Dysgraphia: symptoms, causes and treatment

Dysgraphia is a disorder that can make it difficult to communicate effectively in writing. Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Writing plays an important role in communicating with others. Writing is a complex skill that requires coordination, fine motor skills and linguistic knowledge. It’s not easy for everyone.

Children often have difficulty writing when they begin to learn. Some children may have more trouble than others. Some adults may also find writing difficult.

Difficulty communicating using written language is called dysgraphia. People with dysgraphia may missize their letters or leave too much space between letters.

These challenges can also lead to misspelled words despite practice and instructions.

Dysgraphia is a language disorder that affects your ability to communicate clearly and accurately using written language.

The neurological disorder often occurs with mental health or neurological problems.

For example, a study 2019 suggests that dysgraphia is common in children and adolescents with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism.

According to research, an estimate 10% to 30% of children experience difficulty with handwriting, but the condition is more common in boys (persons designated as male at birth) than in girls (persons designated as female at birth).

A brain injury at birth or after a traumatic event can affect the way you express yourself. This can make it difficult, if not impossible, to communicate effectively using written words.

People often use the terms dysgraphia and agraphia interchangeably, but agraphia involves the complete loss of the ability to write.

Several types of agraphia include:

  • Deep agraphia is an inability to read or spell words.
  • Peripheral agraphia is an inability to connect letters to form words and sentences.
  • Alexia is an inability to read or write.
  • Phonological agraphia consists in havingdifficulty writing abstract thoughts such as ideas and feelings.
  • Visuospatial is an inability to organize the letters of a word.
  • Dysexecutive is an inability to organize one’s thoughts in written language.

The different types of dysgraphia include:

  • Motor dysgraphia. People with motor dysgraphia have poor fine motor skills, which makes it difficult to write clearly. They often have no problem with spelling.
  • Dyslexia dysgraphia. People with this type of dysgraphia create illegible writing, but they may be able to copy text clearly. Also, they may have spelling problems. Dysgraphia dyslexia is not the same thing as dyslexia.
  • Spatial dysgraphia. People with this type of dysgraphia have problems with spatial awareness and may have trouble using proper word spacing or staying within the lines of a page. Their handwriting is generally illegible.

Generally, if you suffer from dysgraphia, your handwriting will show that you have problems with:

  • formation of letters
  • legibility of writing
  • letter spacing
  • spelling
  • fine motor coordination
  • write rate
  • use of grammar
  • composition

Developmental dysgraphia

Experts don’t know what causes developmental dysgraphia.

They know that children with dysgraphia often have other developmental disabilities.

They may also have difficulty learning to write despite adequate school instruction and an appropriate cognitive level to learn.

Acquired dysgraphia

Acquired dysgraphia occurs when something disrupts the pathways in your brain. Things that can cause dysgraphia include:

  • Cerebral lesion – brain-damage. Injuries can occur as a result of head trauma or lack of oxygen to the brain.
  • Neurological disease. Brain disease, cancer, and vascular disease can lead to dysgraphia.
  • Degenerative conditions. Both Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease can affect writing and communication skills.
  • Metabolic dysgraphia. A 2018 case study found that a diabetic teenager suffered from dysgraphia due to low blood sugar. Blood sugar management treated the dysgraphia.

Dysgraphia and dyslexia are different conditions.

Dyslexia involves difficulty reading and decoding words. People with dyslexia may have difficulty pronouncing, spelling, and recognizing words. Dyslexic children generally do not have problems with oral or written communication.

The dysgraphia assessment process depends on your age and level of education.

For a diagnosis of dysgraphia in school-aged children, symptoms must persist for at least 6 months despite adequate instruction and practice.

Testing for learning disabilities and conditions such as dysgraphia typically involves a team effort and the expertise of occupational therapists (OT), special education teachers, and school psychologists.

Before diagnosing, it is essential to rule out other underlying conditions such as vision or hearing impairment that may be causing problems with writing ability.

Diagnosis may involve:

  • assess writing samples
  • checking the grip of a pencil or pen
  • assess writing posture
  • observe write speed
  • watch copied material
  • coordination tests

Adults who suspect they have dysgraphia may find it helpful to speak with a doctor. Your doctor can perform a handwriting test or refer you to a specialist for a diagnosis.

Children

When working with educators, your child may receive the following to manage dysgraphia symptoms:

  • Lodging. This includes support and assistance resources to reduce the stress of writing.
  • Amendment. This includes goals and objectives aimed at reducing the impact of the writing disorder, such as reducing heavy writing tasks.
  • Remediation. This involves working with occupational therapists and special education teachers to improve fine motor skills and help reduce the effects of disability.

According to a paper 2020randomized trials have shown that joining groups like writing clubs can help children who have difficulty writing.

Adults

Treatment for adults often depends on the cause. Treating the underlying condition can improve the symptoms of dysgraphia.

Your doctor may also recommend:

  • therapy with a speech therapist and an occupational therapist
  • cognitive rehabilitation exercises using pattern associations and practicing hand and finger movements
  • lifestyle changes like spending more time writing in a journal
  • deep brain stimulation to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease

Dysgraphia may improve with consistent treatment, but not always. If you have a severe disability, your doctor may recommend that you use a computer instead of writing.

Dysgraphia makes written expression difficult.

Your motor skills and writing can improve with help. Specialists like occupational therapists can teach you techniques that you can use at home with your child.

Adults affected by dysgraphia may be eligible for specific accommodations at work or school. To learn more about your legal disability rights, consider visiting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) website.

If you think you or your child has dysgraphia, consider talking to a healthcare professional. They can make a diagnosis, rule out underlying causes, and find a treatment plan that’s right for you.

About Antoine L. Cassell

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