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Teaching English to Dysgraphic Learners

This page deals with the learning difficulty known as dysgraphia. You will find a brief description of the learning difficulty as well as an explanation of how it differs from dyslexia. The page also describes three types of dysgraphia and offers a list of signs and symptoms that teachers, parents and students can watch for. It is written specifically for English language teachers, but may be of interest to educators and parents in general. See also: Dysgraphia Interview
dysgraphia (noun): inability to physically write coherently as a symptom of brain damage or disease. DERIVATIVES: dysgraphic—adjective

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia [dis-gra-fee-uh] is a learning disability that makes it difficult for a person to handwrite and organize written expression. Dysgraphia is not related to one's ability to read, nor is it related to a person's intelligence. The word dysgraphia comes from the Greek word dys meaning difficulty and graph meaning writing letters. The suffix -ia refers to it being a condition. For a person with dysgraphia, the difficulty is in the production of letters, words and sometimes even thoughts on a page.

dysgraphia tweet

As children learn to read and write, the production of letters and words should gradually become automatic. When this does not happen after a few years of instruction, a child is sometimes tested to see if a learning disorder is present. Tests may show that the muscle movement or visual spacial development required for writing may be impeded due to a neurological problem known as dysgraphia. The child's sloppy, often illegible, handwriting is usually the first sign.

How Dysgraphia Differs from Dyslexia

Dyxlexia and dysgraphia are both learning disabilities related to language. Both language difficulties are neurological. Those who suffer from dyslexia have difficulty processing reading, while those with dysgraphia have difficulty producing writing. In some cases, people suffer from both dyslexia and dysgraphia. Other learning difficulties such as speech impairment and ADD may also be present. While many kids with learning disabilities have trouble handwriting, dysgraphia can, and often does, exist in isolation.

Types of Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia refers generally to a difficulty in writing. However, there are three main types of dysgraphia that result from different neurological weaknesses. Some people have a combination of all three types. Others suffer from only one type. It is important to identify the specific type of dysgraphia that a student suffers from in order to know which coping strategies will work best. The expectations of a teacher, parent, and student can change when a diagnosis is made.

  1. Spatial Dysgraphia: In this case, the person has difficulty with spacing and organization when writing. Letters or numbers will all blend together, and the person will have trouble writing in a straight line. Drawing is also difficult. This student may spell orally without difficulty.
  2. Motor Dysgraphia: For this type the problem lies solely in fine motor skills related to muscle movement. This person will likely have trouble writing letters and drawing lines, shapes, or pictures due to improper pencil grip and arm positioning. This student may spell orally without difficulty. Other fine motor skills may not be affected.
  3. Dyslexic Dysgraphia: The true problem here lies in the dyslexia, and the processing of language. Copied text typically appears quite normal, but text that is written spontaneously may be illegible. Oral spelling is likely problematic as well. The dyslexia causes the dysgraphia.

Symptoms and Warning Signs of Dysgraphia

There is more to dysgraphia than simply poor handwriting. If a student displays very poor handwriting in addition to a number of the following symptoms and warning signs, a test for dysgraphia may be a good idea:

Strategies for Coping with Dysgraphia

See also: Dysgraphia Interview

Useful links

Written for EnglishClub by: Tara Benwell