Meet Patty DeDurr, the author of This Llama Can Write - a new children's book about dysgraphia and the use of assistive technology. Patty shared her background, motivations, and advice with Dysgraphia Life and is reminding us all that representation matters.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Patty and I am the founder of Sensing Greatness, which is a neurodivergent platform full of resources including children's books and accommodations lists for IEP’s/504’s. I am also a mom, wife, healthcare worker, and author.
Do you have personal experience with dysgraphia?
In second grade, my teacher used to take my writing assignments and tape them to the board along with the assignments from three other kids. Then she had the whole class line up and critique our handwriting. I was really trying my best and was devastated when I lost all the time. I can still remember sitting at my desk watching the kids looking at my paper.
My oldest was diagnosed about a decade ago and my youngest about 3 or 4 years ago. Because of this and my history with my own handwriting struggles, especially in elementary school, I wondered if I have dysgraphia. So, I reached out to a Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) friend for an assessment. They looked at past writing samples from when I was much younger. This was important as most diagnostic tests are geared toward school-aged children. Then she also did some diagnostic testing for written expression. It was no surprise when they acknowledged my own suspicions.
I am not sure if many people realize that SLP’s can complete diagnostic tests for different neurodivergencies including dyslexia too. This is within their scope of practice per the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) and you can learn more here and here. This video here directly from ASHA’s YouTube channel also talks about the SLP’s role in diagnosing dyslexia. As a side note, SLP’s can’t diagnose dysgraphia if it is related to fine motor deficiencies.
What was your inspiration for writing This Llama Can Write?
Representation in literature matters. So, writing a book where the main character has dysgraphia can help bring more awareness about what dysgraphia feels and looks like. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about dysgraphia and this book can encourage kids to feel more empowered when using technology.
What is a major takeaway from your book (without giving away any spoilers)?
We all have a voice - we just need a way to find ours so that we can tell our own story.
What is one piece of advice that you would give a child with dysgraphia? What about a teenager?
My 15 year old with dysgraphia wanted to give some advice for younger children. He said, “Don’t worry if something takes you longer to do, just try your best because I remember how hard it was for me when I was just starting to write. I know it can be frustrating but just know you aren’t alone, there are a lot of us.”
For a teenager. I would say, continue working on being your own advocate as that is a skill that will last you a lifetime.
What do you wish people understood about dysgraphia?
That it can be mentally and physically fatiguing to have to slow down to write neater. It can be extremely beneficial to have appropriate accommodations in place as the child moves on to higher grade levels especially since the curriculum will get more advanced.
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