Dysgraphia and Its Effect on Writing
By Gina Bellisario
Writing can be a difficult undertaking. Even the most experienced authors struggle with finding the best words
to communicate their ideas. But what happens when students have dysgraphia? The task can feel
exponentially more challenging.
What is Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects a student’s writing skills. Not only can it cause students to
struggle with penmanship, it can also interfere with their ability to comprehend written information and think of
the words they need to finish their sentences.
According to the United States National Center for Learning Disabilities, dysgraphia can be present in children
of all ages. The center has provided the following signs to look for:
● an awkward grip or body position when writing
● tire easily with writing
● avoidance of writing and drawing tasks
● written letters are poorly formed, inversed, reversed, or inconsistently spaced
● difficulty staying within margins
The school-aged child
● illegible handwriting
● switching between cursive and print
● difficulty with word-finding, sentence completion, and written comprehension
The teenager and young adult
● difficulty with written organization of thought
● difficulty with written syntax and written grammar that is not duplicated with oral tasks
–Signs of dysgraphia: United States National Center for Learning Disabilities
Students who have dysgraphia may also have another learning disability, such as attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) or dyslexia. If parents suspect their child has dysgraphia, they should contact their child’s
school to seek out a professional evaluation, which may be conducted by the school psychologist or a special
education teacher. The earlier the diagnosis, the sooner the school can provide accommodations to ensure the
student can be academically successful.
How is Dysgraphia Treated?
There are many instructional activities that students can do to improve their writing. Copying or tracing letters
or connecting dots or dashes can help their penmanship. Exercises that strengthen their hand muscles, like
molding shapes out of clay, can also be useful. For extra intervention, parents might even look into having their
child use a handwriting program like Handwriting Without Tears. It is recommended that students do skill-
improving activities every day to reap the most benefit.
When it comes to articulating their thoughts, students may need help with navigating the writing process, which
is often used in middle school and high school. The writing process has several steps, including brainstorming
ideas, drafting an essay, reviewing for errors, and revising for accuracy. Teachers can make modifications to
essay assignments so their students can manage each part of the process more easily. For example, a student
might be given a brainstorming chart in which to organize her ideas. Students should always notify the teacher
if they are struggling with an assignment; that way, appropriate modifications can be made.
How Can a Parent or Teacher Offer Support?
It is important to note that parents or school staff might not have heard of dysgraphia before a student has
been diagnosed. Without knowing the underlying cause, they may simply tell students to work harder on an
assignment, which can lead to a student feeling frustrated or powerless. To avoid ill feelings, parents can give
their child patience and encouragement, while teachers can work with the school’s resource personnel to find
out which strategies would best serve the student. Teachers can also share those strategies with parents so
that help can be provided at home.
With dysgraphia, writing can be challenging beyond words. Students need the right kind of practice and
resources to strengthen their skills. By having support at home and school, they will be more able to navigate
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Deuel, Ruthmary, et al. “Dysgraphia: The Handwriting Learning Disability.” LDAO, 5 July 2015,
Frye, Devon. “What Is Dysgraphia?” ADDitude, 5 Mar. 2020,