I'm indebted to parenting author Kate Kelly for this succinct explanation of dysgraphia.
What is it?
An issue that involves difficulty with the physical act of writing. Kids who struggle to master handwriting are described as having dysgraphia.
What are the signs my child may have it?
- Illegible handwriting
- Slow, laboured writing
- Mixing print and cursive letters
- Spacing letters and words oddly
- Difficulty gripping a pencil
- Incorrect punctuation
- Run-on sentences and lack of paragraph breaks
What else might I notice?
- Poor spelling and grammar
- Trouble organizing information when writing
- Confusing the order of letters
While children with dysgraphia can show these three behaviours, the underlying cause of them may be reading difficulties, including dyslexia. If so, your child may need specific therapy to work on the causes of reading problems. This can be done with programs to improve cognitive processes - memory, attention, thinking speed and the ability to sequence - and language skills, like phonics, that are essential for reading. Then of course they will also need explicit instruction in reading.
Emotional & self esteem issues
Children with dysgraphia may hear other describe them as "lazy" or "sloppy". They might develop low self esteem as a result of this.
What can you do to help?
- Occupational therapy to build fine motor skills and dexterity
- Give them a checklist for editing their work—spelling, neatness, grammar, syntax, clear progression of ideas, etc
- Teach them to use graphic organisers - there are many free downloadable ones on the internet
- Consult with your child's teacher - they will be able to help.