Learning how to write is one of the most important skills children learn, when they first start school. While some children take to it easily, others face problems mastering the art. As a parent, you should not worry if your child faces difficulties initially while trying to learn how to write. Most children do.
However, if he faces problems writing simple letters or words, even after months of training, he may have dysgraphia, a writing disability. However, there is no need to be alarmed as timely intervention helps most children overcome this problem easily.
What is dysgraphia?
According to the Dyslexia - SPELD Foundation, Australia, “Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that affects written expression. It is a neurological disorder that generally appears when children are first learning to write. Dysgraphia can appear as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper.”
How to recognise the signs of dysgraphia:
Ponnuri Gopiikrishna, Handwriting Expert and Founder Sree Bhagavathi Yoga Trust, Vijayawada says that children suffering from Dysgraphia are often termed ‘lazy’, even though the problem is much bigger than simple laziness. “When students have dysgraphia (trouble with writing), they are frequently called ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated’ because they avoid writing. At times, they write neatly but only at a very slow pace. They are often accused of writing neatly ‘when they want to’. Students who face problems writing often tend to avoid it by finding excuses like taking trips to the bathroom, sharpening their pencils or even simply sitting and staring. Being punished or reprimanded is less painful for them than writing,” says Ponnuri.
Following are some of the signs of dysgraphia
- Having an illegible handwriting
- Making spelling mistakes
- Forming letters of irregular sizes and shapes
- Writing incomplete words and sentences
- Possessing uncomfortable pencil grip
- Tiring easily while writing
- Avoiding writing
- Lacking comprehension of space while writing
- Saying aloud words while writing
However, before you start wondering if your child has dysgraphia, you should know about the types of dysgraphia that affect children.
Types of dysgraphia
Dyslexic dysgraphia: When a child has dyslexic dysgraphia, his spontaneous writing is illegible, but his copied work is good. Also, he may have bad spelling.
Motor dysgraphia: A child with motor dysgraphia has poor motor skills, muscle tone and dexterity, and is usually clumsy. While she may be able to spell well, she may find it very difficult to form letters and may take a lot of time to accomplish the task, even if she copies them by sight.
Spatial dysgraphia: A child with spatial dysgraphia finds it hard to comprehend the concept of space required between words. As a result, his writing is very poor even though he might be able to spell well.
A child can have more than one type of dysgraphia and the symptoms may vary accordingly.
What should you do?
Here are some tips that experts suggest you try at home.
Make your child feel the letters
It helps your child if he can feel the shape of the letters instead of seeing them on paper. Write a letter on his back and ask him to imitate the action. To add a twist, you can ask him to write the letter in capital and small font.
Encourage writing on various surfaces
Instead of writing on a piece of paper, encourage your child to write on bigger surfaces like the wall or on sand. This exercise will again focus on the sensory input rather than the visual input.
Try different modes
Roll out clay and help your child form letters using it. You can also make him arrange tiny blocks of wood to form various letters. Such exercises will help him understand letter-formation better.
Help strengthen the grip
Children with writing disabilities usually don’t have the right grip. To overcome this problem, ask your child to grasp objects with a plastic tweezer or children’s chopsticks. This will help strengthen his grip and improve coordination between his thumb and forefinger.
Give cross-body training exercises
When you write on a sheet of paper or in a notebook, you need to hold the paper with one hand and write with the other. This requires your child to coordinate movements on both sides of her body. Practise exercises at home that help strengthen the coordination. Give her a piece of paper and a pair of scissors and ask her to cut the paper using both hands. (Constant supervision is required here when your child handles the pair of scissors).
Encourage expression of thoughts
Children suffering from dysgraphia may have great ideas but hesitate to express them as writing is a big challenge for them. Use alternative methods like keyboarding to help your child express himself and keep the interest in writing alive till he masters the skill of writing by hand.
The most important thing to remember is to be patient with your child while she tries to overcome her hurdles in writing. It is frustrating for her as well, to see her peers and friends move forward in class while she struggles. So, encourage and support her to overcome her problems and try to make writing a fun exercise for her.
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