What is Dysgraphia.

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Elissa Green



Dr. Wu


The term dysgraphia has customarily been used in reference to a disorder of written language expression in childhood as opposed to a disorder of written language acquired in adulthood. Written language disorders have also been referred to as "developmental output failures." Written language is the graphomotor execution of sequential symbols to convey thoughts and information. Since writing represents the last and most complex skill to develop, it is the most vulnerable to insult, injury and adverse genetic influences (Deuel, 1994).  Difficulties in writing have an adverse impact on academic achievement in school and the different careers chosen throughout life.  

         Dysgraphia can be seen in letter inconsistencies, mixture of upper/lower case letters or print/cursive letters, irregular letter sizes and shapes, unfinished letters, and struggle to use writing as a communications tool.  “It is not laziness, not trying, not caring, sloppy writing, general sloppiness, careless writing, and visual-motor delay” (Kay, 2002).  Dysgraphia is a difficulty in automatically remembering and mastering the sequence of muscle motor movements needed in writing letters or numbers. This difficulty is out of harmony with the person's intelligence, regular teaching instruction, and (in most cases) the use of the pencil in non-learning tasks. It is neurologically based and exists in varying degrees, ranging from mild to moderate.  

Dysgraphia is often classified as either specific or non-specific (Deuel, 1994). Specific dysgraphia results from spelling disabilities, motor coordination problems, and language disabilities such as aphasia.  The components of motor dysgraphia are sometimes related to anatomical problems, executive dysfunction, motor planning deficits, and visual-spatial perception problems.  Non-specific dysgraphia may result from mental retardation, psychosocial deprivation, or poor school attendance. Some children do not develop adequate handwriting skills because they have not received enough direct instruction in written language.

Deuel (1994) has divided dysgraphia into three subtypes: dyslexic dysgraphia, dysgraphia due to motor clumsiness, dysgraphia due to a defect in the understanding of space

In dyslexic dysgraphia, spontaneously written text is poorly legible and spelling is severely abnormal. Copying of written text is relatively preserved, however, and finger-tapping speed on a neuropsychological battery is generally normal.  Dysgraphia due to motor clumsiness is associated with poorly legible spontaneously written text, preserved spelling and poorly legible copying of written text.  Finger tapping speed in such cases is generally abnormal.   Dysgraphia due to a defect in understanding of space is associated with poorly legible spontaneously written text, preserved spelling, poorly legible copying of written text, and normal finger tapping speed.

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The causes of dysgraphia can be related to other learning disabilities such as sequencing problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or auditory weakness. First, Sequencing Problems, as with dyslexia, written language difficulty is often believed to be the result of underlying visual or perceptual processing weakness. However, research on brain functioning has not found much evidence to support the notion of a visual basis for dysgraphia. In fact, what usually appears to be a perceptual problem (reversing letters/numbers, writing words backwards, writing letters out of order, and very sloppy handwriting) usually seems to be directly related to sequential/rational information processing. In other ...

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