One’s ability to communicate in written words is essential. As children, it is not unusual for them to face some difficulties when it comes to learning or perfecting penmanship. However, if the distorted handwriting persists alongside other challenges with fine motor skills, there might be a need for assessment.
What is Dysgraphia?
It is a neurological disorder that affects the fine motor skills needed in writing.
It is characterized by poor penmanship, odd spelling, a mixture of capital and small letters among others. While it affects children, it can affect adults as well. Cases of dysgraphia in adults are usually a result of brain injury or trauma.
Myths of Dysgraphia
When it comes to learning disabilities, there are lots of misconceptions. Without the right information, it would be difficult supporting one with dysgraphia.
Below are some myths about dysgraphia and writing difficulties.
Myth: People with dysgraphia are not intellectually sound.
Fact: Learning disability is not a result of poor intelligence, and dysgraphia is no exception. In fact, kids with dysgraphia have the same range of intelligence as other kids. They just struggle with writing down on paper what they know.
Myth: People with messy handwriting have dysgraphia.
Fact: Not all people with dysgraphia have poor, hard-to-read penmanship. It’s also possible to have neat handwriting even with dysgraphia.
Other characteristics of dysgraphia are cramped grip, slow and laboured writing, inappropriately spaced letters and words, poor spelling.
Myth: Dysgraphia is the same as dyslexia.
Fact: Although dysgraphia and dyslexia can affect a learner’s spelling ability, they are different.
Unlike dyslexia, dysgraphia affects motor skills.
Myth 3: Students with dysgraphia are just being lazy.
Fact: Most learners with dysgraphia work as hard as their peers. The problem is that they struggle to put things down in written form and as a result, they become slow and even with much effort, they end up writing something else which could be frustrating for them.
Some learners become discouraged and may continuously avoid assignments which might look like laziness. Rather than compare them with peers, it is advisable to help out.
Myth: With time, learners will outgrow dysgraphia.
Fact: There’s no cure for dysgraphia. It stays with the learner for life, although there are ways that can help subsidize the effects.
Although they aren’t any proven reason why dysgraphia happens in children, research has shown that it is usually a result of a problem with orthographic coding. Orthographic coding is the ability to remember written words in working memory while linking them to their pronunciation and meaning and the way your hands or fingers must move to write those words.
People with dysgraphia usually have a hard time writing letters, words and sentences because the brain has problems processing words and writing.
Dysgraphia in adults is usually caused by stroke or brain injury. It could also be a result of dysgraphia that was not treated in childhood.
Signs and Symptoms of Dysgraphia.
Messy handwriting isn’t enough to conclude that one has dysgraphia. Other symptoms include:
- Problem with spacing letters and words correctly.
- Irregular letter sizes and shapes.
- Cramped grip which leads to Pain at different points in the hand.
- Writing very fast and carelessly to finish tasks quickly.
- Problem holding and controlling a writing tool.
- Frequent erasing.
- Slow, laboured writing.
- Poor spelling and capitalization.
- Omitting letters and words from sentences.
- Consistently watching hands while writing.
- Writing grammatically incorrect sentences.
- Reading words aloud while writing.
- Struggle to use writing as a communications tool.
- Usage of wrong words or words that do not exist.
Some effects of dysgraphia are lowself-esteem and anxiety, lack of confidence, negative attitudes toward school. These effects usually occur as a result of an inconducive environment.
Dysgraphia vs. dyslexia Many confuse dysgraphia for dyslexia but it shouldn’t be so. Dyslexia is a reading disorder while dysgraphia is a writing disorder although people with dyslexia may
have challenges with their writing and spelling.
It’s possible to have both learning disabilities, yet it’s important to be diagnosed before administering treatment.
Messy penmanship isn’t enough to tag a learner with dysgraphia, no one can be diagnosed unless he has gone through series of evaluations carried out by qualified personnel or specialists.
A licensed psychologist trained in learning disorders can diagnose dysgraphia through academic and writing tests to measure their ability.
Dysgraphia has no cure although there are treatments that can help subsidize the effects.
Here are some things you can try:
- Acknowledge your child’s condition and talk to him/her about it.
- Teach and encourage them to relieve stress before and while writing like shaking or rubbing hands together.
- Introduce the use of pencil grips and other writing aids.
- Encourage the use of a computer to type instead of writing.
- Encourage don’t criticize sloppy work. Praise and reinforce hard work.
Activities that can help Learners with Dysgraphia
To help people with dysgraphia, try some of these activities.
Large Writing. Since learners with dysgraphia have trouble remembering how to form letters correctly. One way to make the process of writing letters memorable is by allowing learners to write in ways that they can use large motor movements. As they improve, they would be taught to adjust.
- Feel the letters.
Research has proven that activities that promote the feeling of concepts learnt aids memory.
Some of the activities include:
- Using your finger to trace letters on your child’s back or palm. Also, allow him to do the same.
- They can practice writing letters in cream, soapy foam or sand.
- Develop fine motor skills.
Holding a pencil properly is challenging for some learners with dysgraphia.
Engaging them in skills that would help develop their fine motor skill would be of help. Some of these skills include:
- Pegging: Allow them to peg around a bowl for practice. Continuous movements of the fingers help strengthen finger muscles.
- Beading: Here, you could start with bigger beads and reduce the sizes as they get better.
- Pinching: The fingers can be strengthened using pinching games like picking pieces of cereal or selecting rice from a mixture of beans.
- It is a neurological disorder that affects the fine motor skills needed in writing. It makes it hard for a child to do handwriting tasks.
- Dysgraphia isn’t a result of low intelligence.
- Dysgraphia is caused by problems in orthographic coding in children and brain injury in adults.
- There is no cure for dysgraphia although it can be managed.