Writing can be challenging for a lot of students, but how do you know if your child’s struggle with writing is beyond ordinary? Writing shouldn’t necessarily be easy. Teachers should assign writing assignments that challenge their students to go above and beyond. If, however, your child is taking hours to complete a single paragraph, it may be due to deeper-seated issues with writing.
What is Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia is a kind of processing disorder. Processing disorders mean that there is a disconnect when processing information, whether it’s verbal, written, or auditory. Dysgraphia is when the processing of language expression and writing is lacking, affecting the writing process. It is categorised as a learning disability and makes it extremely challenging for those who suffer from it to express their ideas in writing.
How Do I Know if My Child Has it?
Keep in mind that having one or two of the following symptoms may not automatically mean your child has dysgraphia. For example, some students are capable writers but may have lousy handwriting. This does not necessarily imply they have dysgraphia. If, however, your child struggles with writing beyond what you think is normal, it’s worth looking into more thoroughly. Some of the red flags of dysgraphia may include the following:
- Trouble with handwriting: They may complain that the pencil feels uncomfortable in their hand and hold it awkwardly. They may have a grip that’s way too tight. The script may be abnormally large or small, and somewhat illegible.
- Awkward letter formation: Everyone’s writing style is different, but most people would not, for example, write the letter “s” from the bottom up. Those who suffer from dysgraphia may have awkward letter formation or start forming a letter in an area that doesn’t seem logical.
- Trouble thinking of what to write: It’s normal for students to need ample time for brainstorming before writing. However, students with dysgraphia may be at a complete loss for how to start a writing assignment and organise their thoughts on paper. Their writing may be all over the place, jumping from one idea to the next without transitions. They may also be overly specific or very vague, not elaborating on their ideas.
- Trouble separating their ideas: Instead of an essay organised in several paragraphs, their writing may be lumped into one giant paragraph.
- Punctuation issues: Writing may be one massive run-on sentence with little or no punctuation.
Is There a Cure?
Learning disabilities like dysgraphia are conditions that cannot be cured; however, there are plenty of tips and training methods that can aid those who suffer from dysgraphia to manage their symptoms.
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What Should I Do if I Suspect My Child Has Dysgraphia?
Depending on your child’s age, there are different recommendations for how to help your child with writing. No matter the age, students with a formal diagnosis of dysgraphia should be given accommodations. Talk to their teacher about getting your child a 504 or an I.E.P. (Individualised Education Plan. More information on 504’s and I.E.P’s).
- Use sensory tactics to practice writing: Have them practice forming letters by drawing them with their finger in shaving cream or sand. Have them use paper that has raised lines so they can feel where the letters should be contained neatly.
- Buy them pencil grips, which will help them learn how to comfortably and adequately hold a pencil.
- Take turns. To avoid exhaustion, have them dictate a sentence to you while you write it, then have them write the next one themselves.
- Help them organise their thoughts by making a web or a list of ideas to write about in order.
- Give them more time for writing assignments and consider breaking up large projects into more manageable chunks.
- Allow them to type when possible.
- Allow them to use voice to text technology when possible.
- Help them learn how to create a detailed outline and stick to it.
- Talk through the writing prompt with them. They can usually verbalise their ideas just fine, but they forget how to express their thoughts it when they go to write it down. As they write, remind them how they explained it to you, and don’t be surprised if they forget what they said just moments earlier. Patience is key.
- Help them get used to the writing process. Help them get into the habit of creating an outline, then a rough draft. Don’t stress punctuation or grammar for the first draft; focus on helping them get their thoughts on paper. After that, they can revisit their writing to edit and revise their work.
- Give them ample time for planning, writing, and editing, and break up the process to avoid added frustration.
Early intervention is critical with those who suffer from dysgraphia, but don’t worry if it has gone unnoticed in your child. If you think your child is struggling more than usual with written expression, talk to their teachers and school counsellor. They can give you feedback about what’s grade-level appropriate writing and how your child’s writing compares.
Their school counsellor can also help you find resources to get your child officially assessed for dysgraphia at a low cost, depending on the resources their school offers. Once you know, you will be able to get your child the help they need to be successful and learn how to navigate writing with dysgraphia.