Richard Lavoie wrote the foreword.
Did you ever have a job where there was one solitary task that you abhorred or dreaded? Perhaps it was a monthly accounting report or an annual inventory project. You constantly dreaded the day that your superior entered your office to announce that it was time to approach this distasteful and fear-filled activity. You were anxious, frightened and disheartened.
This is the way that Eli Richards – and every child who struggles with dysgraphia – felt each time he heard a teacher say the dreaded words, “Everyone take out a piece of paper…I want you to write a composition…”
Eli is a bright student with an extensive repertoire of interests and talents. He has a rich and vibrant vocabulary and an impressive fund of background information and facts. He is wonderfully creative and has earned the respect and affection of all who know him because of his innovative view of life.
But he couldn’t write. Every aspect of the writing process – handwriting, note taking, spelling, syntax, semantics, word choice, etc. – was a mystery for him. His fluency and fluidity with language came to a frightening and screeching halt whenever he sat in front of a blank piece of paper with a pen in hand. As he progressed through the grades, composition skills became increasingly important…and increasingly frustrating and frightening.
But Eli’s story is not merely a tale of failure and struggle. It is also a story of support, faith and small victories. Eli’s school life had detractors and demons…but he also had defenders and champions. As I read of Eli’s struggles, I was reminded that – as in the fairy tales – one caring, devoted adult can save the life of a child.
Dysgraphia is among the least understood aspects of learning disorders. This complex problem has a confusing collection of symptoms and manifestations. These children wrestle daily with a Gordian knot of attention problems, memory difficulties, language deficiencies and idiosyncratic thought processes. Often, the professionals in the child’s life will deal with the individual symptoms of Dysgraphia, but they fail to understand (or remediate) the disorder in its entirety. They assist with the symptoms without confronting the problem in any way. As a result, their interventions are often unsuccessful and the child’s frustrations become more profound.
Eli – The Boy Who Couldn’t Write puts a human face on this puzzling disorder. In a charming and insightful narrative, Eli tells of his daily frustrations and his creative attempts to avoid – and later, self-remediate – his writing problems. You feel as if you are sitting next to Eli in the classroom as he faces his daily challenges.
Eli’s story of fear, frustration and failure enables the reader to gain a genuine understanding or the problems that Eli confronted daily. But the book is not only about struggles…it also offers solutions. At the conclusion of Eli’s narrative…the calvary arrives offering practical advice for how we can assist the dysgraphic child in the classroom and at home.
Eli’s mother, Regina, has come to be recognized as one of the nation’s foremost experts on this puzzling disorder. She provides a detailed but understandable list of dysgraphia’s symptoms and etiology. As you read her outline, you will come to recognize the dysgraphic students in your own classroom. Beyond merely identifying the disorder, Regina offers field-tested strategies and approaches to use with the child. By combining her unparalleled experiences as a teacher, consultant and researcher with her experiences as “Eli’s Mom”, she is able to approach this task with the mind of a professional…and the heart of a parent. An unbeatable combination.
As you read Eli’s story, allow his compelling words to solidify your commitment to the children in your life who fight the “writing dragon” daily.
With every good wish,
Richard D Lavoie, M.A.,M.Ed.
Visiting Lecturer, Harvard University
Author, It’s So Much work to Be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success, and The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child