Dysgraphia explained

What is dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is the specific learning disorder of written expression that impacts a persons writing abilities in the areas of spelling, punctuation, and the construction of fluent, expressive writing. It affects children and adults, and is often described as a difficulty in getting your thoughts and ideas out of your head and down onto paper.

One of the confusing factors of dysgraphia is that it has just recently been differentiated from the physical aspects of difficulty with handwriting, such as fine and gross motor skills. It is now understood that difficulties with handwriting due to an impairment in motor coordination is a specific element of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), previously known as dyspraxia.

In order to understand dysgraphia, it can be helpful to think of it in terms of “the writing version of dyslexia”.

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What are the warning signs of dysgraphia?

It is important not to confuse things like every day messy handwriting or difficulty with spelling as potential dysgraphia, however there are some possible indicators that may be worth looking into.

  • Letter reversals
  • Inconsistent use of upper and lower case letters
  • Difference between verbal and written expression where the content and organisation of written work is far more limited than what can be produced verbally
  • Difficulty completing writing tasks in time

Whether or not a person has dysgraphia, any of these types of indicators can benefit from supportive intervention.

How is dysgraphia diagnosed?

Dysgraphia can be diagnosed by a psychologist who specialises in assessing for learning difficulties. This process will involve assessing a number of areas of cognitive ability and levels of achievement in order to determine whether or not a person has a profile of cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses consistent with dysgraphia.

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Once a diagnosis of dysgraphia has been confirmed, now the real work can begin. There is a broad variety of intervention supports that can be provided in order to assist a person to make progress in the areas that they are having difficulty with.

These supports can include additional school-based support, tutoring, speech and occupational therapy around literacy, and educational psychology intervention. The psychologist that provides the diagnosis will be able to provide specific recommendations on what types of targeted supports will benefit an individuals requirements most.