What is Dysgraphia
Dysgraphia describes a condition specific to handwriting ability. It is related to fine motor coordination issues, but is specialized to use of a writing utensil. In the past we would use the term dysgraphia to describe handwriting disorders following neurologic impairment such as stroke, head injury, or the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Currently, this term has broadened and dysgraphia is now viewed as a problem with printing starting as early as preschool.
Strictly speaking, dysgraphia means a disability in writing, but it is the poor use of a tool that is usually the underlying challenge. Children with dysgraphia have difficulty utilizing a utensil such as a toothbrush, eating utensil, or paint brush. They also have trouble using tools, trouble aiming the toy hammer to connect with the toy nail. Children with dysgraphia may not grip strongly enough to secure the leash attached to the toy wooden puppy on wheels. They continually forget or can’t feel the leash properly, then relaxing their hand too much.
The idea of extending the function of the hands by using any tool takes tremendous intelligence. The use of a crayon or pencil requires a very specific coordination of the fingers. Fine motor coordination is the outcome of a finely tuned and meticulously developed neurologic system.
Development of fine motor coordination for writing also has a powerful effect on the development of the human mind. Brain biologists tell us that reading and writing collaborates different regions of the brain that were formerly used for functions that are more basic. These more basic brain functions were collaborated and connected with interpreting complex visual stimuli. Writing allows the human culture to develop concepts and analyze variables in ways that are very different from cultures that did not have writing develop in the same manner.
It is much easier to print words on a page when you have the strength in your trunk muscles to hold yourself and your writing arm correctly for long periods of time. If the nerves to the postural muscles do not send the correct message, the student will be collapsed forward at their desk. With poor posture, the student is unable to develop the correct muscle tone in the hand and fingers to utilize a pencil correctly.
In addition to a postural strength issue, dysgraphia can result when a child has difficulty being able to feel the writing utensil in their hand. They have a reduced sense of touch. The sense of touch is crucial for the correct amount of pressure to be applied to the pencil and, through the pencil, to the paper below.
The child’s discriminative touch sensation must process the texture of the pencil, whether round or hexagon, as well as the texture of the paper, whether standard white paper or rougher construction paper.
In addition to the strength and the correct sense of touch, the fingers need to function independent of one another. That’s where “Itsy Bitsy Spider” games and playing the recorder and other musical instruments can help a student develop the correct fine motor coordination for efficient use of musical instruments, printing, writing, and typing.
We want to encourage use of a pencil without the feeling of performance anxiety. Unwittingly, neat printing and writing it ends up being a comparison between peers. Most middle school students have some emotional response to their printing and writing skills.
Feel free to copy the attached pencil art sample and we encourage your child to “do doodle” while they listen to a story being read. The auditory processing of listening to a story together with visual and fine motor stimulation through doodling, can combine to strengthen brain pathways for writing ease down the line.