In the world of special education, dysgraphia is a mystery. It affects the way somebody writes and is often found with other learning disabilities such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), auditory and/or visual processing weakness, and Asperger’s syndrome. On top of that, there are no known cures for it.
What is known is that there three subgroups, its causes may vary, and there are treatments that can help the person with this condition cope, and possibly build skills to compensate for the impairment it creates.
What is Dysgraphia?
According to “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume 4 (DSM IV)”, dysgraphia is characterized as a “Disorder of Written Expression.” It is often discovered during childhood when children are learning to write. It has also been reported in adults who have had traumatic brain injury to the parietal lobe of the brain.
Other than head injury, researchers are not sure how the condition shows up in children. Environmental and genetic factors have been considered. Also, the other disorders that accompany it may play a major role. Still, all evidence points to some form of neurological damage or defect.
Also, dysgraphia doesn’t affect everyone in the same fashion. As a result, there are three subgroups. They are:
1.Dyslexic dysgraphia: A student with this disorder doesn’t necessarily have dyslexia. Often his or her free writing is illegible; copied work is fine, but the spelling isn’t. However, motor skills are normal.
2. Motor dysgraphia: this is often caused by poor fine motor skills, dexterity, and/or muscle tone. Also, it may be the result of unspecified motor clumsiness. Often the person with this condition holds the pencil or pen in an awkward way. Also, it takes the person extra time to copy or complete a written work. The finished product is often illegible, even if it was copied from the board.
3. Spatial dysgraphia: the person with this condition has an inability to understand spacing between letters or words. Usually a person with this condition will have normal spelling.
In each case, dysgraphia has several common characteristics. According to National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes (NINDS), the person with this condition will have poor handwriting, odd or wrong spelling, and production of incorrect words to express something.
Also, other common factors include: misshapen or inappropriately sized-letters; incomplete letters or words; deletions; syntax misuse; lack of understanding of phonics rules; and difficulties differentiating between certain letters such as “p”, “q”, “b”, and “d”.
As mentioned, dysgraphia has no cures. However, there are treatment options. Educational therapy and occupational therapy are two forms of treatment that can help a person with this condition.
Motor dysgraphia, in particular, may need more occupational or physical therapy than the others. Often a person with this condition will need help in controlling the muscle movements, postures, and hand movements needed to improve the physical aspect of writing or gripping a writing instrument. Also, occupational therapy can be used to strengthen the muscle tones and improve eye-hand coordination.
Educational therapy on the other hand uses a wide range of intensive interventions or strategies that are individualized and unique to the person and his or her condition. These can be done in school or another educational facility.
Many of the strategies used for a person with dysgraphia will center on teaching organization skills such as outlining, pre-writing, or note-taking skills, daily handwriting drills, and utilizing cooperative writing projects with other students (with or without dysgraphia).
Much of the strategies for this form of treatment also involve accommodations that teachers can make in the classroom. This includes, expanding the time for the student to complete a written assignment; supplying partial notes; giving them graph paper, lined paper, or paper with raised lines to write on (to keep the letters within a certain length on the paper); and using the computer or keyboard instead of pen, pencil, or paper.
These strategies vary. In fact, the University of West Virginia lists 40 strategies and an additional six for spelling difficulties associated with it.
Treatment for dysgraphia is mostly an educational one. A student can be taught to physically write, or to use strategies to help him or her organize the thought process that goes with writing and spelling.
While these therapies and strategies don’t solve the mystery of its cause or lead to a cure, it does help the person with dysgraphia cope and find new ways of conquering writing difficulties.