People usually don’t think of dysgraphia as a learning disability. Parents may reason that "Writing is just difficult for my child," or "My child has poor handwriting, but so do doctors."
Yet, dysgraphia is real and the sooner we consider it a learning problem and deal with it as such, the sooner we can deal with it in a positive manner.
Dysgraphia, by definition, is a learning disability resulting from the difficulty in expressing thoughts in writing and graphing. It generally refers to extremely poor handwriting. If the handwriting is so poor and difficult for the student to perform, is the learning disability a result of the handwriting, or are they connected at all?
I have found that working on a student’s handwriting first, and then working on the mechanics of writing next, is the most successful method of dealing with this disability.
Most students who have learning problems or learning disabilities also have dysgraphia. These kids usually have sequencing and perceptual problems, poor fine motor skills, and poor eye/hand coordination whish may be the result of cross dominance.
If you are in your 40’s as I am, you will recall very few kids in our day with poor handwriting. It just wasn’t allowed. The teachers literally beat the method into us one way or another.
When we loosened our standards on the kids as far as handwriting goes, it seemed to open a Pandora’s Box. Students now have terrible handwriting, and nobody does anything about it.
Should we go back to “beating” this into the kids again? Probably not. But, we certainly need to spend the time on these kids to make handwriting easy and legible. We need to lessen one more obstacle in their paths, as they are up against so much.
Better handwriting makes a huge difference
A teacher has to make a judgment on every paper that crosses her desk. Don’t we just love those papers from girls where the cursive is flowing, the writing is legible, the words are spelled correctly, and everything makes sense? It is easy to put an A grade on this paper.
Throw in a paper from a guy with learning problems and dysgraphia, and A’s are hard to give out. The content may even be better than the girl’s paper, but by the time the teacher is done trying to decipher what is written on the page, she is exhausted. Compare it to the other paper and it is easy to see why one paper gets an A and the other gets an F. Some papers may actually deserve a higher grade, but the teacher forms a subjective opinion, especially on essays.
Symptoms of dysgraphia
The student with dysgraphia is up against a lot. Following is a list of symptoms of dysgraphia:
- Strong verbal skills but poor writing skills
- Punctuation errors that are random or non-existent
- Spelling errors
- Generally illegible writing
- Inconsistencies such as mixtures of print and cursive or upper and lower case letters
- Irregular sizes, shapes, and slants of letters
- Unfinished words or letters and omitted words in writing
- Inconsistent position on the page – spaces between words and letters – lines and margins
- Cramped or unusual pencil grip
- Talking to self while writing
- Slow or labored copying or writing