For someone with dysgraphia, it is often like having the ability to read and speak like Shakespeare with the inability to express it in written form. Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects the ability to communicate the thought process through hand writing.
The easiest way to explain dysgraphia in laymen terms is that there is a short between the brain and the hand. Normally the brain takes in information, processes it and then sends signals to the hand to form that information into written expression but the dysgraphic hand fails to understand those brain signals which often results in frustration, misspelled words, incorrectly formed lines and shapes and moderate to severe hand cramps. Dysgraphia is most commonly referred to as the handwriting disability because of it’s direct result on handwriting skills and the lack thereof.
When my son was diagnosed with dysgraphia at the tender age of 9 we had no idea he was having these problems. We just assumed he wasn’t putting any effort into his writing. The physician asked me, “What do we call someone with messy writing?” I said, “A doctor.” And she said, “Exactly.” It was a real eye opener and I wish that I had known the symptoms long, long ago. Here are some of the symptoms of dysgraphia and how can tell if your child should be tested by a physician.
Inability to user silverware properly. Children typically begin to use silverware somewhere between six months of age to a year but they don’t begin to use it properly until somewhere around the age of 3 ½ or 4. Dysgraphic children struggle with this for much longer. If your child is 5 or 6 and still grasps his spoon like a samurai warrior, often missing their mouth and dropping food all over the floor then you should talk to your pediatrician about the motor skill development of your child. This is one of the earliest signs of dysgraphia.
Has trouble with buttons and zippers. Because dysgraphia affects the small motor skills in the hand dysgraphic kids often have a hard time manipulating small buttons and zippers. Under normal conditions toddlers who can’t button their own shirts isn’t much to be concerned with but if your 10 year old still can’t wear button-fly jeans you should be concerned.
Doesn’t learn to tie his or hear shoes like other kids. There are gazillions of children and adults both that hate to tie their shoes. Some people simply tie double knots and never untie them but dysgraphic kids have an affinity for Velcro. Your child should be able to tie their own shoes by the time they are in the second grade and if they can’t a pediatrician should be consulted.
Has low level tolerance to high pressure towards writing. The more pressure there is on a dysgraphic person to perform in the way of writing the less writing they are able to produce. Children with dysgraphia are often labeled as lazy or stubborn because they are known to give up when the pressure becomes insurmountable. Many dysgraphic children will refuse to write anything at all when the pressure becomes too much to handle and parents find themselves locked in a stalemate between the teacher and the student.
Hates to color. How often do you hear small children complaining that they hate to color and they hate coloring books? Not very often. Kids are notorious for loving crayons and markers and are often drawing on inappropriate objects at inappropriate times but not a dysgraphic kid. Coloring presents a whole new set of challenges for those with dysgraphia. Staying inside the lines becomes a much hated chore until eventually they refuse to color at all.
Has trouble connecting the dots. Children with dysgraphia can not connect-the-dots so easily. They lack the motor skill development to draw straight lines and their connect-the-dots papers sometimes look like scribbled mess. They have the understanding of the project and are often frustrated with penmanship exercises that involve connecting the dots or following pre-made letters fashioned with dashes.
Doesn’t like legos or other small blocks. Doctors often recommend legos and blocks for hyper children and they can be wonderful tools to challenge the mind, however a dysgraphic kid sees these toys as torture devices. The motor skill development it takes to properly stack blocks and build with legos has been delayed and they simply are unable to take on such tasks. These are great tools for rehabilitating older dysgraphic children but should not be forced on small children with dysgraphia.
Has strong verbal skills. Children with dysgraphia live inside their own heads. They rely on verbal communication to survive because written expression eludes them. These children are known to have large vocabularies and extensive reading collections.
Children with dysgraphia are misdiagnosed a lot of times because there is still very little information on the causes of dysgraphia. It is often thought to be linked to dyscalculia and dyslexia or ignored all together. I have ran into very few teachers who have even heard of dysgraphia so if you do have a child with this disability it is up to you as the parent to fight for the understanding and assistance your child will need to succeed in school and life.