Dysgraphia – Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Testing and Treatment

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia in children and adults is a learning disability that limits the writing capacity of a person. There is a disability in expressing thoughts through graphing and writing. Dysgraphia definition literally means an extremely poor writing ability from the Latin word dys- meaning impaired and graphia-meaning writing.

signs and symptoms of dysgraphia:

Dysgraphia learning disability symptoms does not involve intellectual impairment and occurs, despite the ability to read. The difficulty in writing results primarily from poor movement of muscle required for writing, poor orthographic coding (the storing and processing of letters in written words).

According to the Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders, dysgraphia occurs when the person’s writing skills are below the expected capabilities for his or her age, educational level and intellectual capacity.

Dysgraphia learning disability may involve impairment on the motor functioning. The disability in writing usually leads to writing fatigue because of inability to express thoughts through writing. Dysgraphia learning disability may be experienced both by children and adults.

Dysgraphia symptoms in children

Source – dyslexiaa2z.com

What are Signs, Symptoms of Dysgraphia?

Symptoms of dysgraphia are associated with the inability to write properly. Some dysgraphic children are regarded by people who do not have proper knowledge about dysgraphia as lazy or delayed in cognitive skills. Manifestations include:

  • Lots of erasures
  • Cramping of fingers during writing
  • Creates an L shape with the arm while writing
  • Mixing of lower and upper case letters in a word
  • Improper use of lines and margins
  • Unfinished letters or words
  • Slow and labored copying skills
  • Illegible handwriting
  • Uses wrong words to express thoughts
  • Pain during writing as a result of cramping
  • Strong verbal skills but poor in writing
  • Errors in spelling (some words are written in different spellings)
  • Reversals in written numbers
  • Inconsistent spaces between words
  • Carefully watches hand while writing

What Causes Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is caused by disorders in the brain with genetic abnormalities. Intellectual abilities are not a factor for the development of dysgraphia, but most often than not, their intellectual abilities are not seen because of dysgraphia.

The following are the most common problems associated with dysgraphia.

Problems on the working memory

Specifically, there is a problem on the working memory which leads to poor connections between areas in the brain needed for writing. Because of this, there is a disturbance in recalling the sequence of motor movements needed to write a particular number or letter.

Problems on the orthographic loop

The orthographic loop is responsible with the storing of how a word is written based on hand-eye coordination. Sequencing problems also develop.

Problems on motor skills

There is a disturbance on the way a person writes because of problems on the motor area as affected by poor orthographic skills.

Other associated conditions

Conditions include ADHD and hearing problems. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) was seen to be an important contributor to dysgraphia. This is for the reason that children with ADHD have rapid thoughts that the fine motor skills are unable to adapt. In addition, there is an also poor organizing ability and the attention span is short.

Auditory problems are also factor for the development of dysgraphia because difficulties in hearing may also affect the language expression in general.

Visual problems may not be a strong reason for dysgraphia simply because they are just unable to see clearly, but the language formation may be intact.

Types of Dysgraphia

There are three types of dysgraphia and people who have dysgraphia learning disability may have one or more of these.

Spatial Dysgraphia

Spatial dysgraphia involves the disability in understanding space. Because of this, there is an illegible writing skill with problems on drawing skills. People with spatial dysgraphia are able to spell normally and they do not have fine motor disabilities.

Motor Dysgraphia

Motor dysgraphia involves problems on fine motor skills because of poor muscle tone and poor dexterity. People have difficulty in writing, despite normal verbal skills.

Dyslexic Dysgraphia

Dylexic dysgraphia have normal fine motor skills, but unable to write normally because of mixing of letters and words. Words may be written in a wrong way as a result of dyslexia.

Dysgraphia Test, Diagnosis, Assessment

Dysgraphia is difficult to diagnose because some people may have innate inability to write because of intellectual problem. It is also difficult to diagnose because people try to hide their disability. They have verbal fluency so it’s hard to tell whether the person has dysgraphia learning disability unless the person writes.

Varied educational evaluations and diagnostic tests are done to diagnose dysgraphia. Diagnostic writing tests are employed to assess the writing skills of the individual as compared to his developmental age. The output of writing is usually assessed by letting the person write or copy texts.

Observations of the posture and grip are also done to assess the writing patterns of the individual, which is usually done by occupational therapists.

Dysgraphia Treatment

Management of dysgraphia involves therapies and writing exercises. Treatment plans are categorized into three strategies:


  • Alternatives to writing are employed in order for the patient to express his or her thoughts.
  • Examples of this strategy include:
  • Use of computers. Computers allow the child to express thoughts without writing.


  • Tasks are usually modified to prevent focusing on the area of weakness, which increase the anxiety of the child.
  • Modification techniques include:
  • Teaching the person to write in cursive form. Cursive writing has fewer letter reverses and prevents over spacing within words because they are written continuously.


  • Remediation involves teaching skills to the person to enhance the writing skills.
  • Remediation strategies include educational therapy in the form of:
  • Use of kinesthetic memory-The child is taught to write the letters or words and allowing to re-write them with the eyes closed. This technique enhances the memory on how to write a particular word.

Dysgraphia Exercises

Exercises are also done to improve the fine motor skills of the child such as:

  • Rubbing hands together
  • Shaking of the hands in a fast, non-violent manner
  • Rubbing of hands against a clothing with a mild texture
  • Using fingers in the dominant hand to click the top of a pen
  • Performing push-ups on the chair while sitting. The child is instructed to place palms on the top of the chair or desk to push the body to stand.
  • Therapists usually perform other measures to help the child improve the writing skills.

Dysgraphia Complications

Dysgraphia usually involves effects on the social relationships and emotional aspect of the child. The child or adult with dyspraxia learning disability oftentimes feel inferior to their peers. Some children feel frustrated by manifesting crying and refusal to do writing tasks. There is also high incidence of stress because of inability to express oneself through writing. Stress-related illnesses may occur such as headache, abdominal pain, fatigue and even conversion disorders (the child may feel pain without any underlying physiologic cause as a result of anxiety). Individuals with dysgraphia learning disability may also experience depression and may have low self-esteem. Alongside dysgraphia therapies, counseling must also be done to allow the person identify his or her strengths to increase self-confidence.

Dysgraphia Prognosis

People who undergo therapy and supported by their families eventually improve their writing skills. However, some people who did not develop confidence in writing may have the disorder for a lifetime.

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