Kayla was an energetic first grader that loved school. Until one day, she came home in tears, holding her illegible handwriting homework in her tiny hands. She had erased so many times the paper had holes all over it.
Day after day, my daughter returned home disappointed that she had not met her teacher’s expectations. Her teacher kept her in during recess to spend extra time “practicing her handwriting skills.”
This went on for weeks without my knowledge. Kayla dreaded writing assignments, and her self-esteem took a hit with each passing day.
I could see she was trying, but it was not improving. A year later, I finally found the root of the problem.
My daughter had dysgraphia.
What is Dysgraphia?
Imagine having many exciting drawing ideas in your head, but they don’t look right when you try to draw them out on paper. That’s kind of what dysgraphia feels like.
Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing and fine motor skills. It’s not about laziness or lack of effort but a genuine struggle with expressing thoughts on paper in a readable way.
Definition of Dysgraphia
“Dys” means difficulty, while “graphia” means writing. Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder that affects language in the form of writing.
Dysgraphia specifically makes it hard to write. Their brains work a bit differently when putting thoughts on paper.
That’s why some kids might have messy handwriting, take a long time to write, or feel tired from writing too much.
But remember, having learning difficulties doesn’t mean you’re not smart—it just means you need some extra help. And that’s okay!
Early intervention is critical!
Unfortunately, like Kayla, many children with dysgraphia are misunderstood and not given the help they need soon enough. Some are even mislabeled.
I want to help you to identify dysgraphia symptoms in your child early. This way, you can secure your child’s necessary support and resources.
Every child, regardless of their learning disabilities, has the potential to thrive with the proper guidance and understanding.
Spotting the Symptoms of Dysgraphia
It’s important to remember that every child is unique. Even a specific learning disorder, such as dysgraphia, can show up differently for different kids.
Here is a list of dysgraphia symptoms to look for in your child:
#1 Poor Fine Motor Skills
Motor skills are all about how well you can move your body. For writing, we’re talking about your hands and fingers.
Signs of Poor Fine Motor Skills:
- Have a hard time holding a pencil correctly
- Holding a pencil too tight or with too much pressure (My daughter got in trouble at school because she broke her pencil lead too often).
- Their hands might get tired easily
- Poor dexterity in tasks that need careful hand movements, like tying shoelaces, buttoning their shirt, or using utensils
- Find it hard to copy shapes or letter formation correctly.
#2 Difficulties with Writing Skills
Writing skills mean how well you can make words and sentences on paper. Having difficulties with writing skills is a common sign of dysgraphia.
Symptoms of a child with a writing disability:
- Poor handwriting that is hard to read or messy
- Mix up the sizes of their letters such as some are capital letters while others are lowercase
- Too much or not enough space between words or letters
- Spelling, even simple words.
- Write slowly or tire quickly from writing
- Poor spatial awareness, like writing in the margins or coloring out of the lines
- Frequently omitting letters or words
- Not completing the formation of letters
#3 Behavioral Symptoms
Along with the struggles in writing and motor skills, dysgraphia can also cause some changes in behavior. It can be frustrating when your brain and hands don’t work together.
Dysgraphia Behavior Signs:
- Feeling exhausted: Writing can be tiring for kids with dysgraphia. They might seem worn out or frustrated after writing tasks.
- Anxiety: Worrying about writing assignments can lead to anxiety. Your child might seem nervous or upset when they know they must write.
- Crying: The frustration and anxiety can sometimes be too much, leading to tears.
- Refusing to do assignments: If writing feels too hard, your child might start avoiding it altogether. They may refuse to do class assignments or homework involving writing.
- Change in mood or attitude: Kids with dysgraphia might seem more grumpy or less enthusiastic, especially about school or homework.
- Avoiding activities they usually enjoy: If they involve fine motor skills, like drawing or building blocks, they might start avoiding them. It may start with a lack of motivation that descends to avoidance of the activity altogether.
Remember, these dysgraphia symptoms can be signs of other things, like depression, stress or problems at your child’s school.
But if you see them along with the other signs of dysgraphia, it might be time to get some help.
As always, a professional can give you the best advice for your child’s specific learning disability.
3 Different Types of Dysgraphia
Just like there are different types of health conditions, there are also different types of dysgraphia.
Let’s look at three main types:
#1 Motor Dysgraphia
This is when someone’s motor skills, or ability to move their hands and fingers correctly, are affected. With this type, a child won’t typically have a problem with spelling words orally or reading.
Kids with motor dysgraphia might:
- Struggle with tasks that need careful hand movements, like tying shoelaces.
- They have difficulty holding a pencil right, or their hands might get tired quickly.
#2 Dyslexia Dysgraphia
In this type of dysgraphia, kids can copy letters and words well if they look at them. But their spelling often gets mixed up when they try to write from memory. This is not the same as dyslexia.
Kids with dyslexia dysgraphia might:
- Make lots of spelling mistakes.
- Write slowly
- Need help to remember how to write words they can’t see but can copy words fine
#3 Spatial Dysgraphia
This type makes it hard for kids to understand space. This means they might have difficulty knowing how far apart to put their words or letters on the page.
Kids with spatial dysgraphia might:
- Mix up the sizes of their letters or not space their words correctly.
- Find it hard to copy shapes or letters of the alphabet correctly.
Remember, a child might have one or more types of dysgraphia or show signs of different types. Everyone is unique, and there’s help available for all types of specific learning disabilities.
How to Know if Your Child has Dysgraphia?
So, you think that your child struggles with a form of dysgraphia. What’s the first step? Let’s talk about getting an official diagnosis.
Getting a Professional Diagnosis
Finding out if someone has dysgraphia isn’t as simple as taking a quick quiz or test. It’s like a detective’s job and needs a professional to do it.
Why You Need a Professional?
- Professionals like occupational therapists or licensed psychologists know what to look for. They understand how dysgraphia works and how it affects kids.
- They will conduct tests to examine how your child writes, how they hold their pencil, how quickly they can write, and other important things.
- It’s about more than bad handwriting. They also check to see if other underlying causes could affect your child’s ability to write, like problems with seeing or hearing.
- They must rule out other medical conditions such as a brain injury, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, visual processing disorder, or hearing impairment.
Remember, if you think your child might have dysgraphia, it’s essential to talk to a professional about it. They can help you understand what’s happening and determine the best way to help your child.
How Dysgraphia Affects a Child’s Life
Just like a bumpy road can make a car ride hard, dysgraphia can make things difficult for kids in and outside school.
– School Challenges
In school, a lot of tasks need writing. This can be tough for kids with dysgraphia. Here’s how:
- Homework takes longer: Because writing is more challenging, homework can take much longer. It might feel like a mountain that’s tough to climb.
- Tests are trickier: It’s harder to get them down on paper even if they know all the answers.
- Notes are harder to take: Writing notes quickly in class can be challenging for high school students.
– Social Struggles
Outside of school, dysgraphia can also make things a little tricky:
- Feeling different: Young children might feel like they’re the only ones struggling with this, which can feel lonely.
- Frustration: It can be frustrating when your hand can’t keep up with your brain.
- Low Self-esteem: When writing is hard, kids might also start to doubt themselves in other things.
But remember, every cloud has a silver lining! With understanding, support, and the right strategies, children with learning disabilities can overcome these challenges and thrive.
Helping Your Child with Dysgraphia
Having dysgraphia might make some things challenging, but it doesn’t mean your child can’t succeed. There are lots of ways to help your child with their writing-related tasks.
Tips for Helping at Home
You play an important role in your child’s success. At home, you can make a big difference! Here are some ideas:
– Patience is key:
Remember, it’s not that your child isn’t trying. Writing is just harder for them. So keep cheering them on!
– Break it down:
Big tasks can seem scary. Break them down into smaller steps. That makes them easier to handle.
– Try different tools:
Some kids find writing with certain kinds of writing utensils or paper easier. Check into different types of assistive technology.
My daughter preferred using pens over pencils since the tips didn’t break. Instead of erasing, she would cross out a word to write it over.
She also enjoyed the pencil grips at the end to help guide her fingers where they needed to go.
Experiment and see what works best for your child’s age!
– Extra Time for breaks:
Writing can be tiring. Make sure your child takes breaks to rest. Try some of the brain break activities.
Professional Help and Interventions
Sometimes, extra help can make a big difference. This is where professionals come in:
Occupational therapy helps kids improve their motor skills. They can make a big difference with handwriting!
My daughter loved going to her occupational therapist. I don’t think she would have ever written again if it wasn’t for these sessions.
– Special Education Services:
– Special Education Teachers and School Psychologists:
These specialists have special training to help kids with learning disabilities. They can offer strategies and tips.
– Special Education Tutoring:
Remember, it’s not about fixing your child but giving them the tools they need to succeed.
We’ve learned that dysgraphia is a learning disability that can make writing challenging for some kids. We’ve also discussed the different types of dysgraphia and the signs to watch for.
But most importantly, we’ve learned that there is hope. Yes, dysgraphia can make things challenging. But with patience, understanding, and the proper support, your child can overcome these hurdles and thrive.
As parents, worrying about our kids is normal, especially when they face challenges like learning disabilities. But remember, every child is unique and special in their own way.
A diagnosis of dysgraphia isn’t a limitation—it’s just a starting point for understanding how best to support your child’s learning journey.
So, if you notice your child struggling with writing, don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk to their teachers, consult professionals, and seek the support you need.
Together, we can ensure that every child can reach their full potential regardless of their challenges.
Additional Resources to Look at Next
- Improve Your Child’s Fine Motor Skills at Home
- Creative Writing Activities for a Special Needs Student
- Help Your Special Needs Child Improve Social Skills
- Academic Regression in School What You Need to Know
- Anxious Children: Best Ways to Help Your Child With Anxiety