Dysgraphia is a learning difference that makes it challenging for people to write. It can impact a person’s ability to write psychically or even just the skill of getting thoughts out onto paper (sometimes both). It’s estimated that around 5% to 20% of people have dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is also known as handwriting disability or graphic-phonemic dyslexia. This condition is thought to have many causes, but with early assistance and specific strategies, people can find ways to manage it.;
Dysgraphia is a learning difference that affects the ability to write. It’s not necessarily a problem with fine motor skills, nor is it related to intelligence or vision. Dysgraphia can make it difficult for children to organize their thoughts into written language, even if they know what they want to say. Children with dysgraphia often struggle with handwriting in general but may also experience difficulty spelling words correctly.
Dysgraphia vs. Dyslexia
Because of their similarities, dysgraphia and dyslexia are commonly confused. Dyslexia is a learning difference that makes it difficult for people to learn to read. On the other hand, dysgraphia involves difficulty with the act of writing. Difficulties can range from issues with physical writing to issues with expressing thoughts in written form.
How to Recognize Dysgraphia
You may notice that your child has problems with handwriting, spelling, and grammar. However, these are very common problems for children in their early school years, which makes them even more challenging to diagnose. The National Center for Learning Disabilities describes dysgraphia symptoms as follows:
- Having trouble forming letter shapes
- Experiencing difficulty following a line or staying within margins
- Using a tight, awkward, sometimes painful grip on a pencil
- Having trouble with sentence structure when writing but not when speaking
- Showing difficulty articulating words on paper
- Omitting words from sentences
- Struggling with grammar and punctuation
Noticing these signs on a child doesn’t mean they have dysgraphia. However, if your child continues to exhibit trouble with the mechanics of writing and other fine-motor impairments, as well as problems with age-appropriate basic writing skills, they should be tested.
How to Test Dysgraphia
The term “dysgraphia” does not appear in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, it’s mentioned under the “specific learning disorder (DSD)” category. This makes dysgraphia even more challenging to diagnose.
As a result, most specialists will use an assessment similar to the one they use for dyslexia. Usually, a team of occupational therapists, physical therapists, educational psychologists, and special education teachers help assess dysgraphia.
Similar to dyslexia, the assessment involves careful consideration of the person’s:
- Learning strengths and weaknesses
- Educational history
- Extent of difficulties
- Type of writing difficulties
Although early testing is best for learning differences, dysgraphia goes hand in hand with a child’s common timeline for writing. Most children will start showing signs of dysgraphia around age five, but remember that the condition will continue to evolve, and they may still show signs of it in adulthood.
Your child may be at risk for dysgraphia if you have a family history of it or if you have a learning disability. Those who have suffered from brain injury, ADHD, and dyslexia are also more likely to experience dysgraphia.
How We Can Help
Like many learning difficulties, dysgraphia has a broad range of symptoms, affecting each child differently. Because of this, management for dysgraphia is very personalized. While there is no medication to treat this condition, a combination of educational interventions, accommodations, modifications, and remediations can help.
Living with dysgraphia means writing is difficult, not that someone is lazy or incapable. We focus on helping children find specific techniques and appropriate accommodations to help manage their learning difference. At The Learning Lab, we specialize in assisting students in learning how best to utilize their strengths while minimizing the challenges associated with specific learning difficulties like dysgraphia.