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The Many Faces of Dysgraphia


Individuals with dysgraphia may struggle with translating their ideas into written form. In other words, they have trouble “getting it on paper.”  There are three types of dysgraphia: motor-based, language-based, and combined.


Motor-based Dysgraphia


People with motor-based dysgraphia experience difficulties with fine motor skills that affect their penmanship. Signs of motor-based dysgraphia may include:


  • Writing unclear, irregular, and/or inconsistent letters, which may have different slants, shapes, and/or a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters

  • May Frequently erase their work or missing letters

  • Pushes down on the paper very hard

  • Copying and writing slowly

  • Unusual or awkward pencil grasp

  • Poor spacing of letters and words

Language-based dysgraphia


Individuals with language-based dysgraphia may have difficulties putting their thoughts into written form. This form of dysgraphia is an expressive language and can be significantly impacted by working memory, processing speed, and executive function skills. Some signs of this type include:


  • May demonstrate a significant difference between spoken and written comprehension of a topic

  • Difficulty with sentence structure when writing but not when speaking

  • Having difficulty organizing sentences and ideas on paper and keeping track of thoughts

  • Having issues with writing and thinking simultaneously

  • Poor spelling; may spell words correctly in isolation but not in context

  • May have a tough time getting started on a writing task

 

Combined Type


Some individuals have both fine motor difficulties and expressive language/executive function aspects of dysgraphia.


Supports and strategies

There are many ways to help improve written expression, both inside and outside of the classroom.


Therapeutic approaches


Motor-based dysgraphia: For this type of dysgraphia, an occupational therapist or reflex integration specialist will evaluate the child and look for the presence of developmental patterns that may be preventing the development of their fine motor skills. Specific activities that improve gross and fine motor coordination and development may be employed. 

Language-based dysgraphia: A speech and language pathologist may be able to work with a student to strengthen the transfer of oral language to written language. Therapies that strengthen working memory and other executive functions,



such as neurofeedback, interactive metronome, or other similar programs, can be used to improve brain function in the frontal lobe and prefrontal cortex specifically.


Classroom-based approaches


Teachers may use a combination of these approaches to differentiate instruction for students with dysgraphia.


·      Pencil grips, tripod pencils, raised-line paper, and slant desks

·      Speech-to-text software

·      Editing software such as Grammarly

·      Word processing software

·      Sentence and paragraph frames

·      Sentence starters

·      Word and vocabulary banks

·      Chunking assignments into smaller parts

·      Color-coding for organization

·      Opportunities for robust discussion to facilitate idea development

·      Graphic organizers to chunk assignments and assist with organization

·      Writing models such as anchor papers

·      Shared writing models

 

 

 

 

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