Dysgraphia: Improving Writing by Putting Pencil to Paper
Did you know there are three different types of dysgraphia – motor, spatial, and dyslexic? A child can experience challenges with one type or all three. Each kind of dysgraphia presents with unique characteristics and challenges. Here are just a few examples.
Characteristics for Each Type of Dysgraphia
- Dyslexic dysgraphia – difficulty with reading and spelling contribute to poor handwriting
- Motor dysgraphia – good oral spelling, difficulty with pencil control, and inefficient pencil grasp
- Spatial dysgraphia – letters floating off the baseline and poor spacing between letters and words
Brock is an 8-year-old second grader who experiences primarily spatial dysgraphia with some symptoms of motor dysgraphia. Among many identifying symptoms he has:
- Poor spatial planning when writing
- Misaligned and floating letters
- Poor drawing skills
- Difficulty holding a pencil efficiently
What are some therapeutic interventions to help Brock? In this case, a mix of compensatory and remedial strategies, as well as technological tools can be used to improve writing.
Compensatory strategies are physical modifications and adaptations to materials. These can be used regularly in the classroom any time a child is engaged in handwriting. A few of these objects found in a typical school setting include:
- Raised line paper
- Pencil gripper
Technology tools assist a child with the thinking and academic aspect of writing. These can be used in combination with traditional methods of learning and include:
- Word processor with spell correct
- Specialized Software (Dragon Speaking Naturally)
- Portable keyboard (Neo 2)
Remedial strategies require direct intervention from an occupational therapist or can be carried out by a para-educator/teacher assistant under the supervision of an occupational therapist. These strategies may include kinesthetic handwriting activities such as:
- Writing in shaving cream
- Writing on aluminum foil
- Writing in a clay tray
- Water-painting over sidewalk chalk
There is both help and hope for children like Brock who experience challenges with dysgraphia. Having a good understanding of key symptoms and implementing helpful strategies provides an open door to future success.
- Schwellnus, H., Carnahan, H., Kushki, A., Polatajko, Missiuna, C. & Chau, T. (2013) Writing forces associated with four pencil grasp patterns in grade 4 children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 67, 218-227.
- Zobel-Lachiusa, J. & Pierce, M. (2011). Write ways: Tools for teaching students with handwriting difficulties. OT Practice. 11-16.