Are you frustrated because you’ve tried to help but they still struggle with writing?
And maybe you’re a bit confused because your child may seem very intelligent. They just have trouble with writing, and you wonder why.
When children are intelligent, but they struggle with writing, they are often accused of just being sloppy or lazy. But that might not be the real reason.
Have you ever heard of dysgraphia? Most people haven’t. But it’s actually very common. Probably just as common as dyslexia or dyscalculia.
Does your child have trouble with writing. Maybe their writing is slow, they have sloppy handwriting, or they just have trouble gathering their thoughts to get them down on paper?
Dysgraphia is a processing disorder that affects written expression. In other words, trouble with writing.
Trouble with writing?
Writing is a complex process. It involves language processing, visual-spatial processing, and fine motor skills. Trouble in any of these areas can cause dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia is usually separated into three types. These are dyslexia dysgraphia, motor dysgraphia, and spatial dysgraphia. But of course, as with all specific learning disabilities, there can be a crossover between these types, because all of the parts of the brain work together and affect one another.
Let’s cover the types of dysgraphia individually
The first, dyslexia dysgraphia, occurs when the underlying cause is most related to language processing. The student with this type of dysgraphia, just like the other types, may or may not also have dyslexia.
Children with this type of dysgraphia may have trouble organizing their thoughts to write. They may have sequencing problems so they’ll have trouble getting the parts of a story in order or have trouble with logic. This may also affect working memory and attention. They may be experiencing auditory processing difficulties. Or they may have difficulty with orthographic coding, meaning they struggle with remembering what each word or letter looks like and how the hand must move to write them.
In this type of dysgraphia, they may say things like “I don’t know what to write” or “I don’t know where to start”. They may use the wrong words to express what they mean. Or miss words altogether.
Organizing their ideas may be difficult so they may have lots of run-on sentences and may go off on tangents a lot in their writing. Although they have trouble expressing their ideas in written form they may be able to express them well verbally. There can be a huge difference between their verbal communication and their written communication.
A clue that a child may have this type of dysgraphia is that their handwriting may be very sloppy but when they copy or draw they show no signs of problems. They may also have trouble with spelling
The second type is motor dysgraphia. This is caused by poor fine motor skills. In this type, they will have sloppy handwriting and they will also be sloppy when copying or drawing but generally will not have trouble in spelling. If they slow down and give extreme effort they can be neater in their work but this takes so much effort that it detracts from other processing. Such as processing what the teacher is saying while taking notes. So can cause other learning difficulties
In this type, you may notice that your child has difficulty with pencil grip. They may grab it too high or too low or in an unusual way. They may squeeze too hard. They may orient their body in a strange way to adjust to the grip and their hand will likely fatigue quickly when writing. And because they are working so hard in general, they may fatigue quickly so they may not be able to finish tasks well.
They may also rip the paper when writing and generally will erase a lot.
Thirdly there is spatial dysgraphia. This is caused by poor visual-spatial skills. In this type, they may have trouble staying between the lines on writing paper. They may have difficulty with keeping even spacing between letters and between words. They may have trouble with visual discrimination which will cause them to have difficulty telling the difference between some letters and some numbers. They may even have difficulty discriminating between certain shapes.
In this type, letters may overlap and it may be difficult to tell where one word ends and another begins. They may indiscriminately mix upper and lower case letters.
Is Writing Draining?
Dysgraphia can be physically painful and mentally draining. Students may seem lazy, or rushed, or sloppy but this is just because they are working so hard. They may be told to “just write neat” or “just try harder”. This may cause them to begin to believe that they are lazy, not just because they have been labeled as lazy but also because of the fatigue they experience.
Dysgraphia affects all subjects. There are several reasons for this. Such as, students may have difficulty getting homework done because they are having trouble getting ideas down on paper. They may be overly stressed because of their problem and if you’ve watched our other videos you know how badly stress can affect learning.
Students may have trouble taking notes and they may be concentrating so much on the notes that they miss much of what is said. And then there is math. Math requires neatness as well as legibility. If the page is a mess then it’s pretty likely the math will be wrong because of numbers not being lined up properly or just being illegible. Or the teacher may just mark them down because of it being illegible. In math, teachers like to see the work to know if the student understands the process.
Dysgraphia, like it’s cousin, dyslexia, affects everything.
How to Help with Dysgraphia
Let’s talk about some things you can do to help someone with dysgraphia.
You can use raised-line paper. This is paper in which the lines are raised enough that you can feel them when writing. This adds a tactile element to staying between the lines and can help a student practice.
You can use paper that has large spaced lines and then move to paper with smaller spacing.
Another thing that may help is to give them an assortment of pencil grips or different pencils and let them choose what feels good to them.
Of course, a good occupational therapist can help if you have access to one. So you might check into finding a good occupational therapist.
Training in cursive writing can be very helpful; some even go so far as to train in calligraphy. The smoothness of cursive will help to develop fine motor skills. And many people claim that they think better when writing in cursive. There seems to be a connection, not only with fine motor skills, but also in organizing thoughts. There doesn’t seem to be any research around that connection but it’s a very common experience for many people. Many self-help professionals recommend journaling for that reason. Cursive will also help with spacing and can develop fine motor skills.
For students having trouble with taking notes, you may consider accommodations as a stopgap. So they don’t get behind in class. This could be recording audio or even speech-to-text software or devices.
And it’s important to reassure the student that no matter what type of dysgraphia they have that they can improve. Help them develop confidence and a growth mindset to set them down the path of improvement.
You might not know that the best-selling author of all time, Agatha Christie, had dysgraphia. That’s right. As a child she was described as slow and had a difficult time with writing but went on to have her 66 novels, 14 short stories, and longest-running play only be outsold by the Bible and Shakespeare. Not bad right?
There is a path to success. To go down that path and really help your child, help them build up all of the fundamental underlying cognitive micro-skills and motor skills. Skills such as auditory and visual discrimination, auditory and visual closure, auditory and visual memory, and of course visual-spatial skills. The best way to do that is with the Learning Success System and you can get a free trial by clicking here.
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