What is Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia is a
neurological disorder similar to dyslexia in which a person has difficulty with
spelling, poor handwriting, and expressing thoughts in writing. It often goes
undetected and untreated and presents problems because dysgraphia does not have
clearly defined criteria. Dysgraphia (writing disability) is one of the most
poorly understood of the specific learning disabilities, although it is quite
common and specifically mentioned in the federal IDEA or Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act.
To understand the cause of dysgraphia one must understand athe process of learning. There are certain skills that have to be learned and mastered before it is possible to master subsequent skills. In the case of learning math, a person has to learn numbers before they can learn to add and subtract. The same concept applies to writing. A person must improve visual motor skills before they can make letters and write words/ sentences. They must learn to write before they can clearly express thoughts on paper.
Dysgraphia can be helped by treating underlying processing skills which include: poor motor skills, poor visual perception, and difficulty remembering what is seen, due to poor visual memory. Handwriting is a complex visual-motor skill that is dependent upon a number of cognitive, perceptual and motor skills, and is developed through instruction and processing therapy. Difficulty with handwriting is often overlooked and misunderstood. Students with poor visual motor skills are frequently called "lazy", "unmotivated" and/or "oppositional" because they are reluctant to produce written work. Many times, these are the children who dislike school the most. Sometimes students are able to write legibly if they write slowly enough, but, then they are accused of writing neatly "when they want to". This statement has moral implications and is untrue; for children with dysgraphia , neat handwriting at a reasonable pace is often not possible.
Dysgraphia occurs when there are breakdowns in Visual-Perceptual Skills. Visual-perceptual skills enable children to visually discriminate among graphic forms and to judge their correctness. These visual perceptual skills involve the ability to accurately look at something and give meaning to what is seen. Generally a number of specific skills fall into this category including visual discrimination, or the ability to distinguish one visual pattern from another, and visual closure, or the ability to perceive a whole pattern when shown only parts of that pattern. The student is not able to copy from the book or board and will often times leave out letters or words or skip lines. When copying words or sentences, they only write one letter and then look at the next letter before writing a whole word or sentence.
When required to write, children with dysgraphia frequently engage in many avoidance behaviors. They have to go to the bathroom; they need to sharpen their pencils or they talk excessively Sometimes they just sit and stare into space and thus accused of not trying. Even disrupting the class and getting in trouble may be less painful for them than writing. Work that could be completed in one hour takes three hours because they put off the dreadful task of writing.
The most common mistake is for teachers to underestimate
how much dysgraphia is impacting the quality and quantity of a student's work.
Often a student needs a dramatic reduction in the quantity of assigned work. The
student with dysgraphia almost never completes all of the written assignments in
a school day, and must work hours after school to just complete the work that
the student has missed that day.