This is my summary of my research study, which I wrote while I was doing my Neurological Speech Therapy program at a Spanish university in 2020.
My aim is to help you to understand dysgraphia and also give you 5 practical exercises. I use these exercises with my healthy students, while we are learning any foreign language.
So, what is dysgraphia?
According to P. J. Chung, “At its broadest definition, dysgraphia is a disorder of writing ability at any stage, including problems with letter formation/legibility, letter spacing, spelling, fine motor coordination, rate of writing, grammar, and composition. Acquired dysgraphia occurs when existing brain pathways are disrupted by an event (e.g., brain injury, neurologic disease, or degenerative conditions).
There are many cases when dysgraphia is misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Children with dysgraphia are labeled as “lazy” and/or “not clever enough”, etc. by their parents or teachers at school. That is why it is important for such children to be tested by a speech-language pathologist/therapist at school.
I would strongly recommend testing a person on dysgraphia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, as well just to be aware if one has got only dysgraphia or something else too.
These are some tests to diagnose dysgraphia:
Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III)
Woodcock Johnson-III Tests of Achievement (WJ-III)
Test of Written Language-4 (TOWL-4)
Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (C-TOPP)
Word Decoding, Pseudoword Decoding on WIAT-III and Word Attack on the WJ-III
Only a professional speech-language pathologist/therapist can state the diagnosis of dysgraphia.
There are different types of dysgraphia:
When spontaneously written work is not clear enough to be read. And/or this work is copied and is fairly good with bad spelling. Likely stem from cerebellar damage is absent. A person has got a normal finger tapping speed. not necessarily that a Dyslexic Dysgraphic has got dyslexia.
It may happen because there are deficient fine motor skills, poor muscle tone, and dexterity. Additionally, there may be unspecified motor clumsiness. Usually, the written work is not clear enough to be read, even when a person copies a text from a book.
Forming letters may be acceptable but the extreme effort, a lot of time is needed for it. Finger tapping speed may be below the norm.
It may occur because of a defect in the understanding space on a piece of paper. A person does not have a feeling of writing a text in one line. The lines are usually shifted. In this case, it is better to have a lined paper of such a person, but we will talk about it a bit later. The tapping speed is normal.
When a person struggles with how words can be joined in order to compose full and comprehensive phrases. S/he does not understand what s/he writes because one thinks that it is ok because s/he pronounces this way. If a person pronounces the word “this” as /dis/, then the spelling will be “dis”. Such people may not understand the sayings such as “as hungry as a bear” as one may understand it literally. Bear? How a bear can be connected to hunger, they might think that the bear is hungry.
People with Phonological dysgraphia struggle with accuracy in real words and in non-words. Many people may show signs of high lexical effects in reading as well as spelling, which is thought to be a standard sign of phonological dyslexia and dysgraphia. People with Phonological dysgraphia show awfully in phonological tests, where an orthographic component is not included.
One cannot hold phonemes in memory and put them in their appropriate sequence to produce an utterance. They may change some sounds (e.g. men – pen), the sounds, which are close to the sounding, devitalization, and close to the articulation. In addition, they may have problems with the order of sounds and letters.
There are many exercises, which may be used with dyslexic people. I am going to outline only 5 of them. Before I start, it is a good idea to do an exercise for fingers before writing. The task is the following:
A person is to hold a pencil or a pen in the middle of the shaft within a dominant hand (right, for example), using thumb, index finger, and middle finger. Using them all, twirl a pen or a pencil like a baton. It should be done about 15 times.
Sometimes, I do this exercise with my healthy adult learners as many of them do not write with their hands, they only type. and writing is challenging for them.
If a child mixes the letters (if we talk about the English language) “p”, “b”, “d”, “m”, “n”. We need to develop visual-spatial gnosis.
Write these letters on the sand, on a tray with shaving cream, with a piece of ice on a palm, for example. Thus the “silhouette” will be memorized better.
If a child cannot differentiate the sounds /s/ and /ʃ/, we need to work it out. A child may not correct oneself during the speaking.
- Clap your hands when you hear a sound /ʃ/. I name: “street”, “ship”, “cheap”, “tank”, “she”, “shoe”.
- Put a palm closely near your palm. Pronounce /s/. Feel the cold air. Pronounce /ʃ/. Feel the warm air.
If one does not know which sound corresponds to what letter/s. For example, in Spanish “ll” (in “llave”) is one sound – /ʎ/.
You demonstrate a word and divide it into syllables and sounds. For example, the Spanish word “llave”.
ll – /ʎ/
a – /a/
v – /β/
e – /e/
I assume that a person knows how to divide theoretically into syllables and sounds to some extent so that we don’t have to explain it. However, if a child does not know it, we teach them how to do it.
If a person has got some problems with syntaxis.
- Read a sentence aloud. Before explain that there are special signs for each word.
- the first word in the sentence or a word, which is written with a capital letter |___
- each word we “write” ___
- we write all the punctuational signs.
An example, an SLP reads a sentence “ I love eating pizza, but John likes apples”, must be transcribed as |___ ___ ___ ___, ___ |___ ___ ___.
An SLP asks: “Name the number of a sound /m/ is the word “name”. Correct answer: the sound /m/ is the 4th sound in this word.
I hope that you found this article helpful and useful. You are welcome to share it with your colleagues/friends.
Happy to read your comments 😀
Burns, T. G. (2010). Wechsler Individual Achievement Test-III: What is the ‘Gold Standard’ for Measuring Academic Achievement?. Applied Neuropsychology 17, p. 234.
Cheridnichenko, N.V., Klymenko, I. V., and Tentser, L. V. (2018). Written disorders in children at primary school: diagnosis and treatment. Kyiv: DIA.
Chung, P. J., Patel, D. R. and Nizami, I. (2020). Disorder of written expression and dysgraphia: definition, diagnosis, and management, p. S46.
Climie, E. A. (2011). Test Review: Test of Written Language–Fourth Edition. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, p. 592.
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Q-interactive [n.d.]. Retrieved from http://www.helloq.com.au/wiat-iii