Other Learning Disabilities
What is Dysgraphia
Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder that impacts an individual’s ability to write cohesively and fine motor skills. This learning disability may affect both children as well as adults. Essentially, dysgraphia interferes with all aspects of the writing process. Skills that are compromised include spelling, general legibility and handwriting, word spacing and sizing, and expression.
Learning disabilities like dysgraphia are more commonly exhibited by children impacted by attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There are two main types of dysgraphia, with several subtypes based on the actual challenged and individual faces.
Acquired dysgraphia is caused by brain injury, disease, or degenerative conditions that cause the individual (typically as an adult) to lose previously acquired skills in writing. Because a trauma may cause this type of dysgraphia, it can occur at any point in life.
Developmental dysgraphia refers to difficulties in acquiring writing skills commonly associated with school-aged children. The causes for developmental dysgraphia are at this time unknown. However, several subtypes correspond to specific neurological mechanisms:
- Motor dysgraphia: Lack of fine-motor coordination and visual perception cause this subtype of dysgraphia. These coordination struggles explain the difficulty a child faces when creating written text. Individuals will typically have illegible handwriting, even when they write slowly. They also will display poor drawing and tracing skills, further demonstrating their inability to control writing utensils.
- Spatial dysgraphia is related to problems of spatial perception. This directly impacts letter spacing and drawing ability. Individuals with spatial dysgraphia struggle with handwriting and drawing; however, spelling and other related skills are average.
Linguistic dysgraphia impacts the language processing skills required in creative writing. It primarily affects written text that is not being copied but created in an individual’s mind. This type of writing will result in illegible text. Drawing, copying, and oral spelling are not affected by linguistic dysgraphia.
Signs and Symptoms of Dysgraphia
Like other learning disabilities, dysgraphia impacts individuals differently with varying levels of severity. That said, general symptoms of dysgraphia include:
- Trouble forming letters shapes
- Pain experienced when gripping a writing utensil
- Awkwardness grasping a writing utensil.
- Difficulty following a line or staying within margins when writing
- Problems with sentence structure or following rules of grammar when writing, but not when speaking
- Difficulty organizing or articulating thoughts on paper
- A significant difference between spoken and written understanding of a topic
How Dysgraphia is Diagnosed & Treated
It is important to note that the term “dysgraphia” is not recognized by the American Psychological Association. This means there is no professional consensus on specific diagnostic criteria. However, dysgraphia is typically diagnosed by a licensed professional specializing in learning disorders. Based on the individual and other conditions they may be impacted by, a team of professionals may be involved. Occupational therapists, special education teachers, and educational psychologists commonly have input into a diagnosis.
A variety of tools may be used to determine a diagnosis, including:
- School reports
- Writing assessments
- Evaluations of family history
- Medical records and other developmental records
Testing will almost always include writing components. Though these tests vary, they often include copying text and answering open-ended essay questions. Motor skills are also assessed. The assignments are evaluated on the quality of writing, the handwriting itself, and discomfort.
Dysgraphia, much like other learning disorders, is a lifelong condition that has no cure. Treatment for dysgraphia focuses on interventions, accommodations, and special services t improve writing abilities. Typically, “more practice” writing is not a practical solution. Accommodations are generally made for a child at school after completing an evaluation. These accommodations may include different writing methods, including typing and modified writing utensils or paper. Additionally, class lessons may be provided to a student.
Adults impacted by dysgraphia may also receive accommodations in the workplace that involve alternate technologies or redefined word duties.