Dysgraphia: More Than Just Bad Handwriting

By: Voice of America
Teachers and parents should suspect dysgraphia if a child's handwriting is unusually difficult to read. Find out more about this neurological problem that can cause physical pain as some children struggle to write.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing.

Writing is not an easy skill. Not only does it require the ability to organize and express ideas in the mind. It also requires the ability to get the muscles in the hands and fingers to form those ideas, letter by letter, on paper.

Experts say teachers and parents should suspect dysgraphia if a child's handwriting is unusually difficult to read. Letters might be sized or spaced incorrectly. Capital letters might be in the wrong places. The child's hand, body or paper might be in a strange position. These can all be signs of dysgraphia. Spelling problems can also be related to the disorder.

Many people have poor handwriting, but dysgraphia is more serious. Dsygraphia is a neurological disorder that generally appears when children are first learning to write. Writing by hand can be physically painful for people who have it. There are different kinds of dysgraphia. And it can appear with other learning disabilities, especially involving language.

Experts are not sure what causes it. But they say early treatment can help prevent or reduce many problems. For example, special exercises can increase strength in the hands and improve muscle memory. This is training muscles to remember the shapes of letters and numbers.

Children can try a writing aid like a thick pencil to see if that helps. Schools can also provide simple interventions like more time to complete writing activities or assistance from a note taker. Teachers could have students with dysgraphia take tests by speaking the answers into a recorder, or type their work instead of writing it.

Children with dysgraphia might be able to avoid the problems of handwriting by using a computer. Yet experts say they could still gain from special instruction to help them organize their thoughts and put them into writing. Such skills become more important as children get older and schoolwork becomes more difficult.

Steinbach, Nancy (Writer) and Ember, Steve (Reporter). (2008, Feb. 6). Dysgraphia: More Than Just Bad Handwriting. Voice of America. Retrieved from:


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Dysgraphia is as you say more than bad handwriting, but there are many things you can do to help. Pencil grips are brilliant because you cannot fail to hold the pen in the correct way. There is also a pen call 'PenAgain ErgoSof Pen', which is brilliant and children (and adults) like it. Looks totally different than a pen - feels nice to handle and you are holding it correctly. There are other things that can help. I will be happy to add any more, if anyone is interested.

Dysgrafia? Oh, good grief. Does every peccadillo have to be turned into a syndrome?I guesss if there's federal aid money to be had for every last little imperfection, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.It's a shame that we live in a world where every fourth kid has to be turned into a Ritalin induced zombie. One wonder how we got along for the last 50,000 years without it.

When you don'd have a child with the problem, you may say that. You need to have a child with dysgraphia, that the teachers under mark his exams and contribute to his lack of confidence etc. to realise it can be a BIG problem! And by the way, my son do not take any kind of that medications you listed, you mixing it up with other conditions.

If it is indeed true that ignorance is bliss then the previous post (John; May 4,2010) is and will remain ever blissful

Coming from an Occupational Therapist who works with children every day, this is a diagnosis that fits several children who have no other explanation for their difficulties. I appreciate the research that has gone into categorizing this disability, and the recommendations that are generated as a result. This information really helps these kids get the services and support they need to succeed. We are MUCH better off then we were even 100 years ago.

i have disgraphia and belive me its no joke. im a senior in highschool and i write as good as a fifth grader, i dont even know how to do essay structure because it effects my cognative understanding of writing formats. so if you think its just another "syndrome" you my friend are mistaken it mentally drains you so much you have no idea.

This is the first time posting ever. I was so shocked by John's post on May 4, 2010 that I cringed at such ignorance. A series of questions ran through my mind? Yhe first was is he working with students? The second question he raised why was he on this site? As a parent of a child with ADD, Dsylexia and Dysgraphia, I would hate to have him trying to teach my child. The problem is many people dont understand the extent of learning disabilities and have lumped them all together. Ritalin has a place in the regime to help a variety of children though everyone is not helped by ritalin. I want to commend Jonathan for advocating for himself and his cause. It will be even more important as he moves into the world of work. Based on the severity of my son's disability, I began to pursue teaching because too many individuals don't have a clue regarding the extent of the problems students with learning disabilities encounter. I'm clear many ld students can be helped as long as people like John are educated,too.

I am an occupational therapist as well. While I do agree that more research into dysgraphia is good and more is still needed, I do find that there are times when the diagnosis is just thrown on as a label for the student without really looking into whether it is a learning disability or whether it is under-developed fine motor, visual motor, visual perceptual skills and lack of proper instruction on handwriting formation which I find more and more often in schools as teaching is moving away from thebasics to make room for teachign to standardized tests. I also commend Jonathan for standing up for himself and others with similar dificulties to an ignorant person like John.

Thank you for the recommendations. I have a student who has Dysgraphia. I was clueless about what this even meant until I read this article and the comments of Jonathon. Thank you for the insight. My perspective has changed about my student.

I have a son that has greatly improved by learning how to play an instrument. I took him out of his dysgraphia classes in the 6th grade and gave him a clarinet. He went from F's to making A's and B's. He has even earned a scholarship for college without the use of a computer. His writing is now legible. Musical instruments are great for retraining the brain through eye hand cordination. Begin learning an instrument as soon as you can. You will see and feel the difference. Also, don't let anyone talk you out of it. There have been many studies on how playing an instrument can improve any form of dyslexia. I should know as dyslexia runs throughout our family and everyone here plays an instrument.

Thank you for this website/article that I just found. I was unaware of this condition until just this week and my son is now going to be a 4th grader. He has always struggled with writing (handwriting and writing assignments). In 2nd grade his teacher said when it came time to write a small story he put his head down and sobbed. I kept working with him, signing him up for classes and working with him at home (workbooks for writing skills) but with minimal progress. Honestly, I don't know how to have him diagnosed but to start with his pediatrician. But, I feel there is more hope for getting him the help he needs so he is not constantly struggling in this area.

I too am a teacher who has experienced a child with these continual struggles, I was very glad to find this article so that maybe I can help this one child not feel so frustrated with his writing.

My son has always had poor handwriting and spelling. He loves to read, but hates to write. He is 10 yrs. old and in the 5th grade. I homeschool him, and have wondered for a long time if this could be more than laziness. I have only recently heard of Dysgraphia, and am curious if he may fit into this catagory. He loves reading and playing legos, but still has trouble tying his shoes. His main trouble is with spelling and writing. Everything else is fine.

To the gentleman, John, who made the comment - "I guess if there's federal aid money to be had for every last little imperfection, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy." You have no clue as to what you are talking about. I am the parent of a child that has ADHD and Dysgraphia and it is much more than "a self-fulfilling prophecy." I love my children more than anything in this world and I would not use them to get money from the government for an illness or disorder. My son is a wonderful kid but he has had difficulty in school since he first started pre-school. Actually he was always the type of child that was on the go constantly but what kids isn't - Right? At least that is what I thought until he was misbehaving in class every day, not sitting still, not doing what he was told, wouldn't draw, color, write and participate like other children. He loved his classmates and teachers but he would kick and scream everyday when it was time to go to school. He would cry and refused to get out of the car, all at the age of 4 and 5. I tried everything. We attended school meetings, spoke with his pediatrician, and went to a couple of counselors, etc. nothing helped. He just kept getting in trouble and being fussed at or punished for not behaving. I didn't like it but what else was I supposed to do. He would have his toys taken away, he would have to write apology notes to his teachers and the school and he would sit for hours doing his homework instead of for a few minutes like most of the other kids in his class. I began to wonder what I was doing wrong as a parent. Why was he having so much trouble? But, I love my child and refused to give up. I continued meetings and seeing outside counselors. After doing research online for ADHA I saw the signs and symptoms in his behavior and asked the special education staff at school if that could be his problem and they told me no because the answers that I supplied to the questionnaire did not match the answers the teacher supplied and therefore they did not see the problem in a dual setting. This meant that he did not act the same at home as he did at school. My answer to that was that he did get in trouble and have similar behaviors at home as at school but he did not have to sit a desk for hours at home. He was able to move around, play outside, play video games and participate in other activities that kept him occupied and on the go. So, after 4 years of meeting, phone calls from the teachers and the school, having to leave work to pick him up from school because of his behavior and finally a suspension in the 2nd grade I took him to one final counselor who had me see the doctor at his office about the ADHD. She was great, took time to listen, go over his files from school and actually talked to and observed my son. She believed that he did have ADHD and suggested Ritalin. I had a lengthy discussion with her about the medication because I do not like to take medicines myself and did not want him to take anything that was not needed or might hurt him. After hearing all the information I decided to try it. After all, I had tried everything else possible. The next week after starting the medicine my son returned to school and I received a phone call from his teacher. I answered the phone, "What did he do now?" I just knew he had gotten in trouble again. She told me that was not why she was calling. She said she was calling to tell me how wonderful he was and that other teachers had praised him for his good behavior. So, my answer to you is, maybe not every child that is put on Ritalin needs it but there are cases when it is the best answer for child. His self-esteem had gotten so low because he was always getting in trouble that he thought he couldn't do anything right and now he knows he is smart and can succeed. Once his behavior was better and he could sit still long enough to participate without constantly being told to do so, he felt better about himself and he was able to make more friends. Then I was able to focus more on his grades than on his behavior. I had always know he had trouble with writing, drawing, coloring and he never wanted to do any of them but until I started looking online for worksheets and suggestions to help with his writing I had never heard of Dysgraphia. After seeing a list of signs and symptoms and checking off the ones that I had noticed in him, I just thought he was being lazy and refused to learn how to write properly. I thought he just didn't want to take the time to do it. But Dysgraphia is more than just a handwriting problem. When you have Dysgraphia you have trouble with drawing, coloring, tying your shoes, fastening buttons, playing with blocks, etc. Until then, I never understood why my son didn't like coloring books, he refused to tie his shoes even though I taught him how and he would not wear pants and jeans with buttons. They had to have zippers. After I read about Dysgraphia, it all began to make sense and I was able to understand him better. I took him to a psychologist that talk with us and then observed him then tested and diagnosed him with Dysgraphia. Once he was diagnosed, I started taking him to the Children's Hospital and worked with a handwriting specialist. His handwriting is a little better and will probably never be much better but at least now, we know what his problem is and how to deal with it. His schoolwork is hard to read but his teachers know why and we have various ways to let him complete his work so that he can say what he wants to say in a way that works for him. His grades are much better and he feels alot better about his work. He still takes a lot longer to get his work done and has to do some of his work aloud instead of in writing but at least he is not getting in trouble for being lazy and hard-headed like before. He is now a great student, friendly, polite and usually one of the best-behaved kids in the class. So, for someone to say that this is just used as a tool for everyone to get money from the government, you are mistaken. Yes, there are people out there that are quick to jump at the chance to get that money but not all of us are included in that group. I am a single mom and I do not get disability for my child. If anything, I spend money, that I don't really have to lose, getting these extra supplies for him that he needs, attending meetings at school so they will understand his problem, and doing everything I can to help him on my own. Because if it weren't for my persistence in trying to find out why my son was having so much trouble, he would still be getting in trouble and failing school. Then in the long run he probably would be one those of those people who drop out of school, can't find a job and live on welfare. So, no hard feelings sir, but if you don't have a child that has difficulties or a disability, be grateful and stop criticizing those of us that do. Most of us would not like to give our children medicines everyday and have to depend on others to help pay for the things they need to succeed.

Kim....Kudoos to you!! I am in a similar situation, except my son is 15. His kindergarten teacher told me that he had this problem, although "back then" it was called a "written expression disability"...Through all of his years in school, no one would recognize this as his problem. The only diagnosis I was ever able to get is that he has ADHD. Your persistence is vital to your child's success, and it will be the only way to advocate for him, for no one else will.

Gosh, you can't believe in this day and age, someone like John is still making these comments. But to say that we want our children to have all these difficulties to get monies is really ridiculous. We are in the UK and the only people that get any money for dyslexia or ADHD are extremely disabled (I don't like to use that word but it's true). People are asking for information on dysgraphia everday, and I try to help them, but can't help everyone unfortunately. However, I have a large website on special needs and a good deal on dysgraphia, at: for reading, keep sending your questions in.

My son is 9 years old and 2 years ago was diagnosed with ADHD, although he excels in every one of the subjects in school, writing and spelling continue to be an issue. No matter how much he practices, he spaces his letters far apart, doesn't capitalize in the correct place, and after reading this and several other articles I feel more at ease about why he is having difficulty. I know it will be a long road for him and he will continue to struggle. But at least I know why. Thank you.

I have an 11 year old in 5 th grade, with absolutely poor handwriting. He spells great orally, but the words he write are spelled miserably wrong! Capitals are always forgotten and spacing is a mess. Sizes of letters are a challenge and it is very frustrating and discouraging to any writing assignments! We started typing lessons and hope it helps with his writing assignments.
How do I go about having my son tested and treated?

Have had Dysgraphia all my life
Teachers always said it was laziness carelessness
self diagnosed
always has hurt to write or type

Its is worse now that I am older
filling out paperwork is torture

Still cant believe I had to figure this out on my own.

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