Category Archives: dysgraphia

Dysgraphia needs to be accommodated like other learning disabilities

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder in which a child does not want to write.  In other ways the child is normal, but he flat out doesn’t want to hold a pencil and write.  If he is forced to write, his letter formation, the spacing between letters and words, and the various sizes of letters indicate something’s wrong.

EPSON MFP imageAll children have times when they balk at writing—when they’re tired, for example.  But dysgraphia shows as a day-in, day-out struggle to get a child to write–and not just in a writing lesson but in math and social studies too.  You might think the child is having a temper tantrum, but actually he is balking at a way of learning which makes no sense to him.  Children with dysgraphia spend so much energy thinking about how to hold the pencil, and how to form the letters, and where the spaces go, that whatever they are supposed to learn by writing—whether it is addition facts or how fossils form—is lost.

Something is wrong, and that something is how the brain works.  (More on that in future blogs.)

So what can you, as the parent or teacher of such a child, do to end tears and tantrums?

  • As much as possible, for that student eliminate writing as a way of learning and testing. Some students are asked to write each new spelling or vocabulary word five times.  Don’t assign this kind of work to a child with dysgraphia.  Let the child use flashcards rather than worksheets to learn math facts.
  • Allow the child to do her work out loud. Let the child tell an adult what she knows.  Allow the child to speak her answers directly to you or into an audio recording machine.


  • If the child must write a story or an essay, or answer a question in a sentence or two, give the child time to organize her thoughts. Then let her dictate her response to you.  When it’s time to revise, let the child dictate the revisions.
  • Make learning the use of a keyboard a part of this student’s studies.
  • Allow the student to “write” on an iPad or other electronic device.
  • Try various kinds of writing tools. Sometimes smooth-flowing markers can seem not as bad as pencils or pens. Sometimes thicker or thinner tools can feel better.  The smooth surface of a dry erase board can entice a student.
  • If the child has sensory integration issues, schedule writing after recess or after a back rub.

You might be thinking: But at a certain point, doesn’t the child need to conform?

Maybe that’s the wrong question.  Maybe we should be asking how we can make learning math, languages, science and social studies possible without needing to write.  We do it in other fields.  Do you need to write to learn how to play a piano?  Create a collage?  Act in a play?

Writing is one way to learn, but it is not the only way.  For children with other learning problems, we make accommodations.  Do blind children read with their eyes?  Do deaf children speak with their mouths?

In this time of differentiated learning, children with dysgraphia need to be recognized as living with a brain impairment.  They need to be accommodated so that they can learn in a way which makes sense to them.

How do I know if my child has dysgraphia? If she does, can she get special help and accommodations from her school?

Dysgraphia is a writing disability.  Children have trouble handwriting: writing fast enough, forming letters clearly, and holding a writing tool.

In order for a student to qualify for special education services, the student must have a disorder named in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Dysgraphia is not named.  However, dysgraphia is described under the category “specific learning disability.”  An assertive parent or teacher could make a case for the child’s being formally tested by a licensed psychologist or school psychologist.

Signs of dysgraphia are many, making it hard to diagnose.  But here are some common signs.  Not all children will show each sign, and showing one or two signs does not mean a child has dysgraphia.

  • Has trouble with letter spacing and spacing between words.
  • Writes letters which go in all directions.
  • Writes letters of various sizes within the same word.
  • Writes letters and words which jam together.
  • Leaves words unfinished and omits words.
  • Has trouble writing on lines.
  • Holds a pencil awkwardly.
  • Holds the arm, wrist and shoulder awkwardly when writing.
  • Writes slowly.
  • Loses her train of thought before she has finished a sentence.
  • Has trouble thinking and writing at the same time.
  • Says words out loud while writing.
  • Has trouble following directions.
  • Has more trouble spelling when writing than when speaking.
  • Mixes upper case and lower case letters in the same word.
  • Finds her own handwriting illegible.
  • Complains of a tired or cramped hand.
  • Erases more than usual.
  • Prefers to leave out details.
  • Won’t write some ideas because “everybody knows that.”
  • Speaks far better than writes.

Children with undiagnosed dysgraphia fall behind their classmates, taking longer to finish written assignments or refusing to add details.  They become frustrated, leading to problems following a teacher’s directions and socializing with other children.

Next blog:  What can a parent or teacher do to help a child with dysgraphia?