Dysgraphia in Children: An Occupational Therapist’s Point of View
As an Occupational Therapist, I not only see students with dysgraphia, but I am also the mom of twin boys that both deal with it on a daily basis. I noticed early in their development that both avoided puzzles, drawing/coloring, and writing but were amazing with tools and building with Legos. It was challenging for me to get them to participate in preschool skills development and I was concerned about how they would function as students as they grew.
What is Dysgraphia?
If you are not familiar with this diagnosis, dysgraphia is when there are challenges to produce skills in order to write. It can impact spelling, typing, and handwriting. Both of my boys had very poor confidence in writing and language arts skills and always said “I hate writing, I can’t do this”. Like other students they were too focused on the physical aspects of writing instead of their creative skills development. It wasn’t until we found the appropriate assistance technology that they both began to understand and enjoy using their amazing imagination in order to develop stories and personal narratives.
Dysgraphia Symptoms in Children
Some signs of dysgraphia include:
- messy handwriting
- issues with spelling
- difficulties with writing numbers
- poor spacing and awareness of the line
- letter formation
Having dysgraphia doesn’t mean that the student isn’t smart but be aware that there can be links to dyslexia and other learning differences.
Next Steps after Initial Concerns
As a therapist or parent once you have identified some of these concerns the next step is to contact an Occupational Therapist to be evaluated. The evaluation will help you better understand the student’s needs but also their strengths. It will allow you to come up with a game plan to move forward. Depending on the severity of their needs, they’ll most likely qualify for a 504 plan or an IEP. Having these legal documents will ensure that the student will receive and be able to use the appropriate assistance technology throughout their school day.
Dysgraphia Accommodations & Interventions
The next step is to begin interventions and make the necessary accommodations. The following list includes ideas on how to work on different components of writing:
- Begin exploring dictation software and apps including Dragon and Google Doc text to speech
- Practice letter formation with a multi-sensory approach
- Modify writing assignments and get a buddy that will share their notes for each class
- Explore modified paper such as raised lines or graph paper
- Talk to an OT about upper body strengthening games and exercises, reflex maturation therapy, and Listening Therapy
- Consider Vision Therapy and get a full vision examination
- Try a variety of markers, pencils, and pencil grips for dysgraphia, to find out what works best during writing assignments
- Don’t forget to consider the emotional needs of the student and talk to their teacher about how to help their classmates understand what dysgraphia is and how it impacts their learning.
Working with an Occupational Therapist
With the appropriate interventions and accommodations, your child will show improvements. If you are a parent and are noticing that your child is showing signs of dysgraphia it may be time to seek professional help from an Occupational Therapist. Part of an Occupational Therapist’s job is to help identify and implement a service plan.