What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia Awareness | 0 comments

Written by Cheri Dotterer

November 8, 2019

The definition of dysgraphia has been one of controversy for many years, although it is a medical diagnosis, the medical community is vague about its definition. Since the medical definition leaves much of dysgraphia open for interpretation, the educational community does not want to utilize the term dysgraphia in educational documentation. Therefore, the lack of clarity has created friction across the special education community.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5), dysgraphia is a

difficulty with spelling (e.g., may add, omit, or substitute vowels or consonants) and written expression (e.g., makes multiple grammatical or punctuation errors within sentences; employs poor paragraph organization; written expression of ideas lacks clarity).

That definition is difficult to comprehend.  My interpretation is that dysgraphia is difficulty writing by hand that does have another neurological origin or diagnosis.  It can be co-morbidly linked to ADHD but is its own diagnosis.

What is
dysgraphia?

Is Dysgraphia a form of dyslexia?

No. Dyslexia organizations have purged dysgraphia with dyslexia and included it with dyslexia as a diagnosis.  However, they should be separate diagnoses as they are separate neurological processes.  Dyslexia by neurological definition is difficulty reading which is sensory.  Whereas, dysgraphia is a motor process.  Hence, writing.  Dyscalculia is a difficulty with math concepts.  Because math involves writing.  It is crucial that a comprehensive diagnosis is differentiated.

A diagnosis of dysgraphia is completed using a multidisciplinary approach.  A neuropsychologist will synchronize the data and provide the final diagnosis.  The disciplines that should be included are the occupational and speech therapist.  Disabilities relating to visual perception, visual-motor integration, oral expression, and executive function could coexist.

How is it
diagnosed?

What are the types of dysgraphia?

Dyslexia organizations identify three types of dysgraphia.  Through my research, I was able to identify 6 types.  They include:

  • visual-spatial
  • motor
  • memory
  • word formation
  • sentence formation
  • paragraph formation dysgraphia

Children with visual-spatial dysgraphia exhibit difficulty writing letters, numbers, and shapes.  Children with Motor control, accuracy, precision, and speed delays are categorized under motor dysgraphia.  The inability to recall how a letter, word, or sentence is structured is memory dysgraphia. These aspects of dysgraphia are biomechanical. Transitioning to language aspects, you have word and sentence formation difficulties.  Word formation dysgraphia includes problems with spelling.  Problems with sentence structure are sentence formation dysgraphia.  Paragraph formation dysgraphia involves the lack of understanding of putting sentences together.  It involves the cognitive aspects of writing.

  • Avoiding writing tasks
  • Awkward pencil grasp
  • Cramping fingers or hands
  • Difficult managing margins
  • Difficulty with written expression
  • Inconsistency in forming letters
  • Inefficient pencil pressure
  • Intentionally watching their hand write letters
  • Irregular letter formation, size, sequencing, or line placement
  • Letter and number reversals
  • Mixing upper and lowercase letter forms
  • Need extended time to complete tasks
  • Odd positions of the wrist or paper
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Poor letter organization
  • Poor spelling
  • Unorganized thought processes when writing paragraphs
  • Writing slower than typical students of the same age

What are the symptoms of dysgraphia?

How can I find out if my child has dysgraphia? To whom should I consult if I suspect dysgraphia?

Any delay in the ability to write from the preschool days can yield a diagnosis.  Schools are not obligated to test students until they have at least six months’ worth of data. If your child exhibits any of the symptoms, contact a professional that is part of the diagnosis team and ask them to evaluate.

If you would like, I provide a 15-minute consultation for free. During the consultations, I can help answer any questions you may still have regarding dysgraphia, and how it affects your child.

This answer is going to cause controversy.  My answer is Yes.  There is no long-term neurological condition associated with dysgraphia.  Therefore, it should resolve itself with the development of neurological pathways.  However, many times there is a co-morbid neurological condition that is preventing the growth of these pathways such as ADHD.  In these situations, the handwriting delay with continue for a lifetime. 

Does dysgraphia have a cure?

What therapies and treatments do you recommend?

Remediation of a handwriting delay is completed by an occupational therapist.  Adding a speech therapist to support language delays will also help generate the neural pathways.  Any movement programs can support students.  They include formal programs such as Brain Gym, but also any sport will improve the neural development of the brain-body connection.  Sports like gymnastics and karate have helped many of my students. Anything that adds weight-bearing to the upper extremities will improve the tolerance for writing.

There are many areas that help students improve their neurological development.  I am an advocate of practice, practice, practice!  That being said, keyboarding is often a resource for students who have continued problems.  I prefer paralleling this support.  That means DO BOTH!  Most accommodations that you have heard on websites like Understood.org are wonderful.  Accommodations should be based on the child’s tolerance for writing.  If they can so part of the work, encourage it!  If it is that much of a challenge, have someone scribe it.

At home, do not exceed the time guidelines set up by your child’s teacher.  If they are supposed to get school work completed in 30-minutes, that is all they do.  After that time, help.  Use timers and rewards (no food) to encourage completion.  Don’t make it fight night!  Give yourself and your child grace.

What about
school and home supports?

Follow Us

Subscribe To Our Newsletter