Do these questions ever enter your mind?
How can a child read, but not be able to write?
What makes a child have difficulty with spelling?
How do I motivate the student that doesn’t care about their handwriting to write so other people can understand it?
Are all handwriting problems dysgraphia?
While recovering from an injury, I spent my time trying to find answers so that I could help my children and students.
My daughter had trouble with spelling throughout her primary and secondary school. Today, she uses computer-based programs to assist her. Whereas, my son could care less about what his handwriting looks like.
Both of my children are gifted students. This fact even had me more confused. How can a gifted child, have difficulty with handwriting?
Most of the referrals I get in schools are for handwriting problems. The literature about handwriting problems was vague. The research explaining dysgraphia was minimal. The diagnostic material was inconsistent. How was I going to answer these questions?
What is the difference between handwriting problems and dysgraphia? The short answer is - nothing. They are both problems with written expression and need to be remediated the same.
How could I help parents and teachers? Would occupational therapists find my information helpful?
What I found was that any handwriting problem is some level of dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is classified medically under the Specific Learning Disability, Neurodevelopmental section of the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Health Disorders, fifth edition (DSM-5).
When a parent or teacher is discussing this phenomenon in the school setting they need to classify handwriting problems as a written expression disorder. This disorder falls under the educational classification of a Specific Learning Disability.
Through this research project, I was able to begin answering my initial questions.
The answer is
There is a Brain-Body DisConnect that is preventing the neural pathways for handwriting to be developed at a typical pace. There are times in which these pathways do not develop even into adulthood. Other times, remediation helps. Sometimes accommodations and modifications to the child’s curriculum work best.
This website and the book, Handwriting Brain-Body DisConnect are a summary of this initial project. Further research needs to be completed for each subject and curriculum adaptations need to be developed within the guidelines of today’s educational system to benefit students.
WHO am I?
My name is Cheri Dotterer and I have a mild form of dysgraphia. Through years of hard work, I have been able to make it through grad school and obtain an MS in Occupational Therapy.
Living with two children who are gifted with handwriting difficulties, I knew that there had to be more children like them.
Did you know that children that are gifted may also have a learning disability? Children that have special symptoms that lend them to both ends of the spectrum are called twice exceptional.
As I progressed through this project, I found more and more children who are gifted and many times their disability is written expression.
I knew that I had to find a way to help them.
Developmentally, dysgraphia or a written expression disability has six different categories. You will see other organizations separate dysgraphia into three categories. This division seemed too confusing to me. So I broke their categories up to further explain them.
The six categories of dysgraphia are
Word Formation Dysgraphia
Sentence Formation Dysgraphia
Paragraph Formation Dysgraphia
Cheri has been an occupational therapist for over twenty years. She calls herself a developmental neuroscience geek. Her passion has shifted from directly working with children to educating their teachers and parents. Her mission is to transform the lives of children by instructing the adults around them. The development of a research institute will provide a team of professionals that understand dysgraphia. The institute will become a platform for research-driven, evidenced-based curriculum development and interventions.
Alvernia University BS Biochemistry, MS Occupational Therapy
College Misericordia BS Occupational Therapy
Board Certification Educational Advocate and Neuroscience Coach
Previous Teaching Experiences
Pennsylvania State University, Alvernia University, Misericordia University
University/College/Technical School Guest Lecturer
Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, Salus University, Berks Technical Institute
Berks County Autism Society, National Special Education Advocacy Institute, Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association, Chester County Right to Education Task Force, Hamburg Area Middle School, Pennsylvania Education for All Coalition