Identifying letters and learning to write words is an essential part of a child’s preschool days. It is common in all young children to face difficulty in writing and perfecting handwriting initially. But if you notice that your child is struggling with drawing/ writing, spelling words incorrectly or his/her handwriting is consistently distorted, then dysgraphia can be the underlying cause.
Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects an individual’s fine motor skills needed for writing. It is estimated that about 4 to 20 percent of children are affected by this disability. However, many parents fail to understand that their child is affected by this nervous system problem and end up misjudging the situation. That’s why our preschool teachers in Markham have come up with a guide to dysgraphia in children so that parents can learn about this disability and help their little one cope with the daily struggle.
Meaning of Dysgraphia
Dysgraphia is a condition that causes trouble with written expression. It is derived from the Greek word dys (impaired) and graphia (making letterforms by hand). It is a brain-based issue that affects many children but varies in its symptoms and severity. For many children affected by dysgraphia, holding a pencil or pen is difficult while for others organizing letters in a line is challenging. Also, some children find it hard to tie their shoes, zip their jacket and use a fork because their disability is associated with orthographic coding and finger sequencing or movement of muscles required for writing.
Causes of Dysgraphia
Scientists and doctors are still not sure what causes dysgraphia in children. Usually, the brain takes the information using the senses and stores it for later use. When a person starts writing, he retrieves information from his/her long-term or short-term memory and organizes the information to begin writing. However, a person with dysgraphia misses out on one or both of these steps of the writing process. As a result, the written product is distorted or unclear and filled with spelling errors. Moreover, the genetic link of dysgraphia running in families causing generations to have the same disability can’t be denied.
Symptoms of Dysgraphia
The reason why most parents fail to realize that their child has dysgraphia is that the symptoms of this disability can be linked with a child’s laziness, especially when the disability is not severe. But when you observe closely, you can notice the following symptoms-
• Irregular, unclear or inconsistent handwriting
• Trouble with shape-discrimination and letter spacing
• Trouble holding a pencil correctly
• Difficulty copying text
• Difficulty writing on a line and inside margins
• Trouble putting thoughts into written words
• Having hard-time understanding spelling rules
• Writing jumbled sentences
• Hesitation in writing and drawing, sometimes avoiding to write and colour, especially in preschoolers
• Frequent erasing
• Unusual wrist, body or paper position while writing
Diagnosis of Dysgraphia
If you notice the above-mentioned symptoms in your child, it is advisable to seek out a diagnosis from a psychologist or neuropsychologist. You can also consult the psychologist or counsellor at your child’s preschool in Markham. The specialist will diagnose your child by giving him/ her academic assessments and writing tests. It will help in measuring his/her motor skills and ability to put thoughts into words. Also, your child’s posture, the writing process, hand and body position, pencil grip and finished work will be taken into consideration during the diagnosis.
How Parents Can Help?
Being a parent, you play a vital role in making things easier for your child with a learning disability. To help your little one, here’s what you can do.
• Acknowledge that your child has dysgraphia and talk to him/her about it freely
• Don’t criticize bad handwriting or distorted words, praise your child’s hard work and encourage to do better instead
• To help with alignment of letters and words, ask your kid to write on wide-ruled paper or paper with raised lines
• Ask your little one to use tweezers, ice tongs and chopsticks to pick up ball-up scarp as it will help in strengthening his/her fingers and improving grip
• Engage in your child in physical exercises that require cross-body coordination, for example, crafts that use scissors (one hand hold the scissors and the other cuts)
• Teach typing skills early by letting your kid use a computer to type instead of writing (it will also develop confidence)
• Talk to your kid’s preschool teachers about the condition and ask them to give shorter assignments, limit writing work, take oral exams instead of written and record what they teach in the classroom
Unfortunately, there’s no cure to dysgraphia. But occupational therapy, at-home exercises and accommodations at school can make a big difference. If you have noticed symptoms of dysgraphia in your child, consult a psychologist today for diagnosis. Help your kid in dealing with this learning disability and inform his/her preschool teachers also to ensure that everyone is on the same page.