Dysgraphia Explained

Note: I originally wrote this for another blog. However, it is important part of my story.

Dysgraphia is related to dyslexia. Dysgraphia affects fine motor skills and ability to write legibly. Like dyslexia it is often misunderstood. Many times a child with dyslexia may do very well in school except for writing legibly therefore it is assumed that he/she writes too quickly, is lazy, careless or does not care. To further complicate the matter dysgraphia is more than just messy or illegible handwriting.

So what is dysgraphia? According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities.” (1)

The most notable characteristic of dysgraphia is illegible or poor handwriting. Inconsistency with handwriting is a part of dysgraphia. Writing may contain a mixture of print and script, upper and lower case letters, varying sizes, shapes and slant of letters. Inconsistent spacing of words, letters and margins are also common. Punctuation, spelling and syntax errors are common traits of dysgraphia. Holding the pen incorrectly such as too close to the page or holding thumb over two fingers and writing from the wrist are also signs of dysgraphia. For someone with dysgraphia the process of writing letters is a consuming task that leads to omitted letters or words. The speed of writing is also very slow. (2) There is a large gap between written communication and ideas expressed orally. (3)

Unlike dyslexia, dysgraphia directly affect the ability for written expression. Dyslexia is a language disorder while dysgraphia affects motor skills. Dysgraphia affects the process of written expression. Many children with dysgraphia are able to create and wonderful stories but the process of physically writing is so difficult and painful that written expression is hindered. Like dyslexia, dysgraphia affects all areas of the child’s academic career. Slow or illegible handwriting can make completing even the simplest assignment a daunting task.

The stress and emotional issues that dysgraphia can cause for children should also be considered. (4) Children with dysgraphia are often very bright and have good verbal skills. It is very frustrating to have ideas or thoughts trapped inside one’s head and being unable to express them fluently. Being asked to re-copy work and not be able to produce quality work causes frustration. It is very disconcerting for a child to put forth his or her best effort and have it rejected and be labeled slow or lazy.

I am severely dysgraphic and for most of my life viewed myself as very poor writer. Handwriting lessons in school were pure torture. Most of my teachers from 4th grade through sixth grades believed that perfect penmanship was more important than the content. Handwriting papers with more than 3-5 errors were required to be redone. My 6th grade teacher may have done more to inhibit my abilities as a writer than any other teacher. She had a rule that any paper with more than 3 cross-outs or errors was not acceptable and would often be ripped up in front of the class and trashed. She seemed to delight in destroying my papers in front of the class. Her rationale for this was that if I had to redo enough papers I would learn to be neat. According to this teacher I would never be successful unless I learned to write neatly. What I learned was that I hated writing and would do as little of it as possible. For me a computer is the great equalizer. My keyboarding and computer skills are well above average. I am able to create wonderful looking documents with little stress. Using a computer allows me to focus on the content of what I am saying without worrying about legibility or spelling.

1. National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “NINDS Dysgraphia Information Page” [http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dysgraphia/dysgraphia.htm].

2. Ed Keller, webmaster. “Dysgraphia” [http://www.as.wvu.edu/~scidis/dysgraphia.html]

3. National Center for Learning Disabilities. “Dysgraphia” [http://www.ncld.org/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=468]

4. International Dyslexia Association. “Just the Facts … Dysgraphia” [http://www.interdys.org/fact%20sheets/Dysgraphia%20FS%20N.pdf]