HomeLearning DifficultiesLearning Disabilities & ADHDWriting

National Center for Learning Disablities

Dysgraphia: Learning disabilities in writing

Page 2 of 3

Young students

  • Allow use of print or cursive — whichever is more comfortable.
  • Use large graph paper for math calculation to keep columns and rows organized.
  • Allow extra time for writing assignments.
  • Begin writing assignments creatively with drawing, or speaking ideas into a tape recorder
  • Alternate focus of writing assignments — put the emphasis on some for neatness and spelling, others for grammar or organization of ideas.
  • Explicitly teach different types of writing — expository and personal essays, short stories, poems, etc.
  • Do not judge timed assignments on neatness and spelling.
  • Have students proofread work after a delay — it's easier to see mistakes after a break.
  • Help students create a checklist for editing work — spelling, neatness, grammar, syntax, clear progression of ideas, etc.
  • Encourage use of a spell checker — speaking spell checkers are available for handwritten work
  • Reduce amount of copying; instead, focus on writing original answers and ideas
  • Have student complete tasks in small steps instead of all at once.
  • Find alternative means of assessing knowledge, such as oral reports or visual projects
  • Encourage practice through low-stress opportunities for writing such as letters, a diary, making household lists or keeping track of sports teams.

Teenagers and adults

  • Provide tape recorders to supplement note taking and to prepare for writing assignments.
  • Create a step-by-step plan that breaks writing assignments into small tasks (see below).
  • When organizing writing projects, create a list of keywords that will be useful.
  • Provide clear, constructive feedback on the quality of work, explaining both the strengths and weaknesses of the project and commenting on the structure as well as the information that is included.
  • Use assistive technology such as voice-activated software if the mechanical aspects of writing remain a major hurdle.

Many of these tips can be used by all age groups. It is never too early or too late to reinforce the skills needed to be a good writer.

Though teachers and employers are required by law to make "reasonable accommodations" for individuals with learning disabilities, they may not be aware of how to help. Speak to them about dysgraphia, and explain the challenges you face as a result of your learning disability.

Reprinted with permission from the National Center for Learning Disabilities. All rights reserved.

Comments from readers

"I'd also like to know of any specialists in San Antonio. Our experience mirrors one described below--we have observed this problem in our son for several years and had him tested for learning disorders. Other than ADHD, his troubles have been called "non-specific" but we know that he specifically struggles in this *one* area--not reading, not math, not science, etc. Just writing. Frankly, I don't care if it's dysgraphia or whatever. I just want the school to acknowledge the problem and give him the help he needs. "
"Thanks for this article. It summarizes a lot of information in a small space. However, I wonder why you would encourage introducing a word processor early. Recent studies have shown there's no advantage to adopting computers before about age 12 - by which time basic reading, writing, research and some critical-thinking skills have been acquired. "
"Wuaw, I did not about this trouble. Thinking about my son he has this trouble and now I will to talk with specials teachers about this point maybe they will take a test to him. Thanks, for this important information. My son was daignostic with AHD has in medication . "
"What can the schools do to help students? I am having difficulty with CST - they do not want to accept out Neuropsychologicals (2). HELP! "
"great article. But since this is 'Great Schools' website where is info about how to find the schools who acknowledge these needs and implement these recommendations?"
"It is refreshing to see an article about this that I haven't had to dig all over the internet for. I have been convinced since my son was in K (he's in 4th grade now) that he has dysgraphia. I have spoken to every teacher he has had about this. Most of them have no idea what I'm talking about. One (his 2nd and 3rd grade teacher) was so helpful. She educated herself about the disorder and ways to help my son. She also helped me get him evaluated. The problem is that I don't think the person who evaluated him knew about this disorder either, and she refused to show me the results. All she said is that he is 'borderline' and doesn't require intervention! I have seen this child struggle, sweat and cry over writing... and eventually all he learned is that he just needs to give up because there is no point... it breaks my heart to see that in him. I have put calls in to a specialist in Jacksonville, FL, but I can not get them to call back... my plan is to keep calling un! til I get an answer and an appointment. So many people don't understand that this is not a motivational issue. It is a true neurological disorder... this is not just about 'messy handwriting'. It is so much more than that. The public really needs to be educated about this. Maybe then people would take it seriously when parents say 'I think my child is having problems'."
"Im looking for a school that can help me, with writing and reading, i struggled all my life with reading and writing, I'm 19, I Graduated From Belle Vernon high school in 08, thanks you."
"This article has been of great help, it's very informative. Where would I find paper that has raised lines. I myself have problems organizing my thoughts writing has been and still is very tedious for me. It takes me for ever to organize my ideas and every time I think I got the hang of it,it's like starting over again when another project comes up. Is there a place were one could take some courses inn writing."
"My son is in the 4th grade and has all the symptoms listed above.I really need help! He is currently in resouce for writing but that is not helping. He hates to go in there for 30 mins each morning. "
"I like the article. Step wise instructions are good . Thanks "
"My son is in high school he was diagnosed with this in elem. It has been a battle with schools because you would be suprised how little schools know about this. He is in high school now and still never recived his keyboard, schools have been promising him for years. But he has learned how to overcome this."
"My son has dysgraphia, I am learning now that it is very rarely diagnosed.. And not many children are truly dysgraphic"
"Looking for a program to help my son with his dysgraphia in San Antonio TX"