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Dysgraphia: What is it and When can it be Diagnosed?

Updated: Mar 26

Dysgraphia is a specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression.  Children with Dysgraphia have challenges getting their thoughts down onto paper and the content of their written work is often below expected for their age.  They have substantial difficulty sequencing and structuring their ideas when writing with spelling often presenting as an additional area of weakness.  

Dysgraphia Assessment Testing Perth

When identifying a specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression, deficits in one or both of the following key academic areas are usually present:


  • Difficulties with spelling (e.g., may add, omit or substitute vowels or consonants).

  • Difficulties with written expression (e.g., makes multiple grammatical or punctuation errors within sentences; employs poor paragraph organisation; written expression of ideas lacks clarity).

 

A specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression is sometimes referred to as language-based Dysgraphia or motor-based Dysgraphia. Motor-based Dysgraphia is associated with difficulties with the physical aspects of handwriting which can include letter formation and pencil control and it often means that writing becomes tiring or laborious.  It is now recognised that the motor-based difficulties associated with written expression can be an aspect of Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).  An occupational therapist can identify DCD.  Occupational therapy is recommended if there are problems with handwriting or difficulties with skills such as fine motor and visual spatial abilities.


When considering an evaluation for Dysgraphia in children, it is important to understand that there is a developmental aspect to written expression. Children require time and explicit instruction to develop skills associated with written expression including sentence structure, paragraph composition, vocabulary, planning ideas for writing, editing written work, use of punctuation and grammar.  As such, it is preferred that Dysgraphia is diagnosed in children aged 10 years or older, which usually equates to grade 5 and above.  


It is common for Dysgraphia to occur alongside other neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD and Dyslexia.  Therefore, an assessment for Dysgraphia may also need to consider evaluations for other neurodevelopmental disorders.  Many children with writing difficulties also have reading challenges and it is relatively common to have both Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.  Writing is a complex process and it involves many executive functions such as organisation, planning and self-monitoring skills.  Children with ADHD have executive function deficits and as such, they can often exhibit challenges with writing.  


Butterfly Psychology for Kids conducts assessments for specific learning disorders such as Dysgraphia and Dyslexia.  We also conduct ADHD assessments.  For more information see here.


Adapted from:

What is Dysgraphia www.dsf.net.au

Understanding Learning Difficulties: A Guide for Parents (Auspeld, 2018)

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