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by Dr. Becky Spelman on 08/01/2020

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is usually diagnosed in childhood, often when a teacher, parent, or other caregiver has noticed that the child in question has sustained difficulty with writing coherently.

The symptoms of dysgraphia can include:

  • Poor spelling and incorrect use of capitals
  • Inappropriate mixture of cursive and print letters
  • Problems with spacing and sizing letters correctly
  • Difficulty accurately copying words
  • Writing slowly and with obvious difficulty
  • Struggling to visualise words prior to writing them.
  • Maintaining an unusual and uncomfortable-appearing position while writing
  • Holding the writing implement very tightly while writing, resulting in cramps
  • Watching one’s hand closely while writing
  • Saying the words aloud while writing
  • Leaving out essential letters and words when writing sentences
  • Writing in such a way that the words or sentences have a strange “slant” on the page
  • Struggling with creative writing; finding it difficult to think and write at the same time

This condition is often present in children who also have other issues, ranging from ADHD to speech impairment and learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Also, because children with dysgraphia often struggle at school, they can experience profound feelings of frustration, which can in turn lead to acting out and behavioural issues that can contribute to a generally negative attitude towards learning.

Because dysgraphia is not linked to overall intellectual ability, and because it is specifically associated with writing, it is generally not diagnosed until the child has been in school for a number of years and is consistently behind their peers in their writing ability. While it is typically diagnosed in childhood, it can persist throughout life, especially if the person in question does not get the help and support they need to manage it.

What causes Dysgraphia?

Children can have dysgraphia for a wide variety of reasons, including damage to certain structures in the brain, delays in the development of motor skills, poor muscle tone, or other factors. Many can write clearly for a short period of time, after which their handwriting deteriorates, and their hands become noticeably tired.

Unfortunately, children with dysgraphia are often initially thought to be lazy or unmotivated, and some are punished for a condition that is beyond their control. Many develop coping mechanisms on their own, such as developing a high degree of verbal fluency that can, up to a point, mask the disorder.

At the Private Therapy Clinic, we use a range of standardised tools to diagnose dysgraphia. Psychologist Tamara Musso uses these tools to assess patients (usually children, but teenagers and adults can also be assessed) and provide a clear diagnosis that can be used to help them to get the support they need.

Supports that are typically available include allowing the student in question to use a computer during exams rather than having to answer by hand, encouraging them to use cursive writing rather than printing (as they may struggle with the spacing between letters), using special graph paper or paper with raised lines, engaging in exercises designed to improve muscle strength and flexibility, and treatments specially designed to address issues with memory and/or neurological deficits.

For many children, understanding that their struggles with writing are not their fault is therapeutic, in and of itself. The vast majority of people with dysgraphia, once diagnosed and supported, can learn how to minimise the impact of the condition on their lives.

Assessment

At Private Therapy Clinic we use standardised reliable psychometric tests to assess difficulties related with handwriting.

This test is suitable for clients between the ages of 9 years to 16 years 11 months. Please enquire if you wish a test version for 17 years +.

The session for this assessment takes up to 1 hour 30 minutes and it’s structured as follows:

  • 45 minute clinical interview to gather developmental and relevant background history
  • 30 minutes aproximadamente time of test

Fee: £400 including report

HOW CAN I GET AN ASSESSMENT FOR DYSGRAPHIA?

If you would like to talk to someone about having an assessment for dysgraphia in London, please get in touch with us at the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone at: 020 38871738 or book online.

References

Berninger, Virginia W.; O’Malley May, Maggie (2011). “Evidence-Based Diagnosis and Treatment for Specific Learning Disabilities Involving Impairments in Written and/or Oral Language”. Journal of Learning Disabilities. 44 (2): 167–83.

Faust, Miriam (2012-02-13). The Handbook of the Neuropsychology of Language. Wiley – Blackwell.

Nicolson, Roderick I.; Fawcett, Angela J. (January 2011). “Dyslexia, dysgraphia, procedural learning and the cerebellum”. Cortex. 47 (1): 117–27.