Dysgraphia and Dyslexia | Dyslexia UK

Dysgraphia and Dyslexia

February 19, 2024 Keir Williams Comments Off

Writing is an essential skill that children are taught from a young age. However, some children may experience difficulties in writing, which can impact their academic performance and self-esteem. Two common conditions that can affect a child’s ability to write are dysgraphia and dyslexia. In this blog post, we will explore what these conditions are, how they differ, and what strategies and support are available to help children with these conditions.

Dysgraphia and dyslexia are both neurological disorders that affect a person’s ability to learn and process information. Dysgraphia is a condition that affects a person’s memory processing, thereby hindering the fine motor skills required to write clearly, efficiently, and coherently. People with dysgraphia can have difficulty converting the sounds of language (phonemes) into writing (graphemes). On the other hand, dyslexia is a condition that affects a person’s ability to read, write, and spell. Dyslexia can impact upon a person’s reading comprehension, fluency, accuracy, and writing ability.

Watch this short video that explains this further: https://youtu.be/rHMHt8cEFSo

It is worth noting that there is a common misperception that dysgraphia refers to motor coordination difficulties that could cause messy handwriting. However, persistent handwriting difficulties caused by an impairment in motor coordination are a particular aspect of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), previously known as Dyspraxia. For people who are struggling with the writing process due to significant handwriting delays or motor coordination impairments, an Occupational Therapist assessment for Developmental Coordination Disorder is recommended.

There is a high prevalence of people with dyslexia and dysgraphia as well as people with dyslexia and Developmental Coordination Disorder. Therefore, it is essential to identify these conditions early and provide the necessary support and interventions to help children with these conditions succeed.

Signs of dysgraphia include unclear, irregular, or inconsistent handwriting, handwriting with different slants, letters of different shapes, incorrect mixture of upper and lowercase letters, and inconsistent use of jointed and printed letters. Dysgraphia can also lead to difficulties or slow in copying text, a cramped handwriting grip, a sore hand when writing, inconsistent spacing between letters and words, poor spatial planning, lots of crossing out, poor spelling, missing letters or unfinished words, incomplete sentences or sentences with missed words, unusual or frequently moving wrist, body, or paper position while writing, and difficulty when thinking and writing at the same time, such as with creative writing.

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder that can first appear in children when they are starting to learn how to write. Dysgraphia can only be diagnosed by an Educational Psychologist. The services of an Educational Psychology can be accessed via a school, GP or privately. As part of the assessment, the Educational Psychologist will investigate the person’s academic strengths and difficulties and consider their educational history and the extent of their spelling and expressive writing difficulties. They will use a series of tests such as rapid automatised naming, spelling, orthographic processing, expressive writing, working memory, and overall cognitive ability. These will provide an insight into the person’s handwriting, ability to put their thoughts into words, and their fine motor skills. The Educational Psychologist will also observe the written work being completed and note factors such as hand and body position, pencil grip, and writing posture. In addition to assessing and diagnosing dysgraphia, they will provide recommendations for support.

Dysgraphia support

Whilst there is not a cure for dysgraphia, there are three different strategic approaches that can help people with this difficulty: interventions, alternatives, and adaptations.

Interventions

  • These include the provision of specific support targeted at improving spelling and handwriting skills. Earlier blog posts have discussed strategies and intervention programmes that can support spelling and handwriting
  • Alternatives
  • These include the provision of alternative ways of recording information such as oral assessments and assistive technology. Earlier blog posts have discussed assistive technology and its use at home, in school and exams as well as in the work place   
  • Adaptions
  •  These include changing and modifying tasks so that the learner can demonstrate their knowledge and understanding without relying on expressive language.

As well as specialist intervention, an individual with dysgraphia will benefit from help and support as part of their daily learning at school and home. Acknowledge the condition and talk to your child about it. They will be able to explain what they find difficult and will also have some idea of what support they feel would benefit them. Also discuss your child’s needs with the school’s SENCo so that a coordinated plan of support can be put in place. This could include simple things, such as teachers being reminded to not criticise the clarity of writing, but instead to focus on praise and provide positive reinforcement. Further simple methods of support could include:

  • Using wide ruled paper to help word and letter alignment
  • Using pencil grips and specific handwriting pencils (see earlier blog post on this topic)
  • Teach touch typing skills so a laptop can be used in place of writing
  • Hand mobility exercises, such as squeezing a stress ball to develop strength and coordination, or stretching, rubbing and shaking exercises.
  • Allowing extra time to complete written tasks
  • Use assistive technology such as speech to text software to reduce handwriting
  • Explicit intervention in phonics and spelling
  • Reducing the amount of written work that needs to be completed. Focus on quality rather than quantity. User writing frames, copies of class notes, paper with the learning objective already written.
  • Give shorter writing assignments or differentiated tasks, such as allowing voice recorded or video submissions In place of written homework
  • Video or audio reports instead of written homework assignments

To read more about dyslexia and handwriting difficulties see this blog: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/dyslexia-and-handwriting-difficulties/

For tips on touch typing, read this: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/learning-to-touch-type/

Dyslexia and spelling difficulties are discussed here: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/spelling-difficulties/

To speak to a dyslexia assessor, contact us: https://www.dyslexiauk.co.uk/#request-form