Understanding dysgraphia in adults

Dysgraphia in adults

Dysgraphia is a learning difficulty, also sometimes referred to as a learning disability or a learning difference, that primarily affects writing skills. Adults with dysgraphia have a hard time writing by hand and may struggle with letter formation, letter, word and line spacing, staying inside the margins, neatness, capitalization/punctuation rules, spelling, word choice, and even grammar.

As opposed to agraphia, in which writing loss is acquired, individuals with dysgraphia are typically born with the condition. As children they may have found school particularly challenging, given the importance of literacy skills and the emphasis on having neat handwriting at the elementary/primary level.

Thankfully technology exists that can help both children and adults with dysgraphia overcome the challenges they experience and take positive steps toward achieving their full potential in the classroom or workplace.

5 Types of learning difficulties and how to help

5 Types of learning difficulties

A learning difficulty is a condition that can cause an individual to experience problems in a traditional classroom learning context. It may interfere with literacy skills development and math/maths and can also affect memory, ability to focus and organizational skills. A child or adult with a learning difficulty may require additional time to complete assignments at school and can often benefit from strategy instruction and classroom accommodations, such as material delivered in special fonts or the ability to use a computer to take notes.

No two individuals with a learning difficulty are exactly alike and many conditions, such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, exist on a wide-spectrum. There is also dyspraxia, a motor-skills difficulty that can affect a learner’s ability to write by hand, and may impact on planning skills. It’s not uncommon for learning difficulties and motor-skills difficulties to co-present. For example, dyslexia and dyspraxia, or ADD/ADHD and dyspraxia can occur together.

Help a student who is struggling with math

Students struggling with math

Many kids have trouble with math, but some students find it more difficult than others. These may be otherwise bright children who have a keen sense of logic and reasoning but still perform poorly on homework, tests, and quizzes.

Over time, repeated underperformance in math can cause a student to become demotivated and believe he or she is “stupid” or not good at the subject.

Moreover, as math is cumulative, falling behind might mean a learner misses out on much of what is taught for the rest of the school term. Having basic math skills is important, regardless of the career an individual chooses to pursue.

That’s why it’s key to identify issues early on. Given the right combination of classroom accommodations and learning strategies, every student can achieve his or her full potential in math.

How to know when handwriting problems are caused by dysgraphia or dyspraxia

3 Common handwriting problems in children

Learning how to write is one of the most important things a child will do when he or she begins school. That’s because writing offers a means for self-expression and reflecting on the work of others, but it’s also how knowledge and learning is measured in our society. Writing can be done on a computer or through dictation using speech-to-text technology, but it’s more common for children to learn how to write by hand. This happens between the ages of 4 and 5 and involves becoming familiar with the letters of the alphabet, mastering the pen strokes used to form letters, and practicing with holding the pen or pencil in a tripod grip.

It’s common for new writers to struggle with letter formation, spacing and posture in the beginning, but most are able to produce clear and legible text by the end of the second grade. However, there are some children who continue to struggle with the mechanics of handwriting beyond age 7 or 8. For these learners, writing is often slow and labored, and may cause high levels of stress, frustration, anxiety, and embarrassment at school.

Difficulty writing

Difficulty writing

Writing is a complex and cognitively demanding task that requires a child to bring together both lower and higher order skills, including manipulating abstract ideas while paying close attention to the spelling and punctuation conventions of written English.

If the physical act of putting letters on a page is problematic or a learning difficulty gets in the way of fluent language production, students may struggle to come up with legible and coherent compositions. This can lead to poor marks on quizzes and exams but can also affect learning when note-taking skills are compromised.

Because writing is central to most subjects across the school curriculum, over time poor performance on written assignments can result in negative associations with classroom learning, low self-esteem and a general lack of confidence at school. A child may believe he or she is a bad writer and begin to avoid writing activities, which in turn results in a less developed skill set.

The tragedy is that with the right strategy training and appropriate accommodations, every child can achieve his or her full potential.

The most common dysgraphia symptoms in children

7 Dysgraphia symptoms in children

Dysgraphia is a language based specific learning disability or difference that primarily affects writing. It can be difficult to spot in young learners, as not every child develops literacy skills at the same rate. Nonetheless, there are some hallmark signs of trouble which usually show up when a child first learns to write.

For example, these children often have problems holding a pen or pencil and forming letters and numbers, both in print and in cursive writing. They can struggle to express themselves in writing, from organizing ideas, to spelling and using punctuation correctly. Poor handwriting is common. The spacing between words may be uneven, letter size can vary and there will be issues staying inside margins.

Students with dysgraphia can find it hard to show what they have learned when assessment is done via writing assignments. Dysgraphic children also tend to find copying exercises challenging and may avoid coloring and drawing too.

As writing by hand is necessary for everything from putting your name at the top of a page, to making notes, completing worksheets and taking tests, learning can be affected when a child doesn’t get access to the accommodations and strategy training he or she needs.

When b and d letter reversal becomes an issue …

B and d letter reversal

Writing by hand requires a child to correctly identify the sticks, curves and/or circles that make up a letter, then reproduce those shapes in a particular orientation, using a set sequence of pen strokes. Before the skill is automatized, the handwriting process can be quite mentally taxing. New writers are also struggling to develop the fine motor skills needed to grip a pen or pencil and the language encoding skills required for reading and spelling.

Add to this the challenge of writing in a straight line and creating letters of the same height and width and you’ll find that reversing letters is a common mistake for beginners to make. This is particularly the case for symbols built from the same set of shapes, including b/d, p/q, f/t, i/j, m/w and n/u. Nonetheless, most children grow out of letter reversal by age 7 and it only becomes a cause for concern when errors occur beyond first and second grade.

Dyslexia and dysgraphia -- what's the difference?

Dyslexia and dysgraphia – what’s the difference?

Many parents and teachers struggle to distinguish between specific learning disabilities that impact on literacy skills. This confusion is made even worse when they have such similar names. While dyslexia is traditionally associated with reading, dysgraphia affects writing. Both are language disorders that can cause a child to struggle in the classroom, but they are separate conditions with unique neuroglical and behavioral profiles (1).

Children with dysgraphia may have trouble with letter formation and word spacing in handwriting. They can experience difficulty with written expression, from translating ideas into language, and organizing their thoughts, to using grammar, capital letters, and punctuation correctly. For students with dyslexia, it is often English spelling and sounding out words in reading that are problematic.

Writing in all caps

Writing in all caps

Capital and lower-case letters can look similar, like 'O' and ‘o,’ or they can look very different, like ‘A’ and ‘a.’ Nonetheless we still recognize that they are the same letter. This is because when children first start reading and writing they learn to associate two forms with the same sound. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that upper and lower-case letters are processed by the brain in the same manner.

Note-taking skills for kids

Note-taking skills for kids

Writing information down facilitates its transfer into long-term memory and provides an opportunity for learners to engage with content on a deeper level, including through review.

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