Dysgraphia is a learning disability that causes people to have extreme difficulty with writing. It is a neurologically based processing disorder. Children with dysgraphia can have other learning disabilities as well, including dyslexia, Asperger's syndrome or attention deficit disorder. Poor handwriting does not necessarily mean that a child has dysgraphia. So, what other behaviors should you look for?
Younger Student Behaviors
When students are learning to write, they are simultaneously working on their fine motor skills and on their language skills. This can be challenging for any student, so pay close attention to writing behaviors if you are concerned about dysgraphia. Children with dysgraphia will have a tight, awkward pencil grip and body position while creating poorly formed letters, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. The center reports that they also avoid writing and drawing tasks, mix up lower and upper case letters, have difficulty staying on the lines or in the margins and have inconsistent spacing between letters and words.
Older Student Behaviors
Students in the intermediate and upper elementary grades exhibit different behaviors when they have dysgraphia. Their handwriting might be illegible or a mixture of cursive and print letters, according to the National Center for Learning Disabilities. According to the center, children with dysgraphia will concentrate so hard on writing that they will say words aloud while writing or be so focused on the task that they won't comprehend what they're writing. These children also tend to omit words in sentences or fail to finish the words in sentences.
Types of Dysgraphic Behavior
The International Dyslexia Association lists three main types of dysgraphic behavior. Dyslexic dysgraphia is present when spontaneously written text is illegible and spelling is poor, but drawings and copied text are within the normal range. With motor dysgraphia, both spontaneously written text and copied text are illegible, but drawings and spoken spelling are relatively normal. In spatial dysgraphia, children struggle with any kind of writing or drawing, but spoken spelling is within normal limits. The association reports that many variations can exist within those broad types.
Help for Dysgraphic Behavior
Strategies can help children's dysgraphia behaviors. The International Dyslexia Association stresses the importance of teaching young children to form letters correctly and extensive practice for older children to improve kinesthetic memory. It also recommends practicing specific fine motor exercises recommended by a specialist, usually an occupational therapist. Children with dysgraphia should be encouraged to learn how to use word processors and be tested through oral or visual means when possible, according to LD Online, a learning disabilities website. Younger students should use paper with raised lines to help staying within the margins and practicing letters through multisensory approaches, such as tracing them in the air or in shaving cream on the desk.