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What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that affects how easily children acquire written language and how well they use written language to express their thoughts.

Dysgraphia is a Greek word. The base word graph refers both to the hand’s function in writing and to the letters formed by the hand. The prefix dys indicates that there is impairment. Graph refers to producing letter forms by hand. The suffix ia refers to having a condition. Thus, Dysgraphia is the condition of impaired letter writing by hand, that is, disabled handwriting and sometimes spelling. Impaired handwriting can interfere with learning to spell words in writing. Occasionally, but not very often, children have just spelling problems and not handwriting or reading problems.

What causes Dysgraphia?

Research to date has shown orthographic coding in working memory is related to handwriting. Orthographic coding refers to the ability to store unfamiliar written words in working memory while the letters in the word are analyzed during word learning or the ability to create permanent memory of written words linked to their pronunciation and meaning. Children with Dysgraphia do not have primary developmental motor disorder, another cause of poor handwriting, but they may have difficulty planning sequential finger movements such as the touching of the thumb to successive fingers on the same hand.

Why is diagnosis of Dysgraphia and related learning disabilities important?

Without diagnosis, children may not receive early intervention or specialized instruction in all the relevant skills that are interfering with their learning of written language. Considering that many schools do not have systematic instructional programs in handwriting and spelling, it is important to assess whether children need explicit, systematic instruction in handwriting and spelling in addition to word reading and decoding. Many schools offer accommodations in testing and teaching to students with Dysgraphia, but these students also need ongoing, explicit instruction in handwriting, spelling, and composition. It is also important to determine if a child with Dysgraphia may also have dyslexia and require special help with reading

Do children with Dysgraphia make reversals or other letter production errors?

Some children do make reversals (reversing direction letter faces along a vertical axis), inversions (flipping letters along a horizontal axis so that the letter is upside down), or transpositions (sequence of letters in a word is out of order). These errors are symptoms rather than causes of handwriting problems. The automatic letter writing instruction described earlier has been shown to reduce reversals, which are less likely to occur when retrieval of letters from memory and production of letters have become automatic.

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