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What Is Dysgraphia in Children? What Does It Mean for My Child's Learning?

What Is Dysgraphia in Children? What Does It Mean for My Child's Learning?

Dysgraphia refers to a learning disability characterized by difficulties in producing written material, such as in writing, typing, and spelling.

The impaired handwriting of a child can impede learning how to spell words in writing. This is due to the struggle of mentally storing and retrieving letters and numbers automatically, which, also affects the speed of writing it down.

Kids with this learning disorder may have poor handwriting, poor spelling (but no reading problems), or both poor handwriting and poor spelling.

Dysgraphia may also be comorbid with other conditions like dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), language disorders, and even dyspraxia.

Types of Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia impairs an individual’s capacity to express thoughts coherently using written expression — in spite of their reading ability. There are different types of dysgraphia which challenge learning in different ways:

Motor/Peripheral Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is known for the difficulty caused in producing written text due to a lack of muscle coordination. Poor fine motor skills, poor dexterity, and even muscle tone may all lead to poor to illegible handwriting.

A child with this type of learning disorder may spend an excessive amount of time to write a letter, and they may not be able to sustain the activity for an extended period of time. However, oral spelling abilities remain unaffected for motor/peripheral dysgraphia.

Spatial Dysgraphia

This type refers to difficulties with spatial perception, thus significantly affecting letter spacing and drawing ability. Moreover, it also causes school-age children to produce illegible spontaneously written work, as well as copied work. Despite this, spelling abilities and finger tapping speed (a method for detecting fine motor problems) both remain normal.

Dyslexic Dysgraphia

Dyslexic dysgraphia is characterized by the following:

  • Illegible spontaneously produced written work
  • Good copied work
  • Poor spelling

In addition, finger tapping speed is also at a normal level. This implies that the deficit is unlikely due to cerebellar damage.

It is important to take note that a child who falls under this type of dysgraphia does not always have dyslexia.

Despite both being learning disabilities, dyslexia and dysgraphia are two different disorders. Dyslexia is primarily a reading disorder, whereas dysgraphia is primarily a writing disorder. Some people often get confused with these two as they have similar symptoms and frequently occur together.

Signs of Dysgraphia

Messy handwriting is one of the most common symptoms of dysgraphia. Some of the important handwriting skills that children may experience difficulties with are as follows:

  • Letter formation
  • Grammatically correct sentences
  • Proper letter spacing
  • Straight-line writing
  • Capacity to control and use a writing instrument
  • Clear writing
  • Writing complete words without missing any letters

In a broad sense, the written work produced may include a mix of upper and lower case letters, irregular letter sizes and shapes, and unfinished letters.

Furthermore, kids with dysgraphia also struggle using writing as a mode of communication. Because so much work goes into the actual process of writing, their work may appear to lack imagination or thought. They may use unusual writing grips, such as holding their wrists, bodies, and papers in unusual positions. This then makes the writing experience uncomfortable.

Strategies To Help Children

It would be beneficial for children with dysgraphia to do activities that aid in letter formation such as:

  • Playing with clay to strengthen hand muscles
  • Maintaining lines within mazes to improve motor control
  • Connecting dots and/or dashes to form complete letters
  • Tracing letters with the index finger (or even the eraser at the end of the pencil)
  • Mirroring the teacher’s demonstration of stroke sequences in letter formation
  • Copying letters from models

Following that, once a child has learned to form legible letters, instructions will enable the development of automatic letter writing. Several activities may also come in handy to practice each of the alphabet letters on a daily basis.

Key Takeaways

Dysgraphia refers to a specific learning disorder that particularly involves impairment in written expression.

There are numerous ways to assist a child with this learning disorder. It may be through accommodation, modification, or even remediation. Both occupational therapy and physical therapy may also help a child better engage in the writing and composition process.

Learn more about School-age Children here.

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Dysgraphia, https://www.sess.ie/categories/specific-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia, Accessed March 11, 2022

Dysgraphia: A learning disability resulting from difficulty expressing thoughts and graphing, https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/ddds/files%5Clearn_curve_july11.pdf, Accessed March 11, 2022

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What is dysgraphia?, https://www.understood.org/articles/en/understanding-dysgraphia  Accessed March 11, 2022

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Written by Fiel Tugade Updated 3 weeks ago
Medically reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD