Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing and the coordination of the small muscles of the hands, wrists, and fingers (fine motor skills). People with Dysgraphia usually struggle with writing and forming letters, as well as being able to write along a straight line and spell words correctly. Unlike Dyslexia, which affects language processing, people with Dysgraphia have a difficulty in the way their mind processes motor skills and information.
Here are some common things to be aware of about Dysgraphia:
- Few statistics have been developed on Dysgraphia as the disorder is severely under-researched
- The prevalence of the disorder decreases with age, with research showing that anywhere between 5-20% of students are affected by Dysgraphia
- Commonly, Dysgraphia occurs comorbidly with Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Tourette’s Syndrome or ADHD.
- Having Dysgraphia does not affect IQ or intelligence
- Writing is a stratified process, meaning that other obstacles and learning objectives must be overcome first before one can write proficiently
- Boys are more commonly affected than girls (75% are male)
- Students will usually have a good declarative memory (facts/previous experience), but an impaired procedural memory (subconscious ability to perform tasks)
5 types of Dysgraphia:
- Writing is sometimes illegible
- Writing is legible when copied
- Poor spelling
- Does not necessarily coincide with Dyslexia itself, however, the two disabilities can occur in the same individual
- Below average fine motor skills
- Weak dexterity (hand agility)
- Unexplained clumsiness
- Illegible handwriting
- Poor grip of pen/pencil and poor letter formation
- Spelling ability is not impaired
- The student does not understand spacing between words
- Handwriting may be illegible
- Struggles with writing on lined paper and spacing
- Poor writing and spelling when dealing with unknown words
- Struggles to memorise phonemes (distinct units of sound in a language)
- Decoding words becomes difficult
- Average spelling ability when sound patterns are known
- Most commonly occurs in English speaking children as the language is less phonetic than most
- A very rare form of Dysgraphia
Activities to help children with Dysgraphia:
- Write letters out bigger than they would usually be written using different materials, for example, fingerpaint, sand, clay, shaving foam, or whipped cream. This solidifies new pathways in a child’s mind to help them remember this information for the future.
- Practice pinching things to increase fine motor strength when writing.
- Encourage speaking first, this allows kids to get their thoughts and ideas out first without having to focus their attention on putting pen to paper.
- Trace letters into your child/students back or palm so that they can ‘feel’ the way the letters are written.
How to accommodate Dysgraphia in the classroom:
- Use pencil grips and writing aids
- Incorporate technology as a substitute for handwriting to allow written expression to flow more easily
With proper diagnosis by a psychologist, such as through a qualified Educational Psychologist and early intervention, all of these learning disabilities can be treated so your children and students can get the most out of their education and most importantly, enjoy learning and going to school without feeling like a burden or a failure. Every child can be successful with the right guidance and goals.
In Ireland, our sister company, Eirim: The National Assessment Agency provides further in-person training courses for educators from time to time in Ireland, as well as an assessment service for schools and students across the country to identify learning needs of students.