About Dysgraphia

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Misunderstandings About Dysgraphia

Difficulties with writing often leads to major misunderstandings by teachers and parents, and consequently, to many frustrations for the student. This is especially true for the bright, linguistically fast student who encounters a major stumbling block when dealing with written expression due to the lack of smooth, efficient automaticity in letter and word formation. These students struggle to translate their thoughts and knowledge, which then denies their teachers the opportunity to understand what they know.


Compensations for the Dysgraphic Student

  1. Understanding:
    Understand the student's inconsistencies and performance variables.
  2. Print or cursive:
    Allow the student to use either form. Many dysgraphic students are more comfortable with manuscript printing.
  3. Computer:
    Encourage student to become comfortable using a word processor on a computer. Students can be taught as early as 1st grade to type sentences directly on the keyboard.
  4. Encourage consistent use of spell checker on the computer to decrease the overall demands of the writing task.
  5. Encourage use of an electronic spell checker with a speaking component to decrease the overall demands. If student has concurrent reading problems, the speaking component is necessary because it will read/say the words.
  6. Have student proofread papers after a delay and use strategies for editing.  Student may need help to develop efficient editing techniques.
  7. If getting started is a problem, encourage visual pre-organization strategies, such as mind mapping.
  8. Allow extra time for writing activities.
  9. If necessary, shorten writing assignments.
  10. Allow student to tape assignment and/or take oral tests.
  11. Reinforce the positive aspects of student's efforts.
  12. Be patient.
  13. Encourage student to be patient with him/herself.


Message to Students

  • Are you frustrated with written work?
  • Do your teachers and parents sometimes think you're lazy?
  • Do you work really hard, but your paper is still sloppy?
  • Is the beginning of your paper neater than the rest of your paper?
  • Can you only write neatly if you have lots of extra time, but then your hand gets very tired?
  • Do you have more difficulty writing neatly when you are thinking hard about what you are writing?

Maybe then, you have dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia is a Latin word. Dys - means "difficulty with." Graphia refers to the writing process. It is one of the many aspects of a learning disability or a learning difference. It has absolutely nothing to do with how smart you are.

Often, dysgraphia is misunderstood. Parents and teachers may think you are lazy or that you don't care about neatness. This means you have to try even harder to show that you do care. Here are some suggestions:

  • Type your papers as often as possible.
  • Always proofread your paper.
  • Wait before proofing. It is easier to notice your errors if you've had a break.
  • Edit your paper to increase your use of larger vocabulary words and make sure you explain your ideas clearly.
  • Support your ideas and your statements.
  • Use a thesaurus for word variation.

If you have difficulty getting your ideas organized or getting started, try these steps:

  • Use pre-organization strategies such as brainstorming and mind mapping. Use of Post-it notes and/or electronic outline programs can make the task much easier.
  • If you're really stuck, "talk" out your paragraph into a tape recorder, then type what you said.

It is true that these steps require more time. However, by following them and creating your own related steps, you will be showing your parents and teachers (and yourself, too) that you do care.

If you are truly dysgraphic, you cannot change that fact because it is part of your neurological makeup and part of your learning difference.

It is basically up to you. You must be aware, however, that you may encounter adults who do not understand that you really are trying hard, and it takes you extra time to write your good ideas. You will need to assert yourself and in a very patient manner explain your situation and explain what compensations you need to produce a final product that matches your higher thinking skills.


What happens if you're dyslexic and dysgraphic?

If you happen to be both dyslexic and dysgraphic, then you probably have difficulty with the mechanical aspects of writing as well as the spelling. This combination of problems does NOT have to limit your writing experiences, nor does it have to limit your creativity when writing. But you will definitely need to use a computer and a spell checker. If spelling is a very significant problem, then the spell checker may not be able to recognize your words. What do you do then? At that point you need to use technology which will recognize the words based on the sounds. For more information and links regarding technology, visit this page.


An Example
The following writing story was written by a 7th grade student who is both dyslexic and dysgraphic. It seems almost impossible for him to think about content at the same time he thinks about spelling and writing mechanics. Because the process of writing is so very laborious for him, he types all of his papers. His first step was to type his ideas, fluently, while they "flowed". His assignment was "write about a bumpy ride". He was given no other cues. He typed:

The way I descride a bumby ride is like wothgan mowtsarts mowsek. Eshe bumby rowd is like a song. Eshe bumb is the a note eche uncon at the same time ste is. That was the mewstere to mowts mowsuk it was vare metereus and unperdekdable. So the next time you drive down a bumby theak of mowtsart.

His next task was to use his Franklin Language Master 6000 and begin to proof and correct the story. Because he has a solid background in phonics, especially multisensory techniques, he was able to take the words one at a time, sound them out, and correct their spelling. It was a long process, but the end result is a fine example of the extent of his high level thinking. What is amazing, is that he can correct the spelling, but he cannot think of the sounds and the content at the same time. For him, he must separate the two processes. His corrected story is:

The way I describe a bumpy ride is like Wolfgang Mozart's music. Each bumpy road is like a song. Each bump in the road is a note. Each bump is uncontrolled at the same time it still is controlled. That was the magic to Mozart's music. It was very mysterious and unpredictable. So the next time you drive down a bumpy road, think of Mozart.

Dealing with writing problems is also both uncontrollable and controllable. Going slowly, developing skills, and using compensations can create the magic of good creative communication through writing.

©Regina G. Richards 2005 .   Excerpts from When Writing's A Problem: Understanding Dysgraphia .
Used by permission of RET Center Press, fax 909/784-5643, RET Center Press

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