

Be sure to catch her intervention. It's quick! Sign up to become part of The Writing Glitch Community at

By the way, she is the author of The Frozen, a young adult-friendly Christian story about society's impact on the special needs community in the year 3019. It is a fantastic book.
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Creators & Guests

Cheri Dotterer
Cheri is an international speaker, author, and consultant who helps teachers, therapists, and parents build clarity, community, and competency around the barriers to writing success. Her book, Handwriting Brain-Body DisConnect, has remained in the Top 100 on Amazon since publication in Handwriting Reference and Learning Disabilities. It was also a Top 10 Finalist in the Author Academy Awards in 2019. In addition, she was nominated the USA 2022 Dysgraphia Expert of the Year by Global Health and Pharma Magazine. She has worked in many concentration areas as an occupational therapist for 30 years. However, it wasn't until starting her private practice that she found her passion for helping others understand this disability. In addition, she has been an adjunct instructor at several universities. She lives with her husband of 32 years. They have two adult children. Her heroes are Evelyn Yerger, her grandmother, and Esther, Queen of Susa. Together, we can grow 110 million leaders and hack dysgraphia by building skills, applying knowledge, and transcending futures.
Jennifer Porter
Author, Coach, Special Educator, Mom—Supporting Educators, Caregivers, & Service Providers. Renew Your Creativity ♥ Increase Your Impact ♥ Rediscover Your Life

What is The Writing Glitch: Hack Dysgraphia No Pencil Required?

The Writing Glitch is brought to you by Dotterer Educational Consulting. Our Founder and Owner, Cheri Dotterer, is the host.

Build clarity, community, and competency to help students thrive and grow leaders that transcend a lifetime, regardless of dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, using sensory-motor processing and neuroscience-based instructional interventions. No Pencil Required!

We interview teachers, therapists, and parents about how they have seen a transformation in children having these disabilities and co-morbid conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). They share how they help students grow and prosper.

We believe that together, we can grow 110 million leaders by building skills, applying knowledge, and transcending futures. Join us to hack dysgraphia. No Pencil Required.

Each episode contains one intervention to help you support students with writing challenges the next day you are in your classroom. These interventions are explicit, systematic, cumulative, and multisensory. They are designed to support ALL students through targeted, daily visual-perceptual, visual-motor, and memory interventions. These interventions benefit all students and harm none.

All students have access to writing regardless of their status in the classroom. The interventions were created to take up to 30 seconds to 2 minutes of your classroom time. Strategic lesson planning increases classroom engagement.

All interventions can be adapted for students with physical disabilities because they support the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and well-being of all students. In addition, these interventions impact all subject matter classrooms. Whether you are teaching English language arts, mathematics, social studies, science, music, or art, these interventions will benefit your classroom atmosphere across ALL grade levels.

You have put your blood, sweat, and tears into investing in your education and children. Don’t let a misunderstanding about this disability stop you from providing best practices.

In case you don’t know me. I’m Cheri Dotterer, 2022 Dysgraphia Expert of the Year. This honor was bestowed on me by Global Health and Pharma Magazine. In 2023, they awarded my company the Best Dysgraphia Professional Development Program.

It took challenges at home and on the job to wake me up to the impact dysgraphia has on all students. Struggling my entire life with communication issues, I was mistaken that only students with learning disabilities could have dysgraphia.

My thoughts shifted when my gifted daughter asked for help with spelling. My son struggles with handwriting. Then, a parent asked me why her child could read and have trouble writing. Finding answers became the drive that gets me out of bed in the morning.

It’s a big shock when you discover how pervasive writing difficulties are and how little people know about how to help–even OTs. I used to think I was the only OT who struggled with understanding dysgraphia. It turns out many have questions.

Occupational, physical, and speech therapists are not trained to teach. Teachers are.

Occupational, speech, and physical therapists are trained in neuroscience. Teachers are not.

Let this podcast be your first line of defense to help your students transcend their learning disabilities. Show your school district how much you genuinely care about all of your students by sharing it with your colleagues.

After each episode, I challenge you to share your key takeaway from the podcast in our FREE yet private community. Share your student wins. Get support on the challenges.

Join The Writing Glitch Community.
Connect with Cheri at or

Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, depending on when you listen to the podcast. The podcast is available on iTunes and Spotify. I'm Jan Orcutt and Cheri Dotterer, an occupational therapist and dysgraphia expert.
Welcome to The Writing Glitch dysgraphia discussions episode 0 0 4, where we hacked dysgraphia one discussion at a time.
Today we are interviewing Jennifer Porter. She is the mom of five children. Their disabilities include Down syndrome, ADHD, and dysgraphia. Jen is also a special education teacher. Her specialty is the autism classroom. I am so interested in learning how dysgraphia impacts students with autism. Before we say hi to Jen, I wanna ask Cheri, how are you today?
Today has been an absolutely crazy day. I applied for a grant at Penn State University, so getting all that stuff together has given me a migraine today. Nevertheless, I will be as cheerful as possible and still be with you today. So there is the really behind it. And how about you, Jen? How are you today?
I am excited to be here. I've been dealing with post-concussion syndrome, so it's been really hard for me to work lately. And I also have a migraine, and we just finished with our oldest daughter's social worker five minutes before I had to be here. So, yeah, I'm also feeling a little bit like crunch time, rush. My adrenaline is still pumping here. But, I'm overall excited and happy to be here.
Jen, have you ever had anyone ask you that question add really to it? Like, how are you doing in there? Really?
I have, but only from people who cared. As I taught my students, saying, I'm good, I'm great, I'm fine. That's the expected behavior in passing is a greeting. And people don't expect you to tell the truth in passing, but when they give you more eye contact, they stop. They lean in and touch you, or they say it is a sign that they want to know the answer to that question, the real solution to it, and the truthful answer, and maybe have a conversation about it.
So passing in conversation are two different things, which I definitely had to teach my kids because they wanted to be honest. And they also didn't understand that sometimes people ask a question, but they don't want to know the answer. And they don't really want a conversation.
So true.
Jan, I will get this right today. Jan, how are you?
Really I'm a little frazzled, but I'm calming down being happy to be here. But I ran into a huge traffic jam on the way, and I was still recovering from oral surgery last Friday. Thanks for asking.
You're welcome.
We met online about five years ago and really have worked together every Saturday, minus holidays and family events, to really help each other publish books and publish courses and just get to know one another. We've had so many in-depth conversations about dysgraphia and autism, ADHD, and other events and special education.
Many of them revolved around your daughter, who is now in college. Can you tell us some of the emotions that you have felt raising her over the years?
The daughter in question for the audience members is now, let's see, 25 years old. She has three kids of her own. So she's been through a lot, and she was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder as a child when she was about eight years old.
That was around the same time I started teaching. I had already been teaching for a year or two when she was diagnosed, but she struggled as a child, and it looked like ADHD. She was not paying attention in class and stuffing her homework in her desk. Even though it was done, she was just stuffing in her desk along with all the socks that she wore during the day.
She picked up every shiny object she could find. She wasn't thriving in school very much. So when we got the anxiety disorder diagnosis, it was worrisome. It was good to have a diagnosis. It was good to understand what her symptoms were coming from and to be able to deal with some of that.
I wish that I had known a little bit more about dysgraphia and dyslexia before I met you, Cheri. But, unfortunately, as a teacher, they teach you a little bit about dysgraphia and dyslexia, and other disabilities like ADHD. So you get a very shallow overview. And so when you get students who.

Those disabilities, you tend to do a little more research into it because you get a student like that. But when you're a parent, you don't have a clue that your kid has something other than what the doctor said they had. And I believe, and she now believes, that she has both dyslexia and dysgraphia.
When I met Cheri, there was much going on that was missed because the symptoms could be dismissed based on her other diagnosis. We thought that her problems with writing and focus was from anxiety. But as it turns out, there was more than just anxiety going on there. I really wish that I'd known Cheri sooner so that I could have pinpointed some of this because I have a lot of grief now. She struggled so much, and it's not too late to help her.
But if she had been helped sooner, her whole class could have benefited from those interventions. And I, as a teacher of 20-plus years now, have seen how one tiny little change in the way a teacher does something can cause an enormous amount of change for the good or the bad. So teachers must pay attention to how they present things and their interventions.
But adding that one intervention could have benefited her whole class, but it really could have changed her whole life from that point forward. It could have removed so many struggles for her or at least given her tools to deal with them that would've worked better than what she had. So when I look back, I still have a lot of sadness that I didn't know more.
I totally understand that. Cheri, you did it again. You asked our guest specifically about her emotions and feelings. Why?
Emotions and feelings are the core of how we learn. And one of the things that parents need to realize is that negative emotions, Get piled on these kids so hard that there is no way to break through and be able to engage in learning. Kids can sense when parents are frustrated. Kids can sense when the teachers are frustrated. But they don't know how to process it because their brains aren't developed enough to understand it.
As Jen mentioned in what she said, it took her daughter until she was an adult to really be able to make those connections. Now that she has three children of her own, we're watching this next generation come up through. Because Jen and her daughter have had this experience, they can identify these subtle moments in Jen's grandchildren's day.
It was unable to be detected when Jen was going through it initially.
Experience has been a benefit, I hear Jen talk, and all I can think about is the stuff that I've been going through with my daughter. Our daughters are about the same age, both have had an anxiety disorder, and both have trouble spelling.
Her daughter has three kids now. Mine does not. Mine is struggling to write her thesis in grad school. So when I look at the definition of dysgraphia, according to the DSM five, which is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, I have to slow down to say it because I can never get it out correctly.
When I look at that definition, part of the definition says activity demands have exceeded the student's capacity. For my daughter, we're at that point, and she doesn't see it. I look at what Jen has gone through, and I can see where her daughter is very similar to what my daughter's going through.
The emotion inside me, the visceral response inside me, is the same as it is inside Jen. That's why we need to have these conversations so that you, the audience, realize that you are not. There is a visceral emotional response from the child, the parent, the teacher, and the rest of the community that is faced with that child.
Absolutely. I'm curious, Jen, have you and your daughter ever had discussions now about how she felt when she was young?
I wish we'd had them when she was young. When she was younger, she could not pinpoint things as well as she can now. She just struggled hard, and she didn't know why.
She was heartbroken, trying to fit in and make friends and just trying so hard at everything. She felt like she was failing all the time. Now, The conversations that we've had have been more positive because she's asked me for the tools that I have, and she's been able to put into practice some of them, which makes her feel better and makes her more able to do the things that she wants or needs to do.

She is still very stressed and anxious and recently discovered that she also has glaucoma. It's very rare to be diagnosed with glaucoma when you're 25. In her case, it was a good thing that they caught it really early. She has a good prognosis, but that does not help when you're already dealing with dyslexia and dysgraphia.
There have been a lot of conversations about it.
Tools to help her. She's seeking tools. She's seeking help now. And she feels better when she gets it. But looking back on her life, she also says she wished that somebody would've been able to pinpoint it sooner.
Absolutely. I understand perfectly. My daughter is 26 and going on 27 in three weeks.
She struggles with ADHD and has for many years. She wouldn't talk about it for a very long time. She is now.
Cheri, are you ready for Jen to share some golden nuggets about autism, ADHD, and dysgraphia and their relationships?
Before we do, we need to introduce our sponsor.
Today's podcast was brought to you by Dotterer Educational Consulting. We are a holistic community-based organization that supports people with dysgraphia from the inside out. We use neuroscience and research-based content to design interventions for the whole classroom that can be completed in two minutes each day and thwart this Disability before it becomes a challenge.
All without raising the Septer, a pencil. You can find more information about our services by downloading the app. The app is app dot. The Writing Glitch dot com. That is a P dot T H E W R I T I N G L I T C Use hashtag The Writing Glitch and hashtag dysgraphia awareness or tag. Cheri Dotterer. We search every day for new ways to cheer you.
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Jen, tell us how autism, ADHD, and dysgraphia impact one another in schools.
I've hinted at it already with my daughter's struggles. They are sometimes comorbid conditions, which means that you're going to find that if you have one, you will also have a tendency to have the others.
If you have autism is comorbid with a lot of other disorders. You often see it combined with ADHD. I've seen it combined with dysgraphia. They tend to make that student's life that much harder. So you get one, and then you find out, Oh, I have four others that I'm adding to that pile.
Pretty soon, you just feel like you're a really screwed-up individual. That's not the case, but you need the right tools to succeed. The diagnosis can help you if you're getting new tools and new treatments for each one. There's a difference for me.
Labels are both positive and negative. They have an upside and a downside, and the upside is you get the help you need. And the downside is you have that added stigma, and that added, I'm screwed up feeling. But getting help is worth it.
Our oldest daughter has Down Syndrome. Unfortunately, she could have the autism diagnosis too easily.
I can say right now with certainty she has it. But we never bothered to get her that diagnosis because it doesn't get her any added supports beyond Down syndrome, beyond what she already has. So it's not helpful for her to have another one. But, on the other hand, for my other daughter, who is just a year younger, it would've been helpful for her to know that she had ADHD and dyslexia, and dysgraphia way back when.
Those would've helped her. Even though it might have added a little bit to her anxious feelings, it would've given her tools that would've eventually helped her feel more successful. In the long run, it would've improved how she felt about herself and about, the world, and her success. And she might have actually been more successful at college and other things if she had those supports earlier.

In schools, autism may affect your social expression and your understanding of social situations. It may also. Affect how you can express yourself in writing or understand writing. ADHD is going to affect your ability to focus and your ability to express yourself clearly. I don't know how much you guys know about dysgraphia, but the things that I just listed can also be signs of dysgraphia. Those signs that
cause your expression to be hindered can cause people to overlook the fact that there's something more dyslexia can be overlooked because of both of those other conditions. Autism and ADHD are pervasive in your expressive ability and ability to complete a task given to you at school, a writing task or a reading task, or whatever.
They affect everything. They're more pervasive. , the more specific disorders may be overlooked. That's how I saw them interact at school.
Absolutely. Cheri, I'll bet you can relate to some of the things Jen just spoke about, right? Let's hear it.
I can definitely relate to what Jen was saying. A lot of times, what I see with these kids, Is that ADHD interferes so much with their ability even to access writing. One of the other things that I want to mention about autism is there's this huge spectrum.
We have those that may be non-functional as far as a typical classroom. And then we have those extremely highly functional kids who are way above grade level. And it was those kids that I saw this gap; however, er being addressed in the system. They expected that because they could read above grade level, they could do all this math above grade level, but some had this learning disability.
And when I look back at the percentage of kids that were twice exceptional, we call them, they have all of these gifts, but their Disability it's writing. And so there's some disconnect between the brain and what happens with the reaction in the body. And it comes back to. So it's a different neurological process.
It's a different spot in the brain that is getting used to writing, and because writing is the secondary or third area of education, it doesn't develop as fast because you need to be able to read before you can even start to write.

Thanks. I want to ask Jen then, how did you support students from the autism classroom?
I, over time, have taught grades K through 12. I started as a language arts teacher, and I had a few students with autism. One in particular who was very high functioning, as Cheri has mentioned, was a twice-exceptional kind of guy. And he challenged me as a teacher.
He thought it because he already knew the content. He could sleep through classes and started doing that through mine. But, in reality, he often felt like he couldn't do it when it came to writing.
Poetry was hard for him. He slept through as much as possible when we were doing our poetry unit. He was a fairly aggressive individual at times. His classmates were afraid of him. He was very big. They were worried about me when this happened, but I actually made him stay after for lunch one day, and I said, We are going to do this together.
A couple of students said, Can I get the principal? Do you need help? Do you want somebody to come down here? Because that student was threatening me. He became very aggressive kind of pushing. He wasn't like hitting me or anything like that. He was pushing, he was trying to get past me, and he was trying to force himself by and not stay for lunch.
It would be best if you stayed, and we're going to talk about this, and we're going to find out the real issue. So I was just very gentle with him. And I told those other students that I was okay just to not worry about it and go on because I knew that was only gonna heighten his anxiety about it.
I knew there was something more. So, we sat down, and he said, I don't get it. So, it took a little while, but he finally cracked and told me he didn't get it. He didn't know how to express himself in poetry. He was a musician. He loved to sing.
The connection between music and poetry was actually what eventually got him to write poetry. And the next day, it was even the next day he came in. He was an incredibly intelligent guy. He'd put it together, wrote a poem, and come and sang it to me.
I was going to ask you that. I was going to say I bet he had to sing it first, right?

Rather than write it. That's really cool. What do you think, Cheri?
There is this scene in Dead Poet Society where Robin Williams and Ethan Hawk are in the classroom, and Ethan is supposed to write poetry and says, I didn't do my homework. So Robin Williams gets him up in the middle of class and starts him writing. Do you know what clip I'm talking about?
I think I know which one you're talking about, but I'm not positive that I've ever even actually, and this is sad for a language arts teacher. I don't think I've ever actually watched that movie all the way through.
Don't feel bad because I have watched it maybe twice, even more, and I can't remember that particular clip.
The reason that this clip is so imperative is that one of the things that these kids need to be able to do is get into a flow state. I am an unhackable coach as well as a dysgraphia specialist. One of the scenes we utilize to express how to get somebody into flow is that scene. We just had to watch it in the class I'm teaching this week.
You had me thinking about that particular scene. If anybody out there knows or doesn't know that scene, go onto YouTube and look for Robin Williams in the middle of Dead Poet Society, where they're talking about the sharp tooth madman; I think it was. I'm so proud of you, Jen, for having your student access something familiar.
Get them into that flow state to engage in the classroom. Kudos.
Thanks. Yeah, that's key, Cheri. I didn't call it flow before I studied unhackable. It is that state neurologically that you need to be in to learn and to be able to be successful in the output of creativity.
Kids with autism think they're not creative, or they feel that they're just so literal, or matter of fact, that they cannot understand art. That is so untrue. So untrue. I had several artists in my middle school classroom. One of them, even now, is trying to become a graphic artist in college. One of them is writing. He also wants to be in politics, and he has already advocated for people with autism at the state level. Both of those things take creativity and the ability to express yourself.

I had many kids who loved to draw, but the writing was often a heavy struggle. They have to be able to connect it with something that they love to be able to do it.
I'm going to add quickly that I also know of a student who has high-functioning autism, who is working for one of the senators in Pennsylvania and is advocating for autism awareness.
It's a huge debate about whether certain disabilities need cures. I personally think that it's holding you back. It might. If it is helping you to become the person that you need to be, then it doesn't. In autism, I saw the person they were because of autism was so unique, valuable, and honest.
I wouldn't change it. . I think helping them appreciate what it gave them was helpful. I think with any Disability. There's probably an upside and a downside. I want people everywhere to see that, to understand that with disabilities. If you have a stack of disabilities 10 miles high and people think you're never going to amount to anything, you can't work, can't take care of yourself, or whatever, and they may value you as less.
They may think you're less valuable than another human because you can't contribute the same things. But there's always an upside. And there's always, to me, a purpose for that person's life. And it is sometimes connected to their disabilities and what those disabilities can give to them and other people.
I say that knowing from my own five kids how hard it is, how hard it is to deal with kids that have disabilities and help them try to make the most of their lives and to fit in. It's such a struggle. It's so hard. It's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking for them too. But there is an upside. There is a purpose for their lives and something special about them.
And their Disability doesn't make them less. It just makes them different. And sometimes, that difference is what the world needs.
Jen, Cheri told me you own a Special Needs Spa business. Can you tell us about that?

As a teacher, every day was so long. I would go in at seven 30 and leave after 8:00 PM as a special needs teacher. Of course, as a language arts teacher, it was five or six a little earlier, but still, we're talking.
11 to 14, 15-hour days weekly, and then homework on the weekends. I'm a mom, and you throw disabilities in there too. And it just ups the list of things you must do or take care of in your day. As a regular mom, it would've been too much. I always wanted to have more time.
I said to people. I wish I could clone myself because the time it would take me to teach someone else to do what I was doing was more time than it would take for me to do it myself. I didn't have enough time to spare to teach others how to do it to save that time for whatever I taught somebody; I had to give that time up that day, making me less prepared for the next day.
It just felt like a vicious cycle where I taught somebody how to do it and then continued to coach them on how to do it. So I was expending that time and investing that time in them, which was good, but I was also less prepared until that person could come up to that level that I needed them to be independent.
The Special Needs Spa is something that I put together as another way I can help people. I am trained. I know how to do lots of tech stuff. I was known for it at school. My paras always introduced me as there's an app for that. People were like, Hey, Jen, do you know how they're like, there's an app for that. . It was the joke because I said it so often. Oh yeah, there's an app for that.
Here you go. And here's how you use it. This is because I also was able to take things and combine them to create support for someone. I love doing that for people. I love being able to help people, be creative with a unique situation, take all the various things I've learned and gained from being a mom and a teacher, and say, This is, this is a good idea.
This is what's going to work for this kid. And if it doesn't, I can still pull and say, Okay, what went wrong with that? What direction did I need to go that I didn't and pull it together? So the special needs spot is there to help other parents and caregivers, special needs teachers, and gen ed teachers.

And adult service providers, Anybody who works with someone with autism or a related special need. And I would include Alzheimer's because of a lot of the visual supports I've created for kids with autism, which I could use with my mother-in-law when she was living with us. And it helped her.
If you've got a need related to special needs, I'm willing to be that clone for you. I'm willing to be the creative clone who already has the skills to use the tech, put things together, and then give you something you can then look at and say. So this is going to help me.
Is this going to help my child? Is this going to help my client or not? And try it out and see, and we can come back and fix it later. So I'm just that extra person who can save you some time and sanity.
Jen, You always inspire me. You always have from the day we met and have been a coach for me.
I love working with you, Cheri, and I've learned so much from you. , thank you
I think it's so cool how you have grown from helping each other and inspiring each other to learn all these cool ways to help students and help people in general.
It's really inspiring.
Cheri. At the time in our podcast, we need to leave an intervention. In each episode of the podcast, we share an intervention that helps teachers, parents, and occupational speech therapists with their students. Jen or Cheri, do you have an intervention a teacher could use here in the classroom?
My implementations require visuals that are in place that you would be able to point at. And one that I would suggest that works for whole classes are a schedule of your day. Students on that student desk
have just a short list on their desks that they can cross off. Some students may need to be able to flip it over when they're done with each item for the day, but you would be amazed at how much anxiety can relieve and how many disorders can help.

I'm going to bump off that a little bit and talk about what's going on neurologically.
When a kiddo looks up at the board and then back down at their paper, they activate the vestibular system. So if it is an immature system, developmentally, these kids with autism and ADHD moving their heads up and down can throw it off.
You get lost. You don't know what you're doing by having. The desk they don't have to look up will help keep their sense of body, mind, and self more centered. Jen that is a fabulous idea. I understand that you also have a fantastic freebie that you wanted to share.
I don't know if it's cool, but it might save some people some time if you don't know how to put form fields in the document.
I do, and I created it for one in middle school, but then I adapted it for one in elementary because we were using the foursquare writing method with the elementary kids. If you've never heard of that, look it up. There are a couple of books. They're really good.
This writing organizer can be used with that system. The four square organizers have five areas; mine is called the five Square. This is because, so don't get confused. It's the same thing. I've just made five big squares because kids with autism count the squares. So I had to call it five squares.
Okay? Because they count, they're like, No, there's five. Yes, there are, in fact, five. Now it's five square, but we're using the four square writing method. Adults try to wrap their minds around that one, but it's the same thing. And what I did was I created a document. I've made two compositions for you.
One of them is an editable PDF, and one of them is a Word document. You will want to download it and make a copy so that you have a template to create other copies for each new time. The student uses it. And I would have the student make their template copy. So you've got a backup template copy.
And the student can be independent. Hopefully, it depends on their age. The student can then be independent in making their own copies. This can be used on an iPad or a computer for dictation. When you have a student who has dysgraphia which, in this case, both of these guys did, they also had an incredible amount of anxiety and kind of a mental block against writing, which helped them get past it.
Some people look at it as a crutch. They look at it as if I just took away the part people are trying to teach them about writing. But writing is about expression. It's not just about putting the pencil on the paper. It's about getting out what's inside of you onto a format where other people can then read it or experience it, the first step is to get it out, and then you can write. And you can work with the handwriting skills or whatever you need to work on separately from the expression piece at first. So what I had them do was dictate whatever assignment it was. We used the Foursquare organizer method in that you put your main topic in the center, and you have four squares around it that you'll arrange details and a summary in eventually.
It starts by working the student up from just Sesame Street, which one does not belong. Exercise. You give them the pictures. You may have a category picture in the middle: fish, animal, etc. It's broad, so it's easy to put things in it. So if you said animal in the center, then around the outside, you would just put four different animals to start with a lower functioning or a young student.
I would put three animals and a pencil or an apple or something that's not an animal in the other box and ask them to identify which one does not belong. And you work up from there. And the four square books you can find online are very cheap. So on Amazon, work you up from that set,p too, in the second book, you're writing five-paragraph essays with the same organizer, and you can also connect it to writing stories.
It's a very versatile organizer. I love it. I love it because you don't have to keep switching organizers on the student. After all, every new organizer is another thing they have to remember how to use, and it's useless in the end to have 50 organizers. So you need one organizational system that's going to be very flexible in my mind.
When I write novels too, when I write, I have one tool. I use one device. . Do not use 50 tools to plan my novel. I have one way that works for me, and I use that. So the organizer I'm giving you may not work for every student in the world for every single writing task, but it will be very flexible and work for a lot of kids in a lot of tasks.

One thing I like about it, I'm sorry to interrupt you, Jen; go ahead. One thing I love about it is expandable. One of the things about graphic organizers is that kids with autism, high-level autism, and ADHD and kids with dysgraphia have difficulty because they want to write bigger.
The digital version expands. Where you're learning how to write without the confines of space,
You're learning to organize without the confines of that short little space. Sometimes it's tough to learn to summarize before you know how to express yourself.
Like me, Guys that are wordy want to put more in that box than what fits, especially in their handwriting. So if it's big in clunky handwriting, if they've got dysgraphia, then this is not going to get a lot into that box. But if you are dictating your thoughts into that box, it might get pretty big.
The word version will expand, moving the box bigger as you dictate. It will get ugly if you print it from there, but you may not need to print it because you can copy and paste it into a Word document in the correct order and then edit it from there. And that's what I would do.
That's how I had my students do it: copy and paste whatever was in the organizer into a Word or Google doc. And then we edited from there, and it was always in the correct order of what they wanted to say. So you had, what was supposed to be your main topic, and you had your details and your summary in the correct order.
And you might have to cut it down, or you might have to add some, but at least the organization piece is there. In the PDF version, it will work a little bit differently. In the PDF version, when you dictate, it will not expand the box on the actual page. So if you print it, you'll only see a portion of what they dictated.
However, everything they dictate in that box will be in that box. It will just continue to scroll. On the PDF version especially, you're going to wanna copy. The PDF version is a little prettier than the word version, so you can pick which one will work for you. The other thing I would say about it is that the word version will be one click and use.

You can also use an audio version and record what they're talking about.
For our listeners, here is the link

I'm really looking forward to it because it sounds like something that adults, not just students, could use.
Definitely could. If you want a writing organizer that's that kind, that has the four boxes for the details in summary and the main idea in the center, then by all means, yes.
I can also create a different kind of organizer with form fields so you can dictate if you so desire on the special needs spa. Suppose there's something you want. And it's not that organizer, but it's similar. Just let me know, and I'd be happy to customize it for you. What kids can do with it then is on an iPad, which is how I gave it to them. It's a lot easier than the computer for a lot of them.
I'd open up this organizer, tap on the box and then tap on the microphone, and they're able to d dictate, and then they tap again to quit. So there comes to be a frustration for some kids who don't dictate clearly, and it's a learning process for the iPad or the device they're using and for them on how to dictate clearly and how to get the words they want to appear.
There will be some frustration when you start working with a student with dictation because the dictation program has to learn how to listen to them. And they have to learn how to use a dictation program. So there is that clunkiness at the start, and you have to talk them through it and say it will get better.
We have to be patient for right now and keep on doing it until it gets right and until we can figure out how to make it do it right.
Awesome. Thank you so much. This has been Jan Orcutt, along with Cheri Dotterer, dysgraphia expert of the
we have been interviewing Jennifer Porter about life as a parent of children with ADHD and a teacher in an autism classroom. So, Jen, tell our audiences where they can find out more about you.
You can find me there if you want the teacher's side of me. If you want to know what I write as far as novels, it's So those are the two websites you can find and learn more about me. Contact me if you want to.
Thank you so much. It's been illuminating. It's been inspiring too.
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