Dysgraphia is a disorder that can make it difficult to communicate effectively through writing. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.
The written word plays an important role in communicating with others. Writing is a complex skill that requires coordination, fine motor skills, and language knowledge. It doesn’t come easy to everyone.
Children often experience difficulty with writing as they start to learn. Some children may have more trouble than others. Some adults may also find handwriting difficult.
Difficulty with communicating using written language is called dysgraphia. People with dysgraphia may size their letters incorrectly or leave too much space between letters.
These challenges can also lead to misspelling words despite practice and instruction.
Dysgraphia is a language disorder that affects your ability to communicate clearly and accurately using written language.
The neurological disorder often occurs with mental health or neurological conditions.
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Brain injury at birth or after a traumatic event can affect how you express yourself. This may make it difficult or impossible to communicate effectively using written words.
People often use the terms dysgraphia and agraphia interchangeably, but agraphia involves the complete loss of the ability to write.
Several types of agraphia include:
- Deep agraphia is an inability to read or spell words.
- Peripheral agraphia is an inability to connect letters to form words and sentences.
- Alexia is an inability to read or write.
- Phonological agraphia involves havingtrouble writing abstract thoughts like ideas and feelings.
- Visuospatial is an inability to organize the letters of a word.
- Dysexecutive is an inability to organize thoughts into written language.
The different types of dysgraphia include:
- Motor dysgraphia. People with motor dysgraphia have poor fine motor skills, making it hard to write clearly. They often have no trouble with spelling.
- Dyslexia dysgraphia. People with this type of dysgraphia create illegible writings, but they may be able to copy text clearly. Additionally, they may have trouble spelling. Dyslexia dysgraphia is not the same as dyslexia.
- Spatial dysgraphia. People with this type of dysgraphia have issues with spatial awareness and may find it tough to use proper word spacing or stay within the lines on a page. Their writing is usually illegible.
Generally, if you have dysgraphia, your writing will show that you have trouble with:
- letter formation
- writing legibility
- letter spacing
- fine motor coordination
- rate of writing
- grammar use
Experts don’t know what causes developmental dysgraphia.
They do know that children with dysgraphia often have other developmental disorders.
They may also have difficulty learning how to write despite getting adequate instruction in school and having the appropriate cognitive level to learn.
Acquired dysgraphia happens when something disrupts your brain’s pathways. Things that can cause dysgraphia include:
- Brain injury. Injury may occur from head trauma or lack of oxygen to the brain.
- Neurological disease. Brain diseases, cancer, and vascular disease can lead to dysgraphia.
- Degenerative conditions. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease can both affect writing and communication ability.
- Metabolic dysgraphia. A 2018 case study found that a teenager with diabetes experienced dysgraphia because of low blood sugar. Managing blood sugar levels treated the dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia and dyslexia are different conditions.
Dyslexia involves difficulty reading and decoding words. People with dyslexia may have trouble sounding out, spelling, and recognizing words. Children with dyslexia don’t typically have challenges with oral or written communication.
The evaluation process for dysgraphia depends on your age and education level.
For a diagnosis of dysgraphia in school-age children, symptoms must persist for at least 6 months despite adequate instruction and practice.
Testing for learning disabilities and conditions like dysgraphia usually involves a team effort and expertise from occupational therapists (OT), special education teachers, and school psychologists.
Before diagnosing, it’s essential to rule out other underlying conditions such as vision or hearing impairment that may cause issues with writing ability.
Diagnosis may involve:
- evaluating writing samples
- checking pencil or pen grip
- evaluating writing posture
- observing writing speed
- looking at copied material
- coordination tests
Adults who suspect they have dysgraphia may find it helpful to talk with a doctor. Your doctor may perform a writing screen test or refer you to a specialist for a diagnosis.
When working with educators, your child may receive the following to manage dysgraphia symptoms:
- Accommodation. This includes supportive and assistive resources to decrease the stress of writing.
- Modification. This includes goals and objectives to reduce the impact of the writing disability, such as scaling down large writing assignments.
- Remediation. This involves working with OT and special education teachers to improve fine motor skills and help decrease the disability’s effects.
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Treatment for adults often depends on the cause. Treating the underlying condition may improve dysgraphia symptoms.
Your doctor may also recommend:
- therapy with a speech language pathologist and occupational therapist
- cognitive rehab training exercises using pattern associations and practicing hand and finger movements
- lifestyle changes like spending extra time writing in a journal
- deep brain stimulation to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Dysgraphia may improve with consistent treatment but not always. If you have a severe disability, your doctor may recommend using a computer instead of writing.
Dysgraphia makes it hard to express yourself with the written word.
Your motor skills and writing can improve with help. Specialists like occupational therapists can teach you techniques that you can use at home with your child.
Adults affected by dysgraphia may be eligible for specific accommodations at work or school. To learn more about your legal disability rights, consider checking out the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website.
If you suspect you or your child has dysgraphia, consider talking with a medical professional. They can make a diagnosis, rule out underlying causes, and find a treatment plan that works for you.