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Does my Child Have Dysgraphia?

Girl writingAt the risk of causing a controversy, I am going to tell you what I think dysgraphia is! The reason I say this is controversial is that the definition of dysgraphia has changed through the years, and I disagree with the direction it took.

Dysgraphia is a neurological problem. People who are dysgraphic do not have fine motor control of their fingers; therefore they cannot write legibly. They cannot control the pencil and make it do what they need it to do.

If a child writes poorly after they have been taught how to write, they are often incorrectly labeled dysgraphic. But, many children are not ready to learn to write at the point they are taught how. I believe this especially to be true of boys who developmentally are not ready to sit down and concentrate on forming their letters correctly. I have personally witnessed many of these children learn how to write quite legibly in middle and upper school. This is because they are developmentally ready to learn when they are older. Dysgraphic people cannot learn how to write legibly because they do not have the ability to control the muscles involved in their hand.

If you have an older child who does not write legibly, it is possible that they can still learn if given proper instruction. I’ll write about that "proper instruction" very soon!

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#10 Livia McCoy 2013-06-04 17:36
Dear Angela,
Your daughter is certainly struggling with her handwriting, spelling, muscle cramps, and blisters. Her frustration and pain is a sign that she needs help. It is probably a good idea to ask for her to be evaluated again. If she does not have dysgraphia, then they need to figure out what her problem is. You have a right to ask for her to be tested and the school system has to respond to your request. You could also speak to your family physician to find out if there is something other than dysgraphia going on. I would definitely try to get some help figuring out what her problem is. Students should not have pain like this when they are writing. Sometimes, parents have to be persistent in asking for help. If these avenues do not help her, then you may need to take her yourself to an occupational therapist for further testing. In the meantime, she could try typing her work at a computer. I would speak to the school counselor, special education services, or the principal right away.
#9 Angela 2013-06-04 05:59
Hello i think my 12 year old daughter has dysgraphia but I'm not sure she is very bright and she loves to write she has awful hand writing her teachers say her handwrighting is worst then a 2nd grader she gets frustrated and she has terrible spelling and always for gets a letter in a word or her sentences don't make scence and she spaces her words a lot from each other words she only uses small pencils and gets cramps and blisters on her fingers she was tested in 3rd grade for dysgraphia and she tested negative but I still think there Is something wrong

So please help
#8 Livia McCoy 2013-02-02 22:49
Dear JennyC,
I am sorry I did not see your post earlier. Dysgraphic people have difficulty with fine motor control (like writing and tying shoes). They often have no difficulty with gross motor (larger muscle) control, like playing baseball and playing computer games. Your son is correctly labeled as dysgraphic, and I certainly did not mean to imply that dysgraphia does not exist. However, I have seen many children labeled as dysgraphic who later turned out not to be because of the reasons I mentioned in the blog. You are correct that dysgraphic people can learn to write legibly, but it often takes so much energy to do so that what they are trying to write suffers. These people do better if they can type on a computer which moves the task to larger muscles in the hand. You obviously are a wonderful parent and have gotten exactly what your child needs to be able to succeed in school.
#7 Livia McCoy 2013-02-02 22:36
Mrs. Ghio,
Thank you for commenting. I am sorry your son is having so much trouble in school. It sounds as if the school is trying to help figure out what is causing his problems. It is possible that his writing could improve as he gets older. He is pretty young and some children do better when they are a little older. However, I would encourage you to see if the school can provide the OT for him to help him through this learning. You might also want to talk to his doctor to see if he has attention issues. Since he has difficulty staying seated even when doing things he really likes (like playing on the computer or eating his dinner), it is possible that attention is part of his school difficulties. You might also want to make sure he has an IEP in place at school. These plans will make a list of what help he will receive (like the OT) and how they will know that he is improving. What you want to avoid is having him get to the point where he really hates going to school because too much of it is hard for him. Please talk to the school psychologist or Director of Special Education at his school to discuss his continuing needs. Don't give up on getting the help he needs. Best of luck!
#6 Kerry 2013-01-30 20:46
My 8 yr old son still has problems with his handwriting though it has improved a bit he still struggles.
Some problems include: improper pencil grip ; letters and number reversal; uneven letter size ; inappropriate spacing between letters and words; and improperly formed letters. My son also has trouble with spelling. We study them together and he struggles but in the end he gets it but when he goes to school and does the test he gets most of them wrong. He also struggles to concentrate and gets easily distracted and he can also distract others he finds it very hard to seat still teachers at school have had to use a timer to complete his work even at home he can't keep still even for eating he gets up a few times and he hates to use a fork and even playing computer he stands up and starts jumping up and down also he has trouble to go to sleep gets down of bed quite a few times ends up going to bed really late. At school they did a test for dyslexia they came back saying it looked like mild dyslexia also took him to an OT and they said it was dyspraxia but I'm not fully convinced as when I was young I to struggled with concentration and found spelling and writing hard back in my day they did not diagnosed u with anything for them I was just not very bright student, can anyone please give me any advise.

Thank you
mrs Ghio
#5 JennyC 2012-01-26 17:36
"Dysgraphia is a neurological problem. People who are dysgraphic do not have fine motor control of their fingers; therefore they cannot write legibly. They cannot control the pencil and make it do what they need it to do."

I disagree with this statement. My son has been diagnosed with Dysgraphia (by not only the school, but through evaluation with a private Occupational Therapist recommended by our family physician). He has great motor skills when it comes to playing baseball and video games and other areas that are not as detailed as the task of writing. My son (11 years old) can't tie shoes, either. But he is cross dominant- can use both left and right hand in many activities- including baseball. It isn't that he can't control the pencil- that doesn't define the neurological aspect of this disorder. My son actually experiences pain when he is writing- it starts in the forearm, but radiates through the nerves throughout his body. The neurological aspect is that while he formulates thoughts fluidly and coherently, he has difficulty getting those thoughts into words on paper- partly because he is concentrating so hard on writing, partly because it is the nature of this neurological disorder.
"Dysgraphic people cannot learn how to write legibly because they do not have the ability to control the muscles involved in their hand."
I again, disagree. Dysgraphic people CAN learn to write legibly. Perhaps not as legibly as someone without the disorder, but given enough time and working with an Occupational Therapist, a dysgraphic person CAN learn to write. I think you are VERY uninformed about this disorder. And I find it atrocious that you want to write off a very serious learning disability with the notion that "kids aren't ready to learn" and "teach them later." Later means failing grades in school and the feeling that you are stupid because other kids can do it and you can't. As the parent of a child with this serious learning disability, I am deeply offended by your article.
#4 Livia McCoy 2011-05-17 20:40
Your daughter has more than one issue going on, so it is hard to say whether her writing issues are from her vision impairment or if she is dysgraphic. To make sure that her handwriting is not holding her back in completing her work, she needs to have a better way of producing written work. She is not too young to learn how to use a computer for writing. Computers have the capability of enlarging the writing on the screen so that she can see it better. She might also benefit from using Dragon Dictation (free for iPod Touch) where she talks and it writes for her. These can be incorporated into her 504 Plan which she absolutely needs! Meanwhile, she can practice handwriting separately from producing her schoolwork. She may dictate an answer with 12 words in it that is very good; but if she is required to handwrite it, the same answer might only be 3 words long. First step is to meet with the school psychologist about her 504 Plan and make sure they are accommodating for her visual impairment in this way.
#3 Judith A Ruhulessin 2011-05-17 04:57
My child, has many traits of possibly having this problem.. But she is also visually impaired to the degree of 20/800 vision. With reading glasses, she does write, but hates to. Hates writing. She is 7 yr old.When she writes very slow, her letters are very legable, but rarely leaves spaces between her words,and puts both large and small case letters together in same words. Mixes up L s and mixes up b s, and d s.... If I let her write on her own, she flys through her writing, and it looks like a page of unrecognizable letters. also cannot stay straight across on the lines but goes all over the spaces lines. Then again, ill insist on slower writing, and spaces, and staying inside lines, and she'll co-operate.Im lost...
#2 Daniel 2010-12-15 07:00
Dysgraphic people can definitely learn how to write legibly it just takes some extra help. Dysgrpahic people can learn to write fine, however when they want the words to come out legibly they need to write slower and concentrate on forming the words. Symptoms of dysgraphia include pain after extended durations of writing, mixture of upper and lower case letters, and mixing up letters like b and d or mixing up if an L goes sticks out left or right. I know these things because i was diagnosed with dysgraphia in the second grade I believe. After going to occupational therapy I was able to write legibly, although my hand writing is poor, it is readable. I hope I was able to contribute to this article.
#1 Kranowitz & Newman 2010-11-30 15:20

We STRONGLY AGREE with your comment "But, many children are not ready to learn to write at the point they are taught how. I believe this especially to be true of boys who developmentally are not ready to sit down and concentrate on forming their letters correctly." As a rule, children should not be expected to write until they can walk up and down stairs one step at a time. Our new book, "Growing an In-Sync Child" discusses how movement is sequential and integral to development and we can't rush our kids. Check out our book to understand all the steps that go into writing. See the chart on page 25-26.

The book also provides 60 activities for children that encourage the development of fine and gross motor skills needed for the tasks we expect of our children, like writing. For instance, "Back Drawing" and "Write Through Me" are activities to enhance and develop children's concept of letter formation.

We are giving books away right now on our Facebook page "Growing an In-Sync Child" and on Twitter @InSyncChild. So come visit us there.

Thanks for writing on this important topic to many kids and parents!

-Carol S. Kranowitz & Joye Newman

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