What is dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a condition that causes trouble with written expression. The term comes from the Greek words dys (“impaired”) and graphia (“making letter forms by hand”). Dysgraphia is a brain-based issue and is not the result of a child being lazy.

For many children with dysgraphia, just holding a pencil and organizing letters on a line is difficult. Their handwriting tends to be messy. Many struggle with spelling and putting thoughts on paper. These and other writing tasks—like putting ideas into language that is organized, stored and then retrieved from memory—may all add to struggles with written language/expression.

The symptoms of dysgraphia fall into three primary categories: visual-spatial, fine motor and spelling/handwriting. A child may have dysgraphia if his/her writing skills lag behind those of his peers and she/he has some of these symptoms:

Visual-spatial difficulties

  • Shape-discrimination and letter spacing
  • Organizing words on the page from left to right
  • Writing letters that go in all directions and letters and words that run together on the page
  • Writing on a line and inside margins
  • Reading maps, drawing or reproducing a shape
  • Copies text slowly

Fine motor difficulties

  • Holding a pencil correctly, tracing, cutting food, tying shoes, doing puzzles, texting and keyboarding
  • Using scissors well or coloring inside the lines
  • Holding wrist, arm, body or paper in an awkward position when writing

Spelling/handwriting issues

  • Understanding spelling rules
  • Discerning whether or not a word is misspelled
  • Spelling correctly orally, but making spelling errors in writing
  • Spelling words incorrectly and in many different ways
  • Using spell-check—and when used, not recognizing the correct word
  • Mixing upper- and lowercase letters
  • Blending printing and cursive
  • Reading his/her own writing
  • Avoiding writing
  • Getting tired or cramped hands when writing
  • Erasing excessively

Note: some writing difficulties are serious enough to meet criteria for diagnosis as a learning disability or specific learning disorder. In such cases, special education services may be available at school or in the community to help remediate the disability. However, some learning weaknesses may not meet state, district or individual school criteria for services, yet the student could still benefit from being provided with targeted help. Our staff help parents understand how to provide for the student’s needs in either circumstance. Our mission is to uncover each student’s unique profile of strengths, challenges, interests and goals, and to tailor recommendations to optimize learning and help achieve his/her full potential.

Types of Pediatric Assessments