Helping Students with Writing Difficulties
Put simply, dysgraphia is when a student has trouble with writing due to a learning disability.
The word has origins in Ancient Greek, dys = bad or hard; grapho = to write.
In schools, the official diagnosis is usually "Specific Learning Disability in Written Expression"
What does dysgraphia look like?
There are multiple subtypes of difficulties in written expression. These can include problems with:
Handwriting - letter formation, spacing, capitalization, and punctuation
Composition - including organization of thoughts
Signs and symptoms of dysgraphia can include messy handwriting, inconsistency in letter spacing and capitalization, pain or discomfort when writing, fine motor skill challenges, trouble with spelling, or trouble with composing written work. Often students with dysgraphia are able to express themselves when speaking, but can't seem get their thoughts onto paper.
This fantastic video (reproduced with permission) from Edutopia, the George Lucas Education Foundation, describes dysgraphia in school-aged students and strategies for handling it:
How can I help students who have or may have dysgraphia?
Students with dysgraphia are often trying really hard, but struggling to show their knowledge in a school context. Explicit instruction in the process of writing is very important. Here are some resources that may help you in your classroom:
The importance of Structured Literacy/Orton Gillingham approaches
Dysgraphia IEPs: Developing and Maintaining Learning Goals for Specific Learning Disability of Written Expression book
Simple changes can make a huge and meaningful difference in the performance and attitudes of students. Examples may be:
Letting students demonstrate their knowledge in other ways when possible (such verbal or video reports)
Reducing handwriting burden - such as allowing the student to take photos of assignments instead of copying
Utilizing assistive technologies (free Voice Typing in Google Docs)
Where can I learn more about dysgraphia?
A great place to start is our archive of free webinars. These are presented by professionals in the field, teaching about different aspects of dysgraphia. Many parents tell us they wish their student's teacher had viewed them.
You can also join our Facebook page and/or monthly e-mail newsletter.
Starting in Fall 2023, we are working with schools and school districts to provide professional development sessions for educators. Email Jennifer at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire and schedule.
If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us: