Cause and Risk Factors of Dygraphia

Dysgraphia, the neurological disorder which affects a person’s ability to write, is a condition that still confounds researchers. While injuries to the brain have proven to be one cause, many are still theorizing how it occurs naturally in some children.

What is known is that the condition affects people in different ways. And, it can co-exist with other disorders that may pose serious problems for the individual with the condition.

There are three types of dysgraphia: dyslexic dysgraphia, spatial dysgraphia, and motor dysgraphia. Of the three forms, motor dysgraphia is characterized by physical problems such as fine motor skills. The child with this condition may have problems with dexterity, muscle tones, and an inability to properly hold a writing utensil. In this case, physical disability is apparent. Fortunately, this condition can be treated through occupational therapy.

The other two forms are not as easy to spot. The child with dyslexic dysgraphia and spatial dysgraphia will have good posture, average or above average reading levels, and will sometimes have fairly good understanding of spelling and syntax rules. However, the conditions can be spotted in their writing.

Children with dysgraphia will have a wide range of factors. Some will write letters with unusual sizes or have misspelled words. Others will display inappropriate uses of spaces in regards to margins and separation between words when they write. Some will write words or letters backward, have missing letters, or have unusual substitutions of letters (i.e. writing “b” instead of “d” or “p”).


As mentioned, dysgraphia is a neurological disorder. It’s either caused by brain injury, environmental factors or genetics. Brain injury has been proven; however, the other two causes are still being researched.

Despite the mystery of its cause, researchers know what part of the brain is affected by the condition: the parietal lobe. This was discovered after examining several adults with normal brain functions who had traumatic brain injury and started to take on the characteristics of dysgraphia.

Although inconclusive, research indicates that the presence of one of several learning disabilities may be a cause. Children diagnosed with dysgraphia are often diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), auditory processing weaknesses, sequential processing disorders, autism spectrum disorder, or Tourette syndrome.  As to how these conditions may cause dysgraphia is still not known; however, these conditions are often affected by a neurological dysfunction.

Contrary to its name, dyslexic dysgraphia (characterized by backward or reversed letters and words) is not caused by dyslexia. Dyslexia is linked to another part of the brain. However, someone with dyslexia can have dyslexic dysgraphia.  Also, they can have spatial dysgraphia (characterized by inappropriate or unusual use of space between letters or words in respects to graphs, margins or lines on paper).

Another cause being considered is ambidexterity. This is a trait in which a person can favor the use of both hands. In other words, instead of being left or right handed, those with this trait can use both hands almost equally.

Research has shown that parts the brain of ambidextrous people tends to work differently from those who are either right or left handed.  The part of the brain affected is the same region that is affected by dysgraphia.  

Risk Factors

Ambidexterity, brain injury, and learning disorders caused by neurological conditions within the brain are possible factors that increase the chances of a child having dysgraphia. While there are no known cures, there are treatments (occupational and/or educational) that can help the child to either overcome or cope with the condition. Some children affected by this will eventually improve; others will have this condition for the rest of their lives.