What is dysgraphia?

A pencil balanced on an open notebook

Dysgraphia is a neurological difference that affects a persons ability to write legible words and sentences. It is often confused with dyslexia, which is a reading disorder, or ADHD, which is a disability that affects attention span.

This is because of similarities in the two core symptom groups – motor and cognitive skills. Poor motor skills can result in slow fine motor movement leading to a reduced ability to hold a pen and form letters correctly. Some people can also experience hand or arm tremors.

Reduced cognitive skills cause struggles with spelling, sentence structure and keeping concentration during written tasks that are more mentally and emotionally challenging to individuals with dysgraphia.

What causes dysgraphia?

The cause of dysgraphia is not yet known for sure, but there are a number of theories that look into possible explanations for this disorder such as it being hereditary or resulting as a result of a brain injury. In some cases, this impairment is severe, while in others it may be mild which is why it is a spectrum condition.

Dysgraphia is present from the earliest stages of development. It typically appears between the ages of 5 and 8, and it is a lifelong condition.

Some common characteristics of dysgraphia are:

  • Struggles with handwriting
  • Struggles with the formation of numbers
  • A reluctance to engage with written tasks
  • Quick to become frustrated around written tasks

The strengths of individuals who have dysgraphia include:

  • Creativity
  • Ability to multitask
  • High intelligence
  • Strong verbal reasoning

Practical ways to support people with dysgraphia

  • Encourage them to take breaks from writing
  • Provide a pen with better grip
  • Encourage them to use the computer
  • Help organise their thoughts on paper
  • Allow extra time to write
  • Keep lines on paper straight
  • Memory aids
  • Handwriting software

Famous individuals who according to our internet research have a diagnosis of or self identify as having dysgraphia:

Agatha Christie — author best known for her detective novels and short stories

Henry Winkler — actor and director best known for his role as “The Fonz” on Happy Days

Thomas Edison – inventor of the motion picture camera, the light bulb plus so many more