Meet the inspiring teenager behind the new children's book, Writing Right: A Story About Dysgraphia. We know a third grade boy with dysgraphia who read her book and exclaimed, "Noah [the main character] is just like me!" We hope Cassie's story empowers many other kids too.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Cassandra Baker, I’m sixteen and I live in Chesapeake, Virginia. I’m a junior in high school and I actively participate in the theatre company at my school, as well as the Key Club, a volunteer service organization. I’ve also been a Girl Scout for the last seven years, where I earned my Bronze and Silver awards, and am currently working on completing my Gold Award project.
Do you have personal experience with dysgraphia?
My two older brothers have dysgraphia and I watched them struggle with their fine motor skills for many years. It especially impacted their early education as those are the years when a lot of assignments have some sort of craft element, which was very difficult for them. I also remember that one of my brothers eventually began writing essays on a computer when he was in 6th grade. His teacher questioned whether he had actually written the essay because the quality was so much higher than his handwritten essays. Using a computer had improved the quality of his writing since he was no longer hindered by his dysgraphia.
What was your inspiration for writing the book?
When I began thinking about possible projects for my Girl Scout Gold Award I was encouraged to consider causes that were meaningful to me. My main inspiration for developing the project into the Writing Right book was my brothers’ struggles with dysgraphia. As it is a lesser known disability, I thought it could be beneficial to create a resource for those directly and indirectly impacted by it.
What is one piece of advice that you would give a child with dysgraphia? What about a teenager?
For a child with dysgraphia, my best advice is to not give up. While it is somewhat cliche, I’ve noticed that many kids with it are actually much more capable than they think. The disability unfortunately can hinder their self-confidence, and I think that they should try to always remember that dysgraphia doesn’t define them or their abilities. Similarly for a teenager, I would say to keep working to find beneficial coping mechanisms. When you come across a hard task, think through a new way to approach it if you can, and don’t forget that you can always ask for help if needed.
Buy Cassie's book!
In the book, you talk about the main character, Noah, seeing an occupational therapist (OT) to help his writing. Why would you recommend that someone with dysgraphia work with an OT?
Occupational therapy can be a valuable tool for someone with dysgraphia since OTs have an in-depth understanding of the learning disability and how to work through it. It is in no way a requirement for someone to go to one, but just as a talk therapist can help people work through certain issues, an occupational therapist can provide support.
What is the best thing a teacher could do to help a child with dysgraphia?
I think teachers mostly just need to recognize that dysgraphia can sometimes hinder someone’s work and as such they should be a little more open to accommodations such as extended work time or computer access.
What do you wish people understood about dysgraphia?
Honestly my biggest thing is actually just acknowledgment. While working on this book, I’ve found that many people have no idea what dysgraphia is, or at least they know very little. It seems like people focus more on dyslexia and forget about other similar learning disabilities like dysgraphia or dyscalculia.
What's next for you? Will you continue to write?
My next life goal is simply to graduate high school and move onto college. I don’t currently see myself writing anymore, but it is always possible.