Dysgraphia literally means, difficulty with writing. This includes spelling, poor handwriting and putting thoughts on paper. Dysgraphia may occur alone or with dyslexia.
What are some warning signs?
- Spells poorly
- Has messy handwriting
- Has difficulty putting words on paper
- Misuses punctuation and capitalization
- Experiences pain in his/her hand or arm when writing
Dyslexic Dysgraphia. A students spontaneously written work is illegible, oral spelling is bad but copied work is pretty good.
Motor Dysgraphia. This type of dysgraphia is due to deficient fine motor skills. Spontaneous and copied handwriting will both be illegible, however oral spelling is not usually an issue.
Spatial Dysgraphia. Students have a hard time with spacing. Spontaneous and copied work are both illegible but oral spelling will not be an issue. Staying on lines, spacing between words, and difficulty with drawing are all issues for students.
There are tests out there to test for written expression issues but really the best way to see if a student is struggling with writing is to just look at their school work. Can you read what they are trying to write? Are they writing all over the paper or staying on the lines? Can they read their notes back to you hours after copying them from the board?
Students with written expression issues are very smart, the problem is that they have trouble getting their ideas onto paper. Ask a student that you suspect of having dysgraphia to tell you about the civil war for example. Listen to all that they tell you. If you ask them to write a report on the civil war you will get the bare minimum that they think you are asking for and it will take them a long time to even write one page.
Spelling issues ARE a big deal. I have heard many times, "well just give them a computer and spell check will help them." Sadly this isn't true. Many times spell check won't know which homophone you are trying to use, or sometimes won't even be able to figure out what word you are trying to use because your spelling is so far off from the word you want.
As a teacher, what can you do for your students that struggle with written expression?
- Make a copy of your notes for the student. Copying notes from the board is not easy and usually there is not a lot of time given to copy. A student will try to write fast which will lead to illegible writing and worse yet, will miss a lot.
- Offer a verbal or visual report option rather than a written report.
- ALLOW MORE TIME! This is so important.
(information from National Association of Special Education Teachers)