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Dysgraphia: How to Recognize Signs of Dysgraphia in Your Child |

Dysgraphia: How to Recognize Signs of Dysgraphia in Your Child

This article provides helpful signs and symptoms for dysgraphia. Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS) is a learning and academic center. As a reminder, ILS is not a health care provider and none of our materials or services provide a diagnosis or treatment of a specific condition or learning challenge you may see in your child or student. If you seek a diagnosis or treatment for your child or student, please contact a trained professional who can provide an evaluation of the child.

Many parents and educators have a hard time recognizing the signs and symptoms of Dysgraphia in their child or students. Children struggling with dysgraphia often struggle with written language and how well they are able to express and organize their thoughts on paper. Many times there is a disconnection in the brain that prevents a child from retrieving the information needed from their short-term and long-term memory to execute the writing process.

Children with dysgraphia are not lazy or unintelligent. They simply struggle with written expression. Sometimes just holding a pencil or writing in a straight line can be difficult for these types of students. Children with dysgraphia will often show signs of trouble in areas such as visual-spatial, fine motor, language processing, spelling and handwriting, grammar and organization of written language.

It’s important to know the differences of what dysgraphia is and what it is not, especially if a child could potentially be misdiagnosed with another type of learning challenge. It could mean the difference in how to help a child and what intervention is right or wrong for their specific needs. Parents and teachers often mistake dysgraphia for dyslexia. While dyslexia is related to a reading problem, dysgraphia is solely connected to a child’s writing ability.

How to Recognize the Signs

Here are some helpful tips to determine whether your child is showing signs of dysgraphia or if it may be another learning challenge.


What it is

What it is not

How to recognize dysgraphia
  • Difficulty with written expression typically caused by a disconnection in the brain.
  • The brain has trouble retrieving information from memory about how to organize thoughts for writing.
  • Manifests itself when a child has trouble with writing, spelling, poor handwriting and organizing thoughts on paper.
  • Working memory also plays a role and can prevent the child from knowing how to write a letter or a word on paper.
  • Writing difficulty with visual-spatial information, fine motor, language processing, grammar usage and organization of written language.
  • The writing process is much harder and slower.
  • Does not manifest the learning potential of the child or what they intended to write.
  • It is not dyslexia. Dyslexia often affects a child’s reading, while dysgraphia affects a child’s writing. However, a child may have trouble in both areas.
  • A child with dysgraphia doesn’t always have dyslexia too.
  • A child with messy handwriting does not necessarily have dysgraphia.
  • Kids with dysgraphia do not always have a primary motor development disorder, which could also cause poor handwriting.
  • Children with dysgraphia of low-levels of intelligence.
  • Kids with dysgraphia are lazy and sloppy with their work.
Signs and symptoms to watch for
  • Messy handwriting
  • Can’t get thoughts down on paper
  • Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position.
  • Attention and focus issues in the classroom.
  • Has difficulty with shape-discrimination and letter spacing.
  • Trouble organizing words from left to right.
  • Can’t stay within the margins.
  • Unable to use scissors or hold a pencil correctly.
  • Trouble with fine motor tasks, such as tying shoes, fastening buttons, picking up objects, etc.
  • Can’t follow directions or the rules in games.
  • Often spells words incorrectly and mixes upper and lowercase letters.
  • Avoids writing.
  • Doesn’t write in complete sentences.
  • Has trouble telling stories.
  • Leaves out important facts and details of a story.
  • Reading issue
  • Not related to sounding out words, reading comprehension and memorizing facts and details.
  • Is not a speech or language problem.
  • Does not always affect how the child interprets and identifies sounds of letters and words.
  • Purposeful laziness and sloppiness.
Is intervention available?
  • Use paper with raised lines so the child can write within the lines.
  • Try different pens and pencils that are more comfortable.
  • Work with a professional, Occupational Therapist or Pediatric Therapist.
  • Incorporate more fine motor activities to strengthen the hands, wrists, fingers and elbows for writing.
  • Practice writing numbers and letters in the air to improve working memory.
  • Incorporate exercises using shapes, long pencil strokes and cursive for rewiring the brain as you see here.
  • Complete the process for an IEP that gives your child special accommodations and modifications in the classroom.
  • Do warm-up exercises at home with the hands and fingers before completing a writing assignment.
  • Provide tape recorders in the classroom in case the child performs better with verbal instructions.
  • “Medication will solve this problem” is a common misconception. While this may be needed for attention and focus, it does not improve the writing process.
  • “Not a fine motor problem.” Many parents and teachers don’t realize the importance of fine motor development for kids with dysgraphia.
  • “Not a retained primitive reflex” misconception. A child with dysgraphia may have a retained palmar reflex, as seen here, that can cause delays in writing. This issue must be fixed before the child can show improvements in writing.
  • My child will grow out of it. Another common misconception. A child may always struggle with this issue into adulthood and will need intervention to help.


Rewiring the Brain Mini-Course

If you have an overly emotional child, they may be “stuck” on the emotional side of the brain. For tips, resources and tools to help kids who have trouble with emotional grounding, register for the FREE Rewiring the Brain Mini-Course. This course is entirely email-based. Sign-up to get all the lessons in your email box to print, share, read and re-read as many times as you like. Complete the form to register for the course below. 

Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning challenges achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

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