Dysgraphia is a term that is often misused by many professionals to simply mean “difficulty with handwriting”. The clinical definition of dysgraphia is more complex and relates to the ability to plan and sequence motor movements necessary to convey thoughts into writing.
When determining how to support a student who has difficulty with handwriting, we first need to know where the difficulty is occurring. Handwriting is a complex process and one of the most demanding endeavors in academics.
It requires simultaneous use of all of the following:
- Fine motor abilities
- Posture/core stability
- Oral language abilities
- Spelling skills
- Motor planning skills
- Orthographic memory
A break down in any of these areas can cause the entire writing process to be cumbersome and unenjoyable for students of any age. The multiple demands on both memory and attention can be exhausting for students and avoidance of writing tasks is common.
Proper evaluation of the student’s fine motor strength, coordination, endurance, pencil grasp, posture, attention, visual perceptual skills and motor planning skills is needed to guide effective intervention.
Our occupational therapists are skilled in implementing a sequential approach with use of appropriate tools (pencil grips, slant boards, postural support, specialized writing paper etc.) for improving writing skills.
A consult with a speech language pathologist may be recommended when difficulties with language formulation, word retrievals skills, and higher level language skills are observed by the occupational therapist. If a student is unable to “say it” we can’t expect them to be able to “write it.”
Some students, despite being very bright and highly verbal in day to day conversations, struggle to formulate language and retrieve specific vocabulary in their academic setting. A speech language pathologist can both evaluate and support the development of higher level language skills to improve the content and quality of your student’s writing.
Accommodations, Self-Advocacy, and Technology
In addition to supporting the motor mechanics and content of writing, accommodations, self-advocacy, and use of technology may be critical components of your child’s “handwriting” intervention program.
Accommodations and technology should be unique to your student’s needs and allow them to feel successful and perform at their optimum in their academic setting.