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Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that affects the ability to write, especially in terms of spelling, handwriting, and composition (Chung & Patel, 2015). It can occur in children and young adults with or without other developmental or cognitive impairments, such as dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or developmental coordination disorder (DCD) (Prunty & Barnett, 2017). Dysgraphia is not a specific diagnosis recognized by the American Psychological Association (APA), but it is included under the category of specific learning disorder (SLD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-5) (The Brain Possible, n.d.). Dysgraphia can cause difficulties in academic performance, self-esteem, and social interactions. Therefore, it is important to identify and intervene early to help children and young adults with dysgraphia develop their writing skills and cope with their challenges.

Signs of dysgraphia

Dysgraphia can have different causes and manifestations, but some common signs of dysgraphia in children and young adults are:

  • Poorly formed individual letters or words
  • Lack of or incorrect punctuation and capitalization
  • Awkward or painful pencil grip and/or unusual positioning of wrist, arm, or body when writing
  • Frequent hand cramps while writing
  • Omitting words from sentences or skipping letters when writing words
  • Poor sentence organization and grammar
  • Incorrect word usage or vocabulary
  • Difficulty writing and thinking at the same time
  • Avoidance of writing tasks or distress when having to write (Psychology Today, n.d.; WebMD, 2020).

Dysgraphia can often go undiagnosed or be mistaken for laziness or lack of motivation, which can affect the self-esteem and emotional well-being of the individual (Psychology Today, n.d.). Dysgraphia is usually diagnosed in early elementary school, when children first learn to write, but it can also be identified later on or even in adulthood. The diagnosis is based on a combination of tests, assessments, and observations of fine motor skills, spatial processing, and general writing ability (WebMD, 2020).

Treatments for dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is not a separate diagnosis in the DSM-5, but it is included under the category of specific learning disorder (SLD) with impairment in written expression (APA, 2013).

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There are different types of dysgraphia, depending on the underlying cause and the specific difficulties involved. Some common types are dyslexic dysgraphia, motor dysgraphia, and spatial dysgraphia. Each type may require different interventions and accommodations to help the individual strengthen their writing skills and overcome their challenges (The Brain Possible, n.d.).

Some of the interventions and accommodations that may help children and young adults with dysgraphia are:

  • Providing support at school, such as extra time for writing tasks, access to word processors or speech-to-text software, use of graphic organizers, and feedback on content rather than form (Chung & Patel, 2015).
  • Providing occupational therapy outside of school, such as exercises to improve fine motor skills, handwriting instruction, and sensory integration techniques (AOTA, 2018).
  • Providing home-based activities, such as games that involve writing or drawing, encouraging journaling or creative writing, and using multisensory methods to practice spelling and grammar (LD Explained, n.d.).
  • Dysgraphia can be a challenging condition that affects academic performance and self-esteem, but with appropriate assessment and intervention, children and young adults with dysgraphia can develop their writing skills and express themselves effectively.

AOTA. (2018). Dysgraphia among adolescents: What do we know about their body function impairments? American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72(4_Supplement_1), 7211500009p1.

APA. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Association.

Berninger, V. W. (2008). Defining and differentiating dysgraphia, dyslexia, and language learning disability within a working memory model. In M. Mody & E. R. Silliman (Eds.), Brain, behavior, and learning in language and reading disorders (pp. 103–134). The Guilford Press.

Chung, P., & Patel, D. R. (2015). Dysgraphia. In D. E. Greydanus, D. R. Patel, H. D. Pratt, J. L. Calles Jr., A. Nazeer, & J. Merrick (Eds.), Behavioral pediatrics (pp. 103–115). Nova Biomedical Books.

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Psychology Today. (n.d.). Dysgraphia. Retrieved January 29, 2024, from

LD Explained. (n.d.). Recommended therapies for dysgraphia.

Prunty, M., & Barnett, A. L. (2017). Understanding handwriting difficulties: A comparison of children with and without motor impairment. cognitive Neuropsychology, 34(3-4), 205–218.

The Brain Possible. (n.d.). Dysgraphia in Children: What Does It Look Like? Retrieved from

WebMD. (2020, September 11). Dysgraphia: Signs, Diagnosis, Treatment. Retrieved January 29, 2024, from

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