What is dysgraphia? The term dysgraphia derives from the Greek words: Dys meaning impairment, graph referring to a person’s handwriting function and letters formed, and ia meaning a condition.

Hence, dysgraphia means disabled handwriting and difficulty spelling in handwriting. Children who have dysgraphia may have only impaired handwriting, only impaired spelling or a combination of both. Many children, teens and adults with ADD or ADHD are afflicted with this disorder. Dysgraphia can also occur in combination with dyslexia (an impaired reading disorder).

Warning signs of dysgraphia include an awkward grip on a pen/pencil, messy handwriting, avoiding situations that include writing, difficulty with organizing thoughts on paper or struggling with grammar/spelling. For example, a child may not want to attend a social activity when he/she has a written project or needs to complete a written form. Another symptom is writing unfinished sentences or omitting words in a sentence. Having poor handwriting alone does not signify dysgraphia. Other signs include poor word reading, oral reading and/or spelling.

Help for children
Activities to help children strengthen their writing skills are to manipulate clay to strengthen their hand muscles, draw or colour and keep in between lines for their motor skills, play connect the dot puzzles or trace letters with an index finger.

Young students may need assistance with their handwriting or language skills, including oral expression. Sometimes teachers assume that if a child is intelligent, yet does not write well, that he is lazy or just not trying, which is not the case at all.

If you are uncertain if your child has dysgraphia, speak with your family physician or pediatrician who can refer you to a specialist for learning disabilities. Your child’s educator may not identify your child’s problem. Once dysgraphia is diagnosed, it can be treated. Without any diagnosis, children may not receive early intervention of special counselling which will affect their learning ability and self-confidence.

Help for teens and adults
Teens and adults can also suffer from dysgraphia. Ways to assist teens and adults are to have a recorder on hand when taking written notes, break up written tasks into smaller segments to tackle them or create a list of keywords. The best approach is to think of ideas and plan how to write them down. Thoughts should be organized prior to writing them down. Create a written draft and make corrections afterwards.

Using spellcheck or grammar check on the computer can be extremely beneficial. Perusing the pages of a thesaurus or using the thesaurus tool on a computer offers immense support. These tools should be used only when the ideas and thoughts are written down.

Assisting an individual with dysgraphia requires time and patience. Be kind, patient and above all, be encouraging.