Dysgraphia is a unique learning disability that causes issues with writing. There are three types of dysgraphia, each developing from disorders of working memory. It is possible for a person to have more than one form of dysgraphia. Other conditions such as dyslexia and ADHD often appear along this condition. Many people with dysgraphia experience stress and anxiety while writing. Treatment often focuses on the cause of a person’s dysgraphia and helping them achieve stronger writing skills.


Dysgraphia can cause a variety of individual or collective symptoms such as incorrect spelling or capitalization. A person with dysgraphia often has little control over the size and spacing of their letters. They may take longer to write than the average person and may express discomfort or stress while doing so. People with dysgraphia can also have dyslexia, leading some people to mistake symptoms between the two.

what is a Dysgraphia FatCamera / Getty Images


Dyslexic Dysgraphia

One of the three types of dysgraphia is dyslexic dysgraphia. People with dyslexic dysgraphia struggle most with spontaneously written text that they haven’t copied or traced from another source. In many cases, the resulting text is illegible. For longer sentences, the text may begin as rough but readable and steadily decrease in legibility as the sentence continues. Dyslexic dysgraphia doesn’t affect the fine motor skills, so drawing and copying are often legible. Spelling, however, is difficult for those with the condition.

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Dyslexia vs. Dysgraphia

Despite its name, a person with dyslexic dysgraphia doesn’t necessarily have dyslexia. Dyslexia is a reading disorder while dysgraphia is a writing disorder. However, both conditions can feature writing, spelling, and letter recognition issues. It is possible for a person to have both learning disabilities, but diagnosis often requires many specialized tests. Because the two conditions are so similar, especially difficult cases may require appointments and tests from a team of varied experts to distinguish between the two.

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Motor Dysgraphia

Some instances of dysgraphia result from issues with a person’s fine motor skills. Motor dysgraphia affects all finger motions. Spontaneous and traced writings are close to illegible and drawing is difficult. However, because the motor dysgraphia exclusively affects fine motor skills, a person with this condition can recognize letters and words without difficulty. Because individuals with motor dysgraphia usually have poor writing posture, their writing may appear slanted.

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Spatial Dysgraphia

The most complex form of dysgraphia is spatial dysgraphia. A person with spatial dysgraphia finds it difficult to understand the spatial relationship between the writing and the medium. This affects many aspects of the person’s life, but in regards to dysgraphia, mostly inhibits writing and drawing. Spelling skills, as well as letter and word recognition, are usually normal. Experts lack an understanding of many of the underlying causes of spatial dysgraphia, and its symptoms are distinct from the other forms of dysgraphia.

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Generally, dysgraphia results from issues with working memory. People with the condition fail to create the connections between brain regions that are necessary for developing writing skills. This can affect orthographic coding, the orthographic loop, and graphomotor output. Orthographic coding is storing memories of letters and words. Graphomotor output is the mechanical skill of writing. The orthographic loop is the overall connection between orthographic coding and graphomotor output. In some people, motor dysgraphia is the result of trauma to part of the motor cortex in the brain.

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Even for experts, diagnosing dysgraphia can be extremely difficult. Several tests exist to make the diagnosis process easier, including the Ajuriaguerra scale, DASH, HHE scale, and BHK for children or teenagers. Dysgraphia tests usually include writing and fine motor components. Modern tests may involve drawing tablets to more accurately measure the tilt, pressure, and position that a person uses while writing. These devices also make it possible for doctors to create more personalized treatment plans.

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If a person does have dysgraphia, treatment can help improve their writing skills. Many people believe that simply writing more will cure dysgraphia, but it may actually hinder progress. Instead, proper treatment includes letter-formation drills and learning the proper posture for writing. Drawing tablets allow for treatment applications that actively guide a person through the process of handwriting training. Fine motor skills are often more difficult for people to develop and therefore require lengthier treatment.

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Relation to Other Conditions

People with dysgraphia often have one or more other learning disorders. ADHD, dyslexia, and oral and written language (OWL) learning disability are the most common co-occurring conditions. Generally, these learning disorders feature issues reading, writing, spelling, or speaking. These conditions tend to run in families and have some relation to issues during fetal development. Many people with these learning disorders also develop anxiety and stress, particularly if they feel frequent social judgement for their handwriting or other issues.

Dysgraphia conditions FatCamera / Getty Images


Schooling and Accommodations

In recent years, writing issues have become less serious than historically. Many schools and workplaces can provide accommodations for those with dysgraphia. Speech-to-text programs allow individuals with fine motor skills issues to dictate their work and avoid writing or typing. Teachers and supervisors can provide additional time for tasks that are writing-focused to allow for those with dysgraphia to finish their work with less stress. Special grips may make holding pens and pencils easier and help with writing posture.

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