What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is classed as a specific learning difficulty, and it is a condition which affects an individual’s ability to process language, and may cause a struggle to communicate thoughts and feelings. Dysgraphia will often cause an individual to have poor quality handwriting and sometimes a person may struggle with spelling as well. An individual will likely struggle to use written language on the same level as their peers.

What are the symptoms of Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is sometimes compared with Dyspraxia, which is a similar condition, but the symptoms of Dyspraxia are more focused on hand-eye coordination. People with Dyspraxia are also known to have poor handwriting and sometimes poor spelling, but people with Dysgraphia don’t tend to experience the same symptoms with physical movement. Dyspraxic people will often struggle to grasp the basic physical movements involved in sports and other games.

With Dysgraphia, it may be assumed that an individual does not understand spelling or has never learned to spell. But it is often the case that the individual does have a reasonable grasp of spelling. The problem is more likely to do with a person’s ability to process language, and to then utilise the words that they intend to use. Dysgraphia can affect every stage of the planning process for written communication, and therefore it will often influence an individual’s ability to write things down. Dysgraphia does not just affect whole words either, an individual may struggle to write down individual letters, which may cause their overall writing ability to appear gradual or slow.

Dysgraphia

The main symptoms of Dysgraphia include:

  • Handwriting which is visibly lower quality than their peers.
  • An individual may struggle to understand where to place their hand or wrist during writing. This could be one reason for their often poor quality of handwriting.
  • The process of writing can cause anxiety, nerves or stress for an individual with Dysgraphia.
  • Someone with Dysgraphia may, unknowingly, grasp a pen too hard, and therefore report aches or pain in their arm, wrist or hand.
  • An individual may seem to become engulfed in activity while they are writing, and may react negatively, or with frustration, if they are distracted.
  • Someone with Dysgraphia may often be subjected to negative comments from teachers or peers about their handwriting or spelling ability. These comments can cause low self-esteem, or the individual may start to lack confidence.
  • Many people are able to see words in their mind before they write them down, but people with Dysgraphia may be unable to do this.
  • People with Dysgraphia may be known to mutter, whisper or say words to themselves while they are writing.

Dysgraphia is known to develop at any period during someone’s life, and so an individual is not necessarily born with the condition. However, memory problems in the brain can mean that Dysgraphia develops while an individual is still at school, and perhaps in their early childhood. Should there be a memory issue in the brain, this may affect an individual’s ability to remember what direction to move their hands and wrist while they are writing. The person may also lack the ability to recall language over a long period of time.

A brain injury can cause Dysgraphia symptoms to develop in adults as well.

There are other learning difficulties called Dyslexia and ADHD, which are connected to Dysgraphia, and often have overlapping symptoms. Dyslexia normally limits the ability of an individual to learn to read or spell, and causes problems with using written language. ADHD is mainly focused around attentiveness and hyperactivity. If a person with Dysgraphia also has ADHD, the individual may have trouble focusing on writing, which can cause problems with their writing and spelling ability in the longer term.

Dysgraphia Diagnosis

The process of gaining a diagnosis will be a different experience for children than it is for adults. A psychologist or a mental health professional may be asked to assess a child’s school performance. It is possible that a child may be asked to take part in an IQ test, so that the assessor can gain some extra information about the individual’s intelligence level, and the way that their mind works.

The situation will be different for adults. An individual can speak to their doctor if they, or someone else, suspects symptoms of Dysgraphia. At this stage, the person may be asked to write a few lines on some paper, so that the doctor can observe how difficult the individual finds spelling and writing. The individual’s writing technique may also be assessed, to see if there is any indication of aches or pains in the hand or wrist, or an unusual direction of the wrist during writing.

Another method of assessment may be to ask an individual to read some words, perhaps from a newspaper, and copy them on to a piece of paper. The idea behind this technique is to observe an individual’s ability to process language and to see how efficiently they can use the language that they’ve just read.

Why is a Dysgraphia diagnosis critical?

For children, this will provide the opportunity to arrange extra support to improve the academic experience. Getting this support in place early is critical to a child’s development.

In adults, a diagnosis provides the opportunity to take evening classes, find courses to improve their skills, or to discuss with a psychologist which area may need improvement. It may also be sensible to ask their boss at work about any areas that they feel the employee can improve, and which improved skills may be beneficial for the overall business.

why is dysgraphia diagnosis critical

FAQs

Whilst there are similarities between the two conditions, Dyslexia and Dysgraphia are not connected. Reading is often the main problem for a Dyslexic individual, whereas someone with Dysgraphia may find that writing down a word that they have just read is very difficult. It’s possible for an individual to be affected by symptoms of both conditions. During assessment, the doctor, psychologist or healthcare provider will be able to observe the symptoms and decide which condition is applicable for the individual.

It is usually advised to monitor symptoms until a child is older than 6 years old. It is possible for symptoms to become apparent before this age, but at such an early stage of development it is possible that symptoms can be temporary, or that a child is developing at a slower rate than their peers.

It is also the case that a child needs to be given time to develop their overall ability to process language, and sometimes it will be easier to assess their symptoms once they are older. It is also possible for teenagers and adults to be diagnosed, if an individual starts to experience symptoms.

Although they are different conditions, some treatments for Dyspraxia may be beneficial for an individual with Dysgraphia. There are methods and techniques available, to help an individual to improve their hand-eye coordination, which may help to improve handwriting, and allow an individual to gain an insight into easier ways to hold a pen.

Children and young people can be provided with more time during examinations at school. In class, children can be given extra support, such as someone to take notes for them. A Dictaphone, which is a device used for recording voices and sounds, can be beneficial for an individual with Dysgraphia. A special laptop or computer can also be utilised, to make writing and note taking easier.

There are many treatments available to help this condition, which will ease the symptoms. But as with other specific learning difficulties, Dysgraphia can be eased but not cured.

Conclusion

Dysgraphia is a lifelong learning difficulty, which limits an individual’s ability to process and utilise written language. The most frequently reported symptoms are handwriting which is visibly different, and possibly lower quality than their peers, and an individual may also struggle with learning to spell.

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