From crawling as infants to learning to ride a bicycle, we measure growth by the new skills we acquire. Parents and pediatricians use milestones to gauge a child's neurological development. Academic benchmarks confirm a child's progress and become building blocks for further education. Sometimes, neurological disorders disrupt that progress, creating roadblocks to necessary skills.
Many of us are aware of dyslexia, a learning disability that disrupts a person's ability to read. Similarly, some children experience difficulty with penmanship and stringing letters together to form words. Rather than carelessness, consistently unclear or indecipherable writing may indicate dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects writing. While the disorder is lifelong, it is also diagnosable and treatable. Properly recognizing dysgraphia can save a child's self-esteem and ensure they develop the tools and abilities to overcome the disorder.
Dysgraphia first presents when a child begins learning how to write. While all children's writing may initially be difficult to read, it usually improves with time and practice. Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder that prevents someone from transferring their thoughts onto the page. One of the hallmark signs is a lack of progress. The writing of someone with dysgraphia will be unclear, but its appearance may shift and alter without a clear pattern or trajectory. Words may slant in different directions, vary in size or appear in a random sequence. Dysgraphia is frustrating and discouraging because individuals may not understand why their writing is inconsistent. Oftentimes, they write very slowly and deliberately while staring at their writing hand. In addition, those with dysgraphia may:
Adults may exhibit dysgraphia following a brain injury. A pronounced variance from their writing pre-injury or a new inability to spell indicates the onset of dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia is a neurologic disorder that affects the mind as well as the fine motor control needed to grip a writing utensil and create words on paper. Researchers are not yet certain of an exact cause. As with many other learning disabilities, dysgraphia is thought to be genetic. Parents with the disorder should be vigilant in monitoring their children for signs once they begin writing.
Dysgraphia is often present along with another learning disability like ADHD or dyslexia. Generally speaking, children with dysgraphia do not exhibit behavioral or academic difficulties.
Adults with no history of the disability may develop dysgraphia following a stroke or traumatic brain injuries. Researchers believe it results from damage to the brain's parietal lobe, which controls our response to sensations like touch.
Dysgraphia is a lifelong disability without a cure. Depending on the extent of the child's difficulty, doctors may manage it with a range of interventions from specialized tutoring to medication.
Occupational therapists direct exercises to develop fine motor skills and proper grip techniques for the pencil. They also help develop the planning and anticipatory skills needed to understand the space on the paper and how to form letters. Therapists can help both children and those recovering from a neurological injury.
Parents can use wide-ruled or textured paper to help children write within lines and margins. Specialized pencils grips can be used to coax the hand into a more comfortable and natural position.
Embracing typing as an early alternative helps those with dysgraphia. Parents should work with teachers and school administrators to establish an Individual Learning Plan to help their children develop the necessary writing skills.
The most important aspect is to understand that dysgraphia results from miscommunications in the brain. It's important to support an individual with the disorder and positively reinforce their writing efforts.