Dysgraphia is related to dyslexia. Dysgraphia affects fine motor skills and the ability to write legibly. Like dyslexia, it is often misunderstood. Many times a child with dyslexia may do very well in school except for writing legibly, therefore it is assumed that he/she writes too quickly, is lazy, careless or does not commit too much. To further complicate the matter dysgraphia is more than just messy or illegible handwriting.
So what is dysgraphia? According to the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities.”
The most notable characteristic of dysgraphia is illegible or poor handwriting. Inconsistency with handwriting can be a part of dysgraphia. Writing may contain a mixture of print and script, upper and lower case letters, varying sizes, shapes and slant of letters. Inconsistent spacing of words, letters and margins are also common. Punctuation, spelling and syntax errors are common traits of dysgraphia. Holding the pen incorrectly such as too close to the page or holding thumb over two fingers and writing from the wrist are also signs of dysgraphia. For someone with dysgraphia the process of writing letters is a consuming task that leads to omitted letters or words. The speed of writing is also very slow. There is a large gap between written communication and ideas expressed orally.
Unlike dyslexia, dysgraphia does not directly affect the ability for written expression. Dyslexia is a language disorder while dysgraphia affects motor skills. Dysgraphia affects the process of written expression. Many children with dysgraphia are able to create and wonderful stories but the process of physically writing is so difficult and painful that written expression is hindered. Like dyslexia, dysgraphia affects all areas of the child’s academic career.
Motor dysgraphia is due to deficient fine motor skills, poor dexterity, poor muscle tone, or unspecified motor clumsiness. Letter formation may be acceptable in very short samples of writing, but this requires extreme effort and an unreasonable amount of time to accomplish, and it cannot be sustained for a significant length of time. Overall, their written work is poor to illegible even if copied by sight from another document, and drawing is difficult. Oral spelling for these individuals is normal, and their finger tapping speed is below normal. This shows that there are problems within the fine motor skills of these individuals. Writing is often slanted due to holding a pen or pencil incorrectly.
Main symptoms of dysgraphia
The symptoms to dysgraphia are often overlooked as being lazy, unmotivated, not caring, or visual-motor delays. In order to be diagnosed with dysgraphia, one must have a cluster, but not necessarily all, of the following symptoms:
- Cramping of fingers while writing short entries
- Odd wrist, arm, body, or paper orientations such as creating an L shape with your arm
- Excessive erasures
- Mixed upper case and lower case letters
- Inconsistent form and size of letters, or unfinished letters
- Misuse of lines and margins
- Inefficient speed of copying
- Inattentiveness over details when writing
- Frequent need of verbal cues
- Referring heavily on vision to write
- Poor legibility
- Handwriting abilities that may interfere with spelling and written composition
- Having a hard time translating ideas to writing, sometimes using the wrong words altogether
- May feel pain while writing
Students with dysgraphia are not unmotivated, their disability causes them emotional trauma often due to the fact that no one can read their writing and they are aware that they are not performing to the same level as their peers. Emotional problems that may occur alongside dysgraphia include impaired self-esteem, lowered self-efficacy, heightened anxiety, and depression.[ They may put in extra efforts in order to have the same achievements as their peers, but often get frustrated because they feel that their hard work does not pay off.
Dysgraphia is a hard disorder to detect as it does not affect specific ages, gender, or intelligence.The main concern in trying to detect dysgraphia is that people hide their disability behind their verbal fluency because they are ashamed that they cannot achieve the same goals as their peers.Having dysgraphia is not related to a lack of cognitive ability,and it is not uncommon in intellectually gifted individuals, but due to dysgraphia their intellectual abilities are often not identified.
The stress and emotional issues that dysgraphia can cause for children should also be considered. Children with dysgraphia are often very bright and have good verbal skills. It is very frustrating to have ideas or thoughts trapped inside one’s head and being unable to express them fluently. Being asked to re-copy work and not be able to produce quality work causes frustration. It is very disconcerting for children to put forth his or her best effort and have it rejected and be labelled as slow, lazy or uncaring.
I am severely dysgraphic and for most of my life viewed myself as very poor writer. Handwriting lessons in school were pure torture. Most of my teachers from 4th grade through sixth grades believed that perfect penmanship was more important than the content. Handwriting papers with more than 3-5 errors were required to be redone. My 6th grade teacher may have done more to inhibit my abilities as a writer than any other teacher. She had a rule that any paper with more than 3 cross-outs or errors was not acceptable and would often be ripped up in front of the class and trashed. She seemed to delight in destroying my papers in front of the class. Her rationale for this was that if I had to redo enough papers I would learn to be neat. According to this teacher I would never be successful unless I learned to write neatly. What I learned was that I hated writing and would do as little of it as possible. For me a computer is the great equalizer. My keyboarding and computer skills are well above average. I am able to create wonderful looking documents with little stress. Using a computer allows me to focus on the content of what I am saying without worrying about legibility or spelling.
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