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Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder which can be defined as “a disorder in written expression”. It is a Greek term which in English translates to “impaired at writing by hand”.

The Disabled Student’s Allowance for Student Finance England recognises dysgraphia as a specific learning difference, however it is still one of the most mistaken learning differences, with thousands being misdiagnosed with its more well-known counterpart – dyslexia.

It is therefore highly important to ensure that you also consider the possibility that your pupils, who are portraying signs of dyslexia, might instead have dysgraphia, or indeed, both.

So how can you identify dysgraphia among your pupils?

Perhaps the first step to identifying dysgraphia is by comparing your pupils’ handwriting with other pupils’ handwriting of the same age. And the second is to identify what it is exactly that is making their handwriting appear to be of poor quality.

Does the handwriting contain oversized letters? Are there inconsistencies in the size of consecutive letters? Are letters/words written at an inconsistent angle? Are letters, words, paragraphs and margins spaced inconsistently? Does the handwriting contain more spelling mistakes than you’d expect? Has some of the handwriting been crossed out and rewritten?

The third step to identifying dysgraphia is to identify why the handwriting is of poor quality as a pupil with dysgraphia will very often have problems with their language processing abilities, fine motor skills, memory recall, pen/pencil grip, handwriting posture and/or visual spacing.

And so the fourth, and final step to identifying dysgraphia is to investigate whether the pupil does indeed have problems in any of the above areas.

At Dysgraphia Help we offer an online test for £32 for people aged 8 and over which can act as a preliminary diagnosis. It consists of 50 questions and after completion of the test and submitting a handwriting sample you will receive a report within 72 hours. If we believe dysgraphia to be present you will also receive some supporting activity materials. Find out more at www.dysgraphiahelp.co.uk/testing-for-dysgraphia/.

The activity materials are from the Overcoming dysgraphia workbook which can also be bought separately to the online dysgraphia test. It contains 100+ A4 sides of activities, worksheets and games which aim to improve language processing, visual spacing, fine motor skills, pen/pencil grip, handwriting posture and memory retrieval. The workbook is therefore organised into four sections; Drawing, Writing, Planning and Improving memory.
Drawing is a great place to start in overcoming dysgraphia as it exercises, and thus develops, fine motor skills - which are fundamental to improved handwriting. This section contains Trace it, Dot-to-dot, Draw it, Draw it again, Draw in order and Complete the picture activities.

The Writing section of the workbook recaps on many of the basic concepts to ensure these have been mastered. It also encourages conscious thinking about what is being written and how it is being written. Activities include Forming letters, Pangrams, The size that suits, Positioning & spacing, Fill in the gaps and Order & write.
Planning before writing is important for anyone to do, but perhaps more so for a person with dysgraphia. For organising and ordering ideas into a planning template beforehand allows for more attention to be focused on handwriting. This section includes Ordering, Adding detail, Visualisation, Who, what & where? Building it up and Write it activities.

Pupils with dysgraphia don’t usually have problems with recalling information from their long term memory and holding it in their short term memory under normal circumstances. However, memory recall can become more challenging when writing by hand as greater attention is given to handwriting than to information needed for the task. Activities in this section aim to improve spatial memory, visual memory, sequential memory, and so on.

For more information about the Overcoming dysgraphia workbook, please visit www.dysgraphiahelp.co.uk/resources/.