What is Dysgraphia?

In order to understand how to help children with dysgraphia, we must first understand what dysgraphia is.  “Dysgraphia is a brain-based issue that affects writing abilities. It can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting, and trouble putting thoughts on paper.” – American Academy of Paediatrics. Developmental dysgraphia is often associated with minor neurological dysfunction in children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD)  Research on dysgraphia often focuses on understanding its neurological basis, developing effective interventions, and exploring the impact on academic and everyday functioning. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols, but that does not affect general intelligence. Dysgraphia is a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to write coherently and accurately. It is considered a specific learning disability that primarily impacts writing skills.

Individuals with dysgraphia may have difficulty with various aspects of writing, including handwriting, spelling, and organising thoughts on paper. This condition is not related to intelligence, and individuals with dysgraphia may have average or above-average intelligence in other areas.

A study published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities (2012) titled “Handwriting in Early Childhood Education: Current Research and Future Implications” discusses the importance of addressing handwriting difficulties, such as those seen in dysgraphia, in early education. The research emphasises the role of effective handwriting instruction in improving overall academic success. It is important to determine if a child with dysgraphia may also have dyslexia, which requires special help with reading as well as oral and written language. Dysgraphia is not to be confused with dyspraxia, which is a more general difficulty with motor skill coordination and not primarily a writing-related disorder.

Diagnosis and Intervention:

The diagnosis of specific learning disability is typically made in an educational setting by a team assessment, which often includes occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, special education teachers, and educational psychologists.

Helping children with dysgraphia

Types of Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a complex condition, and researchers often categorise it into different types based on the specific difficulties individuals experience. It’s important to note that definitions and classifications may vary across research studies. Below are some common types of dysgraphia, along with relevant quotes and research:

1)Dyslexic Dysgraphia:

Description: Individuals with dyslexic dysgraphia have difficulty with spelling and may produce illegible handwriting. This type is often associated with phonological processing difficulties. Written work that is created spontaneously is illegible, copied work is good and spelling is poor. A student with “dyslexia dysgraphia” does not necessarily have dyslexia.

Research: A study by Berninger et al. (2006) titled “Treatment of Dyslexia and Dysgraphia in a Developmental, Phonological, and Morphological Framework” discusses the relationship between dyslexia and dysgraphia and explores effective treatment approaches.

2)Motor Dysgraphia:

Description: Motor dysgraphia is characterised by poor motor coordination, resulting in difficulties with handwriting and drawing. Individuals may struggle to produce legible and organised written work. Generally, written work is poor to illegible, even if it is copied from another source. Letter formation may be legible in very short samples of writing. However, this is usually after extreme efforts and the dedication of unreasonable amounts of time on the student’s part. Spelling skills are not impaired. 

Research: The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) provides information on motor dysgraphia, emphasising the role of occupational therapy in addressing fine motor skills related to writing.

3)Spatial Dysgraphia:

Description: Spatial dysgraphia involves difficulties with spatial planning and organisation of written material on the page. Individuals may have trouble with spacing, alignment, and overall layout. Students may have illegible spontaneously written work as well as illegible copied work. Spelling skills are generally not impaired.

Research: A study by Maeland (1992) titled “Effects of Two Different Handwriting Programmes in First Grade” explores the impact of different handwriting instruction methods, providing insights into spatial dysgraphia.

4)Phonological Dysgraphia:

Description: Phonological dysgraphia is linked to difficulties in translating phonemes (sounds) into written symbols. Individuals may struggle with spelling and have challenges in accurately representing the sounds of words.

Research: A study by Temple and Marshall (1983) titled “A Case Study of Developmental Phonological Dyslexia” investigates the phonological processing deficits associated with dyslexia and dysgraphia.

A high proportion of both primary and secondary children who have poor handwriting are often labelled as suffering from ‘dysgraphia’. Experts are not sure what causes this. The general consensus is that early intervention can help prevent or reduce the problems. The International Dyslexia Association states that pupils with this label require early intervention or specialised instruction in all the relevant skills that are interfering with their learning of written language.

Helping children with dysgraphia

Helping Children with Dysgraphia

Helping children with dysgraphia requires a multifaceted approach that addresses their specific difficulties with handwriting, spelling, and approach. Many schools lack systematic instructional programs in these areas, necessitating additional, explicit instruction. The Magic Link Handwriting Programme offers a structured and effective solution, incorporating clear handwriting instructions and focusing on spelling patterns. Research and proven results support its efficacy, particularly for children with dysgraphia, dyspraxia, and/or dyslexia.

1. Systematic Instruction:

2. Sequential Learning:

  • Research: Sequential learning is essential for children with dysgraphia. The Magic Link Programme’s color-coded, one-vowel-at-a-time approach ensures that children learn the formation of each vowel and their combinations individually and sequentially. This aligns with research emphasising the importance of breaking down tasks for improved learning (Berninger et al., 2017).

3. Fun and Logical Approach:

  • Research: Children with dysgraphia often develop a dislike for writing. A study by Berninger and Wolf (2009) titled “Teaching Students with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia: Lessons from Teaching and Science” suggests that incorporating fun and logical elements into learning can enhance engagement and retention. The Magic Link Programme addresses this need, offering a fun and logical way for children to learn handwriting skills.

4. Top Tips for Crucial Skills:

In conclusion, addressing the challenges of dysgraphia involves a combination of systematic instruction, sequential learning, a fun and logical approach, and explicit guidance in crucial skills. The Magic Link Handwriting Programme, supported by evidence and research, provides a structured and effective solution to help children with dysgraphia develop their handwriting skills and overcome writing-related challenges.

Helping children with dysgraphia