Are you Struggling with Writing? Could it be Dysgraphia?

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder impacting writing abilities, affecting children and adults differently. From illegible handwriting to spelling errors, dysgraphia presents various challenges, but with proper evaluation and support, individuals can overcome obstacles and improve their skills.

What are the causes of Dysgraphia?

  • In childhood, dysgraphia is often related to problems with orthographic coding, affecting the ability to remember written words and the motor movements required for writing.
  • In adults, dysgraphia may develop after a stroke or brain injury, particularly if the brain’s left parietal lobe is affected.

What are the common symptoms associated with dysgraphia?

  1. Illegible Handwriting: People with dysgraphia often have messy or difficult-to-read handwriting. However, it’s essential to note that not everyone with messy penmanship has dysgraphia. Neat handwriting is possible, but it may require significant effort and time.
  2. Spelling and Capitalization Errors: Dysgraphia can lead to incorrect spelling and inconsistent capitalization.   
  3. Mix of Cursive and Print Letters: Some individuals with dysgraphia may use a combination of cursive and print letters within the same word.
  4. Inappropriate Sizing and Spacing of Letters: Letters may be too large or too small, and spacing between letters may be irregular.
  5. Difficulty Copying Words: Individuals with dysgraphia may struggle when copying words from a source.
  6. Slow or Labored Writing: Writing can be a time-consuming process for someone with dysgraphia.
  7. Visualizing Words Before Writing: Difficulty in mentally visualizing words before putting them down on paper.
  8. Unusual Body or Hand Position While Writing: Some people adopt unconventional hand or body positions while writing.
  9. Tight Grip on Pen or Pencil: Holding the writing instrument too tightly, leading to hand cramps.
  10. Watching the Hand While Writing: A tendency to watch the hand while writing, which can affect concentration.
  11. Saying Words Aloud While Writing: Verbalizing words during the writing process.
  12. Omitting Letters and Words from Sentences: Missing out on letters or entire words when writing.

What are the effects of Dysgraphia?

  • People with dysgraphia may find it challenging to concentrate on other things while writing, affecting note-taking during classes or meetings.
  • Negative attitudes toward school, low self-esteem, and anxiety can result from criticism about messy handwriting.

Who can evaluate and treat Dysgraphia?

The psychomotor therapist does different assessments that cover all the skills related to handwriting. 

These skills are the following: 

  1. Sensory skills
  2. Motor skills: gross /fine motor and eye-hand coordination
  3. Visual spatial skills

Once the assessment is done, the patient should be followed in psychomotor therapy to enhance his handwriting skills.  

In addition to the psychomotor assessment, dysgraphia is primarily associated with language and speech. Speech and language therapists can also contribute to addressing language-based problems related to writing, such as grammar, word usage, sequencing, and sentence composition.

What are the strategies and accommodations used to support dysgraphia?

  1. Assistive Technology:
    • Speech-to-Text Software: Using speech recognition tools can help individuals with dysgraphia express their thoughts without relying solely on writing.
    • Word Prediction Software: These tools suggest words as the user types, reducing the need for extensive manual writing.
    • Digital Note-Taking Apps: Apps like Evernote or OneNote allow typed or voice-recorded notes, making organization easier.
  2. Handwriting Adaptations:
    • Slant Boards: Using a slant board or an inclined surface can improve hand positioning and reduce strain.
    • Larger Line Spacing: Increasing the space between lines on paper can make writing more manageable.
    • Graph Paper: Some find it easier to write on graph paper due to the uniform spacing.
  3. Motor Skill Development:
    • Fine Motor Exercises: Strengthening hand muscles through activities like squeezing stress balls or using playdough can enhance fine motor skills.
    • Pencil Grips: Specialized grips can provide better control and comfort while writing.
  4. Teaching Strategies:
    • Explicit Instruction: Teachers should explicitly teach letter formation, spacing, and other writing skills.
    • Multisensory Learning: Incorporating visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements can reinforce learning.
    • Breaking Tasks Down: Divide writing assignments into smaller steps to reduce overwhelm.
  5. Self-Advocacy and Confidence Building:
    • Encourage individuals with dysgraphia to communicate their needs to teachers, peers, and family members.
    • Fostering a positive self-image and emphasizing strengths can boost confidence.
  6. Alternative Assessments:
    • Explore alternative ways to demonstrate knowledge, such as oral presentations, diagrams, or digital projects.
  7. Environmental Considerations:
    • Comfortable Seating: Ensure a comfortable chair and desk to minimize physical discomfort.
    • Good Lighting: Proper lighting reduces eye strain and enhances visibility.

In conclusion: 

Handwriting is a complex task that involves different skills. So it’s important to always recognize that writing difficulties are not due to laziness or lack of effort. Each person with dysgraphia is unique, so consulting a psychomotor therapist can help tailor interventions to specific needs. Additionally, speech and language therapy can be beneficial in addressing the broader language-based challenges associated with dysgraphia.