Some children with autism or Asperger's syndrome also have dysgraphia, or written expression disorder. This learning disability impacts a child's ability to write and spell without affecting their reading ability. Many people with dysgraphia have higher than average IQ and are able to write but may have problems with fine motor skills and coordination.
What is Written Expression Disorder or Dysgraphia?
In young children dysgraphia can show up when learning how to write. They may space their letters inappropriately, with some letters or words spaced tightly together and large spaces in between others. They may mix up the letters /p/ and /q/ or /b/ and /d/. Older children may have poor spelling skills or have a hard time putting their thoughts on paper, even though they are able to orally explain their thoughts.
Although many with dysgraphia have poor handwriting, writing illegibly does not mean you have dysgraphia. Those with dysgraphia have trouble processing information visually and through hearing. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, some of the signs of dysgraphia include:
- Inconsistent spacing between letters and words
- Trouble forming letters
- Difficulty writing within lines or margins
- Poor handwriting
- Often mixes cursive and print writing
- Problems thinking of the right word
- Omitting letters or words when writing
- Problems organizing thoughts on paper
- Difficulty with grammar
Because of the difficulty with writing, many people with dysgraphia will avoid tasks that require writing or become tired when writing is necessary. They may focus so much on the actual writing that they miss the meaning of what they are writing. There is often a large discrepancy between their oral language skills and written language skills.
Tips for Helping Students with Dysgraphia
Written expression disorder, or dysgraphia, is a learning disability and children may be eligible for services or accommodations at school. If you believe your child may have dysgraphia, you can contact the school to request an evaluation. If your child is eligible for services, under either an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or Section 504, you, your child's teachers and other school personnel will work together to find out what accommodations will best help. The following are some suggestions and ideas that have been found to work for some children with dysgraphia:
- Use a tape recorder to record thoughts or spelling words. Your child can write down his thoughts from the recording or it can be transcribed by parents or a school aide.
- Have students create outlines before writing paragraphs. Outlines will help to organize thoughts. Begin by having student write keywords that he wants to discuss in each paragraph.
- Allow students to use computers to type assignments rather than having to write out each assignment. Computers also provide spell-check to help in editing.
- Allow extra time for assignments requiring writing, including homework assignments, tests and reports.
- Provide the student with hand-outs of notes rather than having them take notes during class.
- Assess a student's work without taking off for spelling or neatness, unless spelling is essential to the assignment (such as spelling homework or spelling tests)
- Give spelling tests orally
- Allow student to use the form of handwriting that is most comfortable, for example cursive, printing or a combination of both
- Create opportunities for students to work together to build on strengths, for example, have one student draw pictures and another write text to complete a project
- Provide step-by-step instructions for writing assignments, such as outline, rough draft, editing, revisions, and final draft to help him organize thoughts and make corrections as he moves along in the process
School accommodations are specific to your child's individual needs. You may find some of the previous suggestions helpful. Use these as a way to begin thinking about what will help your child succeed. You may also want to begin to incorporate these strategies at home.