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What is dysgraphia?
What are the symptoms of dysgraphia?
- Poor handwriting, including:
- Illegible words
- Poorly formed letters
- Letters inconsistently and incorrectly spaced on the line, letters from one word being closer to the following word (e.g. T h e boy w e n t h ome).
- Letters and words drifting above and below the line.
- Difficulty coping information, such as maps and diagrams.
What other problems can dysgraphia cause?
For students with dysgraphia, because the physical act of writing requires so much effort and thought, it can leave less “brain power” left over for the more difficult parts of the task, like thinking about the point one wants to make, sentence structure, word choice, capitalization, punctuation, etc. To make an analogy, when you first learned how to drive a car, you probably could not drive and have a conversation at the same time. Because it was new to you, you probably had to devote all your attention to what you were doing – steering, looking in your mirrors, signaling, etc., with no attention leftover to focus on a conversation. This is similar to what a person with dysgraphia experiences when writing. S/he has to think so much about what his or her fingers are doing (something that should be automatic and require little conscious thought), it leaves less mental energy left over to think about the writing process itself.
Dysgraphia also can cause computational errors in math, as the student misidentifies numbers s/he wrote or mis-aligns columns of numbers when solving multi-digit computations.
Finally, because dysgraphia makes handwriting so laborious and burdensome for the student, it also often increases fatigue, frustration, and resistance to writing.
How can I help my child with dysgraphia?
Children with dysgraphia can receive Occupational Therapy to improve their handwriting, to learn typing, and to receive help with other fine motor difficulties they may be experiencing. Assistive Technology can support poor handwriting with applications such as voice to text programs. Children with dysgraphia also may qualify for classroom and examination modifications and accommodations, such as: use of special pencil grips, permission to use the writing utensil with which the student feels most comfortable, use of a word processor, use of graph paper to align math problems, use of graphic organizers, extra space to write responses, no penalty for sloppy handwriting, no penalty for correct answers written in the incorrect location, opportunity to clarify illegible responses, increased time to complete assignments requiring handwriting or typing, reduced handwriting / copying demands, copy of class notes, examinations scribed, extended time on examinations, no scantron / permission to record answers in test booklet, and others.