Dysgraphia plainly means difficulty expressing thoughts into writing. It may be identified as "disorder of written expression". Students with Dysgraphia usually have sequencing problems, that is they typically have reversals of letters and numbers, writing words backwards, writing letters out of order and sloppy handwriting. They tend to have difficulty with the mechanics of writing (spelling, punctuation) and often get "stuck" on the details which means they regularly lose the thoughts they are trying to write about.

Symptoms include poor writing skills but strong verbal skills, punctuation that is random or non-existent, illegible writing, spelling errors, and disordered numbering.

If not caught early, dysgraphia can limit writing ability, limit a person's creativity, and even affect their self-esteem.

Common treatment methods consist of handwriting practice, spending more time on written tasks, using manuscript writing in place of cursive writing, and using tablets/computers.

Symptoms of Dysgraphia:

  • Strong verbal skills but poor writing skills
  • Generally illegible handwriting
  • Avoiding writing or drawing tasks
  • Tiring quickly while writing
  • Inconsistencies: mixture of print & cursive, upper & lower case, or irregular sizes, shapes, or slant of letters
  • Reversals & syllable omissions
  • Unfinished words or letters & omitted words
  • Slow or labored copying
  • Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
  • Inconsistent spacing of letters and words
  • Difficulty organizing thoughts on paper

Students with a written language disorder will benefit from specific accommodations in the learning environment, as well as additional practice learning the skills required to be a proficient writer. 

Recommended Strategies

Susan Jones, M.Ed., author of Accommodations and Modi cations for Students with Handwriting Problems and/or Dysgraphia (Learning Disabilities OnLine-www.ldonline.org), explains that children with writing problems need accommodations, changes in assignments and expectations, and direct instruction.

Listed below are examples she recommends for teachers:

  • Let’s begin with accommodations for changing the demands of writing rate:
  • Allow more time for written tasks including note taking, copying, and tests.
  • Enable students to begin assignments early.
  • Encourage keyboarding skills to increase speed and legibility of written work.

Next, think about “adjusting the volume” of work:

  • Instead of writing a complete set of notes, provide a partially completed outline so the student can ll in details under major headings, or provide details and have the student provide the headings.
  • Enable the student to dictate to another individual (a scribe).
  • Remove neatness and/or spelling as a grading criteria for some assignments giving consideration to the purpose.

Consider changing the complexity of work the child must complete.

  • Provide a writing binder that includes models for forming letters and templates for written formats.
  • Break writing into stages and use the computer to revise assignments. Print out rough drafts in order to show the difference with and without revisions.
  • Use a spellchecker.

Use different writing tools to accommodate the physical aspects of writing:

  • Allow students to use graph paper for math, or to turn lined paper sideways to help with lining up columns of numbers.
  • Allow students to use a writing instrument that is most comfortable for them, such as mechanical pencils or a pencil grip.
  • Enable the child to use word processing on tablets.
  • Consider using speech recognition software, if the student is willing to invest the time to learn it.

Modify or change assignments or expectations to meet a student’s needs:

  • Reduce the amount of copying on assignments and tests. Let the student answer in phrases or words.
  • Decrease the length of written assignments; stress quality over quantity.
  • Use different grading procedures for written assignments; on some grammar may not count, on others spelling may not count.
  • Develop cooperative writing projects.
  • Work on structuring assignments and due dates with students and parents.
  • Offer an alternative project, such as an oral report or visual project.
  • Use a rubric or grid to guide expectations.
  • Provide models for paragraph and essay formats.

Children with dysgraphia benefit from direct instruction or remediation.

  • Build handwriting instruction into the student’s schedule.
  • Provide occupational therapy or other special education services based on the child’s individual needs.
  • Teach alternative handwriting methods, such as “Handwriting Without Tears.”

The ultimate goal is to help students with dysgraphia write without conscious effort. When a student is able to write automatically, he or she can think and develop ideas effortlessly, solve problems, and develop an individual writing style. It is also important to acknowledge the struggle students with dysgraphia experience and affirm their hard work. With appropriate help, your student can learn to write more easily and feel better about being in school.