Dysgraphia is a learning disorder which is marked by impaired and incoherent handwriting in absence of an intellectual or reading impairment. The difficulty may appear as an issue of coherence, grammar, spelling, word use, letter direction, and illegible handwriting. Although not a motor disorder, dysgraphia is sometimes accompanied by fine motor deficits and other learning disabilities (predominately related to speech and language). There are currently three subtypes of dysgraphia recognised:
What is Dysgraphia?
- Dyslexic Dysgraphia: This type is characterised by poor spelling and legible copied work. However, individual written work is illegible. Difficulties with letter directions may also be present.
- Motor Dysgraphia: This type is accompanied by fine motor deficits which render their written work illegible (both individual and copied). Fine motor deficits present may include difficulty tying shoes, holding a pen, and forming individual letters (without extreme time, effort and attention).
- Spatial Dysgraphia: This type is characterised by an issue of spatial awareness. A person with spatial dysgraphia would have illegible handwriting regardless of whether it is individual or copied. Pictures and drawn work is also illegible to an external reader.
Signs to look out for
- Difficulties writing legibly and forming letters.
- Combination of print and cursive writing, left and right slanting, and/or upper and lowercase within the same line.
- Poor writing planning and written expression.
- Poor and/or irregular spelling.
- Saying words out loud while writing.
- Letter size and space size between words and letters are inconsistent.
- Troubles with writing within margins and lines.
- Random use of or omission of punctuation.
- Omission of words from sentences.
- Incomplete writing of words or sentences.
- Words are written in the wrong order or written backwards.
- Extremely slow-paced writing or copying from board.
- Gripping of pencil is too tight or unusual.
To assess for dysgraphia at the SCDC we conduct an IQ test as well as tests of academic achievement, written responses, and possibly visual processing. Academic achievement tests are used by the centre to identify whether the child is performing well across other areas of functioning. Although handwriting deficits would impact on a range of academic areas, it is important to help identify whether the writing deficit is a learning disability or part of a wider issue (e.g. inattention or working memory) reflected across other academic domains. It is also important to provide school reports to help identify at what age writing issues began to appear in the classroom, as well as to identify any fine motor issues that may be present. The IQ test assesses areas crucial to writing skills (such as working memory) and is used to identify any intellectual impairment which may be contributing to the writing difficulties. For example, working memory may have a detrimental effect on spelling and grammar. Similarly, general memory issues involving storage and/or retrieval may hinder the child’s ability to combine correct letters (also impacting on spelling and grammar).We may recommend that if other cognitive issues are noted, that the child has a more comprehensive neuropsychological assessment, or combine a dysgraphia assessment with an ADHD assessment. At the Sydney Cognitive Development Centre all testing is tailored to individual needs.