Dysgraphia (disorder of written expression)

Writing is perhaps the most difficult academic task to master, as it requires the successful integration of a number of skills. More specifically, problems with muscle strength, fine motor dexterity, or motor planning can make the physical aspect of writing difficult and frustrating for some children. Children who have problems with language skills can have difficulties with spelling, grammar, and syntax.


Problems with fine motor dexterity or motor planning

  • Occupational therapy to improve pencil control skills
  • Structured repetitive handwriting programs that teach strategies to form letters (for example, “Handwriting Without Tears”)

Spelling problems

These are usually related to weakness in phonological processing. Target interventions to the aspects of spelling that are problematic for the child. For example:

  • Instruction in clapping/counting syllables
  • Instruction in basic spelling rules (each word must have a vowel, “I before E, but not after C”, etc.)
  • Instruction in word segmentation and blending
  • Memorization of common words that are exceptions to spelling rules

Language weaknesses

Limited vocabulary and difficulty with expression (such as grammar or sentence formation) may contribute to writing problems.

Compensatory strategies:

Compensatory strategies do not “treat” the underlying problem like interventions do, but they may make it easier for a child who is experiencing dysgraphia to succeed in the classroom. Examples include:

  • Reduce paper and pencil tasks and decrease repetitive writing assignments, but do not change essential elements.
  • For older students, accompany writing assignments with very specific steps and instructions, sequential outlines, etc.
  • Provide copies of slides, teacher notes, and lecture outlines so the student is not falling behind or missing important information while trying to take notes or copy from the screen or blackboard. Even when the student is given notes/outlines, the teacher should require some activity of the student in order to maintain his active participation in the learning process, such as fill-in-the-blank or highlighting key words with a highlighter.
  • Provide an opportunity for oral responses on tests or assignments and/or allow dictation.
  • Do not provide a handwriting or neatness grade. Allow the use of cursive or printing, whichever is more legible.
  • Allow for use of AlphaSmart or other keyboarding system.
  • Do not grade for spelling, grammatical, or punctuation errors during one-sitting assignments.
  • Modify test formats to increase structure for open-ended tasks. For example, instead of a general essay question, provide testing in multiple-choice, true-false, or fill-in-the-blank from a word bank.

Information in this section was contributed, in part, by James Poysky, PhD. Read Dr. Poysky’s entire document, Learning and Behavior in Duchenne (download).