For Students with Dysgraphia, Learning to Type Should Occur Earlier Rather Than Later
Dysgraphia is a neurodevelopmental learning disability that impairs a person’s ability to produce written language. It is usually first evident in preschool or early elementary school and continues even into adulthood. It entails both physical/motor and mental/cognitive challenges. Early on, it manifests as a writing and penmanship problem, while later on it may additionally impact written expression. At all ages, dysgraphia causes writing to require more time and conscious effort than the typical student.
Initially, children with dysgraphia experience difficulties with the physical or fine motor aspects of writing. Preschoolers have trouble holding a crayon or marker and tracing letters. They often avoid fine motor activities like coloring and cutting with scissors, and are sometimes late to learn other fine motor tasks such as tying their shoes.
Signs an Elementary Student May Be Experiencing Dysgraphia
If an elementary student that is struggling with their writing demonstrates some of the following behaviors, it could indicate they are experiencing dysgraphia:
Awkwardly gripping their pencil, such as making a fist around it
Writing poorly formed or sloppy letters
Mixing lowercase and uppercase letters when writing
Having difficulty with proper letter spacing
Writing letters from the bottom up
Applying too much or too little pressure with their writing utensil
Often complaining that writing hurts their hand
In mid-elementary school, students with dysgraphia usually begin demonstrating the mental or cognitive aspects of dysgraphia as well. They often struggle to retain the spelling of even simple words even though they may speak well and have a good vocabulary. They typically write slowly, making it difficult for them to complete written assignments in a timely manner. These students are often inattentive to writing conventions like capitalization and punctuation. When presented with open-ended writing assignments, they tend to stare at their paper, struggling to figure out what to write.
By middle school or high school, the mental/cognitive challenges emerge and become more prominent. Adolescents with dysgraphia usually have trouble with the writing process. Thinking and writing at the same time becomes very challenging for them, making it hard to express their thoughts in written form. They have difficulty generating ideas and very commonly have trouble starting a writing assignment. Even when they have an idea, they can struggle to transfer that thought from their brain onto paper. The result is that they produce minimal work, such as only a couple sentences compared to their classmates who write a couple paragraphs in the same amount of time. These students have difficulty with written sentence structure and grammar and generally speak much better than they write.