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Problems with writing


What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is the term used to categorise children with significant writing difficulties. It is one of three Specific Learning Disorders (along with dyslexia and dyscalculia).

Many children with dysgraphia are first noticed by teachers or caregivers during primary school. However, some students are noticed much later as their workload increases and becomes more complex in high school. 

It is common for kids to think they are "dumb" or "no good at school" as a result of these specific difficulties. However, children with dysgraphia often have normal or even superior levels of intelligence.  

Types of Dysgraphia

There are no official subtypes of dysgraphia. However, difficulties in writing may stem from various underlying causes. 

Motor Dysgraphia - illegible, messy writing is the result of impaired fine motor skills. Writing may be very slow and laboured. Poor muscle tone, dexterity, pencil grip or other physical ailment may be present. Spelling, grammar and punctuation are in tact. 

Dyslexic Dysgraphia - writing that is copied from a book or the whiteboard may appear normal but spontaneous written work is markedly poor. There are usually difficulties with sentence meaning, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Motor skills are not impaired. 

Spatial Dysgraphia - deficits in visual-spatial abilities result in untidy, illegible writing. These kids struggle to understand how objects (or letters) fit together in space. Spelling, grammar and motor skills are not an issue. 

Children may struggle with one or more of these subtypes. It is important to determine specific issues, as the treatment for each of these will be slightly different. 

Signs and symptoms

  • Untidy, messy and often illegible handwriting
  • Poor spacing and irregular letter sizes
  • Writes letters back-to-front
  • Written work doesn't make sense
  • Poor grammar, mechanics and punctuation
  • Slow, laboured writing
  • Many spelling mistakes
  • Strong aversion to written tasks
  • Complains of physical pain when writing

Purpose of assessment

It is important to identify dysgraphia as early as possible to give children the best chance at developing their written skills and to keep up with their peers.

Psychological assessment is a necessary first-step to determine the cause of your child's writing difficulties. From this, an intervention plan will be developed to guide ongoing support and improvement. 

Psychological assessment will also help to identify your child's academic strengths so that you can build on these and nurture healthy self-esteem.

Getting a diagnosis

Children's writing abilities are typically examined by psychologists as part of a wider educational assessment. These tests are usually the most valid and reliable way to determine whether a diagnosis of dysgraphia is appropriate or not. 

Specific Learning Disorders are complex. Unfortunately, there are no quick and easy checklists or online quizzes to give you an accurate diagnosis.

To learn more about getting a diagnosis click here.

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