What is Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia in children is a neurological disorder without a known cause. Put simply, it is a communication problem between the brain and the hands, making it difficult for a child’s brain to tell his or her fingers to move correctly when writing words. Children with dysgraphia often find it difficult to plan sequential finger movements. For example, they may have trouble using their thumb to consecutively tap the rest of the fingers on the same hand without actually looking at the hand.
Typical symptoms of dysgraphia include:
- difficulty remembering written words
- pronouncing written words incorrectly
- problems associating words with meaning
- poor handwriting (letter size and spacing may be wrong)
- misspelling words, despite direct instruction
- using incorrect words in context (i.e., using “girl” instead of “child”)
- consistently leaving writing assignments incomplete
How Do They Test for Dysgraphia?
As with many learning disorders, it is often a teacher or parent who first notices symptoms of dysgraphia. Teachers can recommend your child for evaluation by the school’s child study team. However, testing for dysgraphia can be tricky, since assessments that evaluate written expression are sometimes not scored for typical markers for dysgraphia, like poor handwriting or bad spelling. This can lead to test administrators missing a dysgraphia diagnosis altogether.
An additional issue occurs for some children when they are both gifted and dysgraphic, often termed “twice-exceptional”. Twice-exceptional students are often underdiagnosed and under supported with educational services in school, because it is assumed that if a child is very bright but is not completing writing assignments, that he or she must be just “lazy”.
If you feel that your child has symptoms of dysgraphia that are not being addressed at school, remember that you can always advocate for your child yourself by going directly to your pediatrician with your concerns.
Management: What You Can Do to Help Your Child
It is possible for some children to improve their writing ability and written expression, but others may face obstacles their entire lives. As with many other disorders, early diagnosis and treatment is best.
Although a child can be diagnosed with dysgraphia by itself, it is common for children with dysgraphia to also experience other disorders such as dyslexia, oral and written language learning disability (OWL LD), or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children with ADHD and Dysgraphia may benefit from both direct handwriting lessons and medication.
School Accommodations: A child with dysgraphia has the legal right to educational accommodations under a 504 Plan or, for children who qualify for special education services, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Below is a list of some classroom accommodations that can help provide educational equity in the classroom:
- using computers instead of handwriting assignments
- clay play: manipulating clay or Play-Doh to strengthen hand muscles
- connect-the-dots letter writing activities
- letter memorization: writing letters by memory after increasing intervals of time
- direct spelling instruction
Interventions at Home:
- Understand Dysgraphia is a Disorder. Recognize that the difficulties associated with dysgraphia are unrelated to intelligence or motivation. Children with dysgraphia are trying their best.
- Keep an Eye Out for Additional Issues. Be sure to contact your child’s physician to address any coexisting conditions that could hinder treatment for dysgraphia. For instance, it is possible for a child with dysgraphia to also suffer from attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
- Hire a One-to-One Tutor. An experienced tutor like ours here at TestingMom.com can meet with your child regularly to help with school assignments and engage your child in fun, specialized direct instruction, and practice with spelling, consistent letter & word formation, and vocabulary memorization that complements your child’s treatment plan. We can also help your child build essay writing skills needed for school success. Contact Testing Mom today! Call (813) 544-3833 or Email email@example.com.
- Use TestingMom.com’s Skill Building Academy. When you become a member of TestingMom.com, your child can use a variety of our 30+ partner premium learning websites in our Skill Building Academy. Pre-K to 4th graders can work on reading and writing skills with Reading Kingdom and reading comprehension skills with Story Smarts. Children ages 6 and up can practice their visual memory skills and spelling with Spelling Ninja. Or they can log-on to the Scholastic learning website, Core Clicks, to read age-appropriate articles with a read-aloud feature on various science and social studies topics. Your child can then show what he or she has learned by completing interactive online activities without having to pick up a pencil. Reach out to our Parent Success Team at 877-609-6203 or firstname.lastname@example.org. They can guide you to practice questions to build reading and language skills.
Some information contained here was sourced from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the International Dyslexia Association websites:
National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2022). Dysgraphia Information Page. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Dysgraphia-Information-Page#
International Dyslexia Association (2022). Understanding Dysgraphia. Retrieved March 9, 2022, from https://dyslexiaida.org/understanding-dysgraphia/