In the age of the internet, a lot of us have developed messy handwriting. When our fingers get used to typing on computers, we can find qwerty on a keyboard a lot easier than we can remember how to make a cursive r.
You may notice your child has messy handwriting that’s difficult to decipher. As they grow, their writing skills seem to lag behind their same-aged peers. Sometimes, they even reverse letters, or leave out words when writing sentences.
“What gives?!” you’re starting to wonder.
You thought they would grow out of the issues they had as a younger child with holding and working with their crayons and markers.
You’re noticing their struggles but are still unsure what could be causing them. And, after all, is handwriting really anything to worry too much about?
But what if your child’s issues with forming legible text go deeper than a lack of practice or trying to work too fast?
When issues with written language skills go beyond what’s on the surface, your child may be dealing with dysgraphia.
Let’s take the time to learn about this issue, how it shows up in kids, and what you can do if you think your child may have dysgraphia.
What is dysgraphia?
More than just a surface-level issue with writing, dysgraphia is a problem with how the brain orders and produces written language.
Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder that impacts a child’s writing skills development. Children with dysgraphia produce written language that’s distorted, difficult to decipher, or incorrect.
While it may sound scary to learn your child’s issues with writing could be the result of an issue with their brain, it can be comforting to learn that dysgraphia doesn’t usually cause other social or educational issues.
Dysgraphia also isn’t an issue of the intelligence of those who experience it—in fact, the outward symptoms are often largely due to issues with motor skills.
It’s also helpful to know that there are lots of ways to treat dysgraphia, so your child’s issues with writing can be effectively addressed and managed.
Dysgraphia typically impacts all types of written communication—from handwriting to typing to spelling skills.
Dyslexia is another type of learning disability that impacts the development of language skills in those who have it. More specifically, it involves problems with the acquisition and mastery of phonological awareness skills.
While the precise cause of dysgraphia is unknown, skilled speech and language and occupational therapists are able to diagnose this issue and assess its severity when it occurs.
No matter the cause, there are many ways to treat children with dysgraphia.
Let’s learn more about how dysgraphia shows up in children, to help you know if your child may benefit from additional support, or evaluation and treatment from a skilled therapist.
What are the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia in children?
Now that you know what the underpinnings of dysgraphia are, it’s helpful to know how it might show up in the real world.
The hallmark is dysgraphia is handwriting that’s messy and difficult to decipher. But let’s dive a little deeper into how dysgraphia impacts handwriting in the kids who have it.
Children with dysgraphia often produce written language that—
Isn’t written in a straight line or within the included guide lines on a page
Has letters of different shapes and sizes
Is grammatically incorrect, with words omitted
Has letters and words that don’t have adequate spacing or organization on the page
Has words that are incomplete and missing letters
Has incorrect verb and pronoun usage
Has letters that are reversed
Children with dysgraphia often struggle with writing skills like—
Grasping, holding, amd manipulating writing implements to form written language
Being able to read back what they’ve written (due to poor legibility)
Recalling how specific letters are formed
Using correct punctuation
Kids with dysgraphia also often experience difficulties with—
Fine motor control (a key skill for writing)
Their rate/speed of writing
Even when given corrections and instruction, these children may not be able to correct their mistakes in written language.
Dysgraphia symptoms typically appear from the very first moments a child begins writing. But most parents aren’t trained to pick up on the first symptoms of this disorder, and may overlook them or attribute them to other causes.
If your child is diagnosed with dysgraphia, please don’t beat yourself up, wondering if you should have recognized their issues sooner. This is a very tricky condition for those without training and specified education to identify.
The important thing is—your child is now able to get the extra help and support they need to address and overcome their issues with writing.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can help your child with known or suspected dysgraphia to get the support they need to succeed.
How can parents help a child with known or suspected dysgraphia?
Ready for some good news?
Because symptoms of dysgraphia can be improved in many different ways—to help your child become a more confident and proficient writer.
If you believe your child may be experiencing dysgraphia but they haven’t yet been formally identified, assessed, or diagnosed—the first step is to reach out to trusted professionals like your child’s teacher or pediatrician.
They can help you decide upon next steps and can connect you with skilled therapists who can formally evaluate your child and develop a treatment plan if indicated.
Occupational therapists and speech therapists are generally your go-to specialists to assess and treat signs and symptoms of dysgraphia in children. These professionals can offer thorough evaluations of your child’s skills, and determine their treatment needs.
While the idea of your child receiving a diagnostic label may be a bit scary, diagnoses are important for some key reasons.
When your child is diagnosed with dysgraphia, they unlock access to services and supports they wouldn’t otherwise qualify for under the current educational system.
Because overcoming dysgraphia involves explicit, systematic instruction, provided by a qualified professional, pursuing a diagnosis can help secure these educational support services for your child—often at no cost to you.
At The Loop, our skilled team of occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists are experts at assessing and treating dysgraphia in children.
Treatment for dysgraphia depends on your child’s individual symptoms and needs.
At The Loop, we always craft customized treatment plans that take into account the goals, needs, and preferences of each individual child and family we’re honored to serve.
Treatment for dysgraphia often includes a combination of accommodations, therapy sessions, and modifications, to help your child succeed across their daily environments.
In practice, these may look like—
Working with your child's teacher to offer them more time to complete written work
Training your child in use of alternative writing devices, like a computer, tablet, or talk to text software
Making testing accommodations, such as allowing your child to complete tests orally, instead of in writing
One-on-one therapy sessions, designed to support your child and train them in strategies and exercises to improve their writing skills
Therapy support provided in the classroom setting, to assist your child in implementing trained strategies effectively, ensure their teacher is up to date on any accommodations, and promote your child’s self-monitoring skills throughout the school day
Providing you with training and home carryover exercises, to support your child at home as well as at school
Treatment for dysgraphia is generally focused on helping your child learn how to form letters and words accurately and with increased speed.
When you work with The Loop, our team will always keep you informed about your child’s goals and progress in our therapy plans.
We value you as a core member of your child’s therapy team, and will offer you the information and training you need to support your child's writing skills with clarity and confidence.
The Loop team will work closely with you, your child, and their school to develop and implement a customized therapy plan designed to enhance their written communication skills.
Because writing is a major way we communicate as adults in the world—and we want your child to have all the tools they need to thrive, both in school and in life.
Our therapists are skilled at assessing and recognizing the signs of dysgraphia in children.
We’re also experts at crafting individualized treatment plans that will not only target your child’s needs, but do so in a way they find fun and motivating! Because we believe enjoyment and benefit are not mutually exclusive.
If your child is experiencing dysgraphia, we’re here to ensure they can learn the writing skills and strategies they need to thrive.
Is your school in the loop of the best therapy and learning support services in Chicago? If not, send them our way! We partner exclusively with Chicago area private schools to offer easy access to our top-notch services.
Speaking of our awesome services, The Loop is proud to offer Chicago families access to speech, language, occupational, and behavioral therapy services. Plus, we also offer learning support services, including learning remedication, educational consultancy and advocacy, and executive function coaching. Talk about well rounded!
Stay in the loop by following us on your fav social platforms @theLoopSLL. And you can always reach us via email with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to visit our blog regularly for lots of great articles about topics of interest to you!