The basic schooling process requires children to write and improve their skills. If you went to school in the 1990s or earlier, you would remember the emphasis some teachers had on following the ‘cursive’ writing method.
In fact, good handwriting is considered a craft by some, especially among children. And it just accentuates what you are trying to say. In this digital age where screens and keyboards are replacing notebooks and pens, having good handwriting just might be a fading skill to have.
However, not all kids are great at writing. Some kids may have distorted or unclear handwriting much to the annoyance of their class teachers and the chagrin of the child. Teachers may scold them for it and kids may not think much of it. But parents, if you are noticing a consistent problem with your child’s handwriting, this could be a sign of a bigger issue.
If your child is consistently struggling with writing correctly and struggles with the process, you may have to get a dysgraphia assessment done.
But what exactly is dysgraphia and how does it affect your child? Read on to know more.
What Is Dysgraphia?
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This is a learning disability that affects the fine motor skills needed to write. It’s a nervous problem that makes things difficult for a child to do handwriting tasks. In common parlance, it’s termed as “an impairment in written expression.”
Children with dysgraphia usually have impaired handwriting or spelling. Do note that this is not a mental disorder but rather a learning disability. Kids with dysgraphia find it difficult to express their thoughts by writing them down.
Kids suffering from this disability find different aspects of writing difficult. This including spelling, word spacing, sizing and expression. They can also have difficulty reading but it isn’t necessarily.
The learning disability is commonly seen among individuals who suffer from ADHD. They may also suffer from dyscalculia, which is a learning disability related to math, as well as dyslexia, which is the inability to read or comprehend written words. Estimates suggest that about five to 20 per cent of children have dysgraphia.
What Causes Dysgraphia?
There’s no clear consensus on what causes dysgraphia. Researchers do believe that the following ways could be contributing factors:
This could be due to an injury or disease that may have affected the brain. This is more commonly seen in adults though wherein they might lose their fine motor skills after an accident or a stroke.
This refers more specifically to children and acquiring writing skills. As a neurological disorder, it’s visible from childhood and can be further divided into three subtypes.
Motor dysgraphia: When kids lack fine motor skills that restrict their brain to coordinate between what they think and what they write. So, while the child may know the letter, they will find it difficult to draw it out on paper. Kids also cannot do other simple tasks like drawing, tracing or slow finger-tapping.
Spatial dysgraphia: Kids who have this spatial dysgraphia may not be able to space out words correctly but may be able to spell and finger-tap at normal speeds.
Linguistic dysgraphia: This impact the child’s language processing and writing skills. The child may not be able to write on the fly. However, other skills like drawing, copying and oral spelling do not get affected.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dysgraphia?
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Kids suffering from dysgraphia will consistently have distorted handwriting. They will also be slow compared to their peers and struggle with tasks like drawing. Here’s what parents and teachers need to look out for as part of the dysgraphia assessment.
Poorly spaced words
Inconsistently shaped letters
Wrong spellings, unfinished words or missing words from a sentence
Frequent mistakes and erasing
Sore hand due to cramped grip
Unusual wrist or body posture while writing
In addition to these, kids may feel lost when given writing tasks as they find it difficult to think and write at the same time. Creative challenges can be daunting as well.
How Do You Diagnose Dysgraphia?
If you think your child is suffering from dysgraphia, speak to your paediatrician about the same. They are likely to refer you to a child psychologist who will a series of tests that measure the ability to put thoughts into words.
They also test the child’s fine motor skills. It will include tapping their fingers or turning the wrist in a specific way.
The psychologist will also look at the following at the end of the writing task:
Hand and body position
Dysgraphia Assessment Process
The psychologist will also look into the following before coming to a conclusion:
Standardised writing assessments
Reviewing the child’s development, medical and familial history
How Do You Treat Dysgraphia?
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Sadly, dysgraphia is not treatable. Instead, parents and educators can take a conscious effort to help children with this learning disability combat simple tasks in school and life at large in a better fashion.
In some cases, medications for ADHD will also be prescribed to children with dysgraphia. That said, the child psychologist will take a call on the same.
What Can You Do If Your Child Has Dysgraphia?
If your child is struggling with this learning disability, here’s how you can make things slightly easier for them:
Allow your child more time to complete their homework or any kind of writing assessment
Get them to use a wide-ruled paper, graph paper, or paper with raised lines to understand the letter and word alignment better
Avoid criticising shoddy work. Instead, praise their effort and encourage them to try again
Buy pencil grips to comfort them
Encourage teaching them to use a computer and let them develop typing skills at an early age
Speak to them about how to release stress before they begin any writing tasks
Speak to your child about their condition and make sure to not let this pull them down
Once you get the dysgraphia assessment, make sure to speak to your child’s school about the following:
Speak to your child’s school about an Individualised Education Program (IEP) for your child. The dysgraphia assessment will be essential in getting them more attention in the class.
Speak to their class teacher about handing out shorter writing assignments as compared to other kids
You could ask the school to allow your child to type instead of writing their assignments
Allow handing in video or audio reports or typed assignments instead of written work.
Take photocopies of the class notes instead of forcing your child to write in a limited time
Record the class teacher’s lectures for future use
Allow the option of voice-to-dictation machine or audio record the lectures
Allowing for oral exams instead of a handwritten one
Getting a dysgraphia assessment might just help your child ease their struggle with writing in class. Kids don’t realise what’s wrong and this can lead to self-esteem concerns, especially when compared to their peers.
You will also have to be patient and request teachers in mainstream schools to be the same. Children with dysgraphia only need a little more time than other kids to catch up, and they need all your support and encouragement.