I have worked closely with several children diagnosed with dysgraphia in my online writing clubs. Dysgraphia is a learning disability which impairs a child’s handwriting and/or spelling abilities—it’s a learning disorder which makes written language challenging. Somewhere between 5 to 20% of children may be struggling with dysgraphia.
As a handwriting tutor, I have learned how to spot the signs of a possible dysgraphia diagnosis quickly (and, perhaps more importantly, I’ve been able to help some of these children dramatically improve their handwriting skills…and their confidence!)
What Are the Commons Signs or Symptoms of Dysgraphia?
The key signs your child might have dysgraphia are:
- Inconsistent spacing of words and letters in written work
- Difficulty with spelling, including letters missing within words and unfinished words
- Awkward and sometimes painful pen/pencil grip, awkward posture while writing
- Frequent crossing out/rubbing out of letters
- Problems with word usage, including missing words or unfinished words
- Inconsistent letter sizing and letter positioning
- Trouble with letter formation when printing and with joined-up writing/cursive writing
- Struggle to improve their writing skills, even with plenty of support
Dysgraphia vs. Dyspraxia
In the UK, dysgraphia is still under review by regulating bodies of specific learning difficulties. What they have yet to determine is if dysgraphia is a unique and distinct learning disability or whether it falls within the broader umbrella of dyspraxia (a common developmental co-ordination disorder which affects movement and communication generally, and not writing abilities specifically).
Unfortunately, there is currently very little guidance and support available in the UK for parents and children. In order to get help, children need to undergo a full diagnostic assessment by an educational psychologist, who will assess the child’s working memory and spelling abilities—both of which can impact their handwriting and written expression.
Types of Dysgraphia in Children
There are several sub-types of the general dysgraphia diagnosis, including:
Motor dysgraphia: Lack of the fine motor skills and visual perception. Children with motor dysgraphia struggle with slow handwriting, messy handwriting, and usually also have poor drawing skills.
Spatial dysgraphia: This type is related to problems of visual perception. Children with spatial dysgraphia particularly struggle with spacing the letters and words in their handwriting
Linguistic dysgraphia: In this case, spontaneously written text is often illegible.
Dysgraphia Writing Samples from Two Different Children
Here are handwriting samples from two young children in my writing club who both have a formal diagnosis of dysgraphia. The first example is from a boy, and the second example is from a girl. They are both fiercely bright.
I find it fascinating to see how similar the two writing samples look, especially considering how different each child is in their personality and interests.
Many parents come to me asking if they think their child has dysgraphia. In my opinion, if your child’s writing looks similar to these two examples I would recommend looking into dysgraphia testing.
From a parent in January 2021:
“We recently put him through a thorough barrage of tests and he received a formal diagnosis of dysgraphia. His speaking vocabulary is very good and his verbal reasoning is great, but it seems to get hopelessly tangled on the page.”
From the same parent, 5 months later:
“I can’t tell you what a difference this has made to him. His confidence has increased so much and that is half the battle with getting him to write anything. None of us, especially him, had any idea he had a flair for this. He was so fixated on the physical aspects of writing, he never dared to try. He’s had to compose a few long essays recently and I know that would have been a struggle before.”
What to Do if You Suspect your Child is Struggling with Dysgraphia
If you suspect your child might have dysgraphia, early intervention is key. Act quickly, as they are likely battling with low confidence and self-esteem. In the meantime, as you pursue a diagnosis, encourage them to type their work. Another strategy which can work well with some children is to encourage them to speak their sentences aloud before writing them down.
Maybe your child is desperately anxious about writing. Or maybe they’re terribly keen on it. Either way, there is room for everyone in my weekly writing clubs. Do get in touch if you’d like to join, or even just want to chat about their writing skills—I’d love to help.