Overcoming Dysgraphia: How to Help Children with Writing Difficulties

Studies have shown that dysgraphia is present in 10-30% of children at the elementary school level.  

Dysgraphia is mistakenly perceived as an issue that only affects writing, when it’s actually so much more than that. Trouble using scissors, buttoning clothes, tying shoes, or using a fork, are also signs of this learning condition. 

In the following piece, we will approach every aspect of dysgraphia – what it is, how it affects your child, and how it differs from other language disorders. We’ll also give you some tips and tricks to help you support dysgraphic learners, whether you’re a teacher or a parent. 

What is dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a highly genetic learning difference associated with disabled writing. This means that children with this condition have difficulties when it comes to spelling words in writing, and the speed of writing text. Dysgraphia can be reflected through impaired handwriting, impaired spelling (with no reading issues), or both impaired writing and spelling. 

What has to be mentioned is that the intelligence of children with dysgraphia is not affected. They can express themselves very well orally; they only have trouble when it comes to transferring their ideas to the page. However, with proper guidance and qualified teachers, children can still succeed academically. 

What signs should you look out for?

Dysgraphic learners balk at the idea of writing, because it triggers anxiety and emotional stress. Parents and teachers tend to associate these reactions with laziness or lack of motivation, when it’s actually an inability to express themselves in writing as well as they do orally. 

You can spot dysgraphia by observing not only the children’s writing, but also their behavior. They usually keep their wrist and paper in awkward positions, and they have an unusual pencil grip. They get tired very quickly and complain about their hand hurting. When it comes to the actual content, the letters are poorly formed, and they often skip words and fail to finish words. They also mix lowercase and capital letters in sentences, have poor spatial planning on paper, and find it hard to follow grammar and spelling rules in writing. Punctuation is another issue they struggle with. Although they are very skilled when it comes to expressing ideas verbally, they create the minimum content if they have to put their thoughts on paper.

Dysgraphia vs. dyslexia – what are the differences?

The International Dyslexia Association states that ‘children with impaired handwriting may also have attention-deficit disorder (ADHD)– inattentive, hyperactive, or combined inattentive and hyperactive subtypes.’ So, dysgraphia can occur by itself, or in children who also struggle with other language based learning difficulties, such as ADHD or dyslexia.

What is dyslexia?

In another article, we talked about dyslexia in children – how to recognize it and what to do about it. This condition is reflected in a child’s poor reading skills – pace, fluency, and comprehension of what they have read. There are several types of dyslexia, which can also involve spelling difficulties and issues with recalling words and phrases on the spot.  

Why is dysgraphia mistaken for dyslexia?

Dysgraphia is sometimes mistaken or associated with dyslexia, because the two learning differences have a few things in common:

  • Children with dyslexia and dysgraphia tend to skip tasks involving writing or reading, to avoid being judged by their parents, teachers, or peers. That is because their confidence and self-esteem are hypersensitive. 
  • Both dyslexic and dysgraphic learners create written content that is below their ability level. More often than not, it’s the spelling, vocabulary, and grammar that are poor.
  • Children also find it difficult to organize their ideas and put them on paper. Because some dyslexic children also have visual dyslexia, they might struggle with letter formation, which is a sign of dysgraphia, as well.

How can we help children with dysgraphia?

Fortunately, dysgraphia in children can be overcome through patience, guidance, and assistive technology. What’s crucial in this process is to reduce their workload when it comes to writing, give them more time for each task, and focus on quality over quantity. Placing more pressure on the child won’t help them ‘get over it,’ so let’s see how you can manage dysgraphic learners if you’re an educator or a parent.

In the classroom

Paying attention to your students’ needs is one of the first criteria to overcome any language learning difficulty. Here’s what you should do If you notice any signs of dysgraphia in a child:

  • First and foremost, do not emphasize that there’s a dysgraphic colleague in the classroom. This will only lower their self-esteem and worsen the learning process.
  • Do not force them into writing on the board.
  • Reduce the amount of writing you expect them to produce, while offering more time to complete the task.
  • Integrate assistive technologies, such as tablets and other interactive devices, to allow dictation and lecture recording.
  • Pair the dysgraphic child with a colleague in charge of the writing part.
  • Include multiple choice options at quizzes, instead of short answer questions. 
  • Allow them to take the exams orally.

At home

If your kid has dysgraphia, you can do things to help them thrive at home, too. Specific materials and technologies are key components here. 

Dysgraphic children do much better writing on tablets, because they can reorganize and edit their work easier. With a keyboard, they won’t complain about their wrist or hand hurting because there won’t be a pen to grip. 

However, there will be times when they won’t have access to a laptop, so don’t neglect overcoming their difficulty to write on paper. Try procuring you child:

  • a specific type of textured paper that stops the pen from slipping;
  • lined and graph paper that can guide with letter formation;
  • writing tools that make note-taking less painful;
  • thicker markers, since they are easier to hold.

You can always also download games meant to help your child improve letter formation, vocabulary, and word arrangement.

If you suspect your child might be struggling with dysgraphia, reach out to the Da Vinci Collaborative team and let us help you overcome this challenge. Our counselors have been working for years now with children suffering from dyslexia, autism, ADHD, and other conditions, so they are more than ready to give you all the support you need. Contact us if you have any questions!

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