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Rough Guide to Dysgraphia

Rough Guide to Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that adversely affects children's ability to write coherently and/or spell.We previously covered dyslexia, dyspraxia and dyscalculia. Today we’ll take a look at developmental dysgraphia; what it is, what the signs are and how to help children affected by the disorder.

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a learning disorder that adversely affects children’s ability to write coherently and/or spell. That’s in contrast to dyslexia, which affects their ability to read and, indeed, children with dysgraphia may have no trouble reading. As with so many learning disorders, dysgraphia has nothing to do with the level of a child’s intelligence. It affects more males than females and sometimes goes hand-in-hand with other conditions including ADHD.

What Are the 3 Types of Dysgraphia?

Dyslexic dysgraphia results in poor writing legibility specifically when the writing has not been copied from an existing written source. It also gets worse with longer texts. Copied written work, however, may be good although spelling is likely to be bad. This type of dysgraphia is not thought to be the result of poor motor skills nor is it thought to be caused by a neurological issues. Despite the name, dyslexic dysgraphia is unrelated to dyslexia.

Even drawing can be unintelligibleMotor dysgraphia is primarily the result of poor fine motor skills and poor dexterity, making the control needed for legible writing or drawings difficult. It may also be the result of poor muscle tone. In contrast to dyslexic dysgraphia, motor dysgraphia may result in poor writing legibility even when the words are copied. Spelling, however, is not adversely affected. Short bursts with unusually high concentration levels may result in better letter and word formation, but the level of concentration needed to achieve this is unsustainable over a longer period.

Spatial dysgraphia also results in mostly illegible writing and drawing, however in this case it’s the result of issues around spatial awareness. So, for example, written work may stray from the lines on lined paper and spacing between words will be poor. Both copied and spontaneous writing is usually illegible but spelling is normal.

Some dysgraphic children have more than one type of dysgraphia and it’s also worth noting that some may exhibit symptoms that do not necessarily fit straight into any of the 3 types above.

There is another type of dysgraphia that’s caused by neurological trauma, e.g. through a brain injury. However, we’ll concentrate here only on developmental dysgraphia.

What Causes Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is caused by neurological issues, although the exact cause is unknown. It may, though, be associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders.

What are the Signs of Dysgraphia?

Developmental dysgraphia can usually only be recognised once children start learning to write. For this reason, it’s seldom emerges until around the age of 5. It manifests itself when writing skills are significantly below what’s expected for a person’s intelligence, age and level of education.

Signs of possible dysgraphia include:

  • In all forms of the disorder, writing will be poor and often largely unintelligible;
  • Writing is likely to be very slow;
  • In some cases, spelling is also adversely affected;
  • DyWriting is likely to be very slow and can be exhausting for those affectedsgraphic children may also hold their writing instruments in an unusual way or have strange posture when writing;
  • The grip on the writing instrument may also be unusually tight and the child may also watch their hand when writing;
  • Pain may be experienced when trying to write or draw and those with the condition may assume this is normal. It may start in the forearm and potentially spread to the entire body. Stress can also bring this on in the dysgraphic;
  • Dysgraphic children my mix lower case with upper case letters. Numbers may also be difficult (so maths can also be adversely affected);
  • Sizing and spacing of letters and words will be irregular;
  • Letters and words may be incomplete, missing or simply wrong;
  • Communication via the written word will be a struggle;
  • Those with the condition may talk to themselves while writing, for example saying words out loud when writing them.

Additional Knock-On Effects

Because writing is so challenging, those with the condition may exhibit a reluctance around written tasks, often not completing them. This may be incorrectly construed as laziness to the uninitiated. Those with the disorder may also find writing very tiring, even for short texts. In a classroom situation, dysgraphia also makes the taking of notes extremely difficult and this can lead to additional problems around academic topics, for example keeping up with the curriculum.

Sadly, dysgraphic children’s difficulties around writing may also lead to low self-esteem and even anxiety and mental health issues. With the disorder holding a child back in so many ways, it can also lead to reduced prospects generally. So, the earlier the child is diagnosed, the more likely their challenges can be reduced to a minimum.

If positively diagnosed, an occupational therapist is usually at the forefront of any follow-up treatment.Diagnosing Dysgraphia

As with many learning disorders, it’s always wise to first contact a GP to ensure that the issue is not caused by some other condition, for example poor eyesight. If dysgraphia is still suspected thereafter, specialists may need to be involved in order to get a firm diagnosis. They may include a paediatrician, psychologist and occupational therapist who may test the child’s writing, fine motor and academic skills. Whilst doing so, the child’s pencil grip, posture and general approach to writing will also be appraised. If positively diagnosed, an occupational therapist is usually at the forefront of any follow-up treatment.

How to Help Children with Dysgraphia

Like many of the other learning disorders, there is no cure for dysgraphia. However, there are several ways that dysgraphic children can be helped, so the challenges they face are reduced. An occupational therapist may set a plan in motion to strengthen hands, fingers and wrists, for example. They may also recommend specific ways to improve writing.

Special papers can help children with dysgraphiaAt education settings, additional bespoke learning strategies and interventions, that all teaching professionals can employ, may include:

  • Allowing dysgraphic children more time to complete tasks (both classroom assignments and any tests);
  • Use of special writing instruments that may have different types of grip;
  • Use of special lined paper that has raised lines. This can help affected children to keep writing within the lines more easily;
  • Supply of pre-printed lesson notes, so there is less burden on the dysgraphic child to take handwritten notes;
  • Use of special tools, for example voice-to-text software, dictation machines and proofreading applications;
  • Bespoke learning and development plans, customised to the strengths and any weaknesses of the child;
  • Teaching professionals may also be able to offer dysgraphic children different ways to submit assignments, for example non-handwritten submissions.

Childcare/teaching professionals and parents/guardians should work together on a shared planChildcare/teaching professionals and parents/guardians should always work together and compare notes, so that all parties are fully informed about any challenges the child may have. By doing so, they can share strategies and each work with the child towards the same goals. It’s important to begin such work as early as possible, so that the impact of the disorder on the child’s life is minimised. Early diagnosis is therefore crucial.

Special Educational Needs at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamChildcare professionals at Little Cedars Nursery will support children with any learning disorders and disabilities as a matter of course. Although dysgraphia normally only manifests itself once children reach the age of about five, we will nevertheless watch out for possible signs during children’s pre-school years at the setting. If suspected, we’ll put in place a customised learning and development plan that will help them to overcome any challenges they may be facing. Our childcare staff, including our Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCo) will work with parents/guardians to support their children in the best way possible. Our aim is for each child to achieve personal bests in every area possible, so they’re ready and able for school when they leave us to begin their time in Reception year.

One of the Best Nurseries

Would you like your baby or under-five child to attend one of the best nurseries in Streatham,  Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting, Balham, Norbury & Colliers Wood? If so, contact us for more information about Little Cedars Day Nursery, apply for a place or arrange a nursery/pre-school visit. We’d love to show you and your little one around:

Rough Guide to Dyspraxia & ‘DCD’

Rough Guide to Dyspraxia & ‘DCD’

While most people have heard of dyslexia (see our recent guide), fewer are aware of a condition called dyspraxia. In this rough guide we give an overview as to what dyspraxia is, how it affects children, how to spot the signs of it and what can be done to mitigate its effects.

Please note: Dyspraxia is a form of Developmental Co-ordination Disorder or ‘DCD’ for short. Indeed, because there are different forms of dyspraxia, medical professionals generally tend to refer to the condition as DCD rather than dyspraxia. For the purpose of this guide, we’ll use either of the terms interchangeably to mean the type of dyspraxia that people are born with or develop naturally (not other types that may be the result of physical trauma like stroke or injury).

What is Dyspraxia/DCD?

In essence, dyspraxia (DCD) is a condition that causes problems with movement and co-ordination. When children have this, they may appear more clumsy than their peers and the condition will adversely affect how well they execute physical activities. For this reason, they may reach some of their key developmental milestones later than expected. There are varying degrees of the condition, so children who have it may exhibit symptoms sooner, later or more/less severely than others.

  • The condition cannot be cured, so needs to be managed (usually right into adulthood) in order to mitigate its effects.
  • Dyspraxia affects 3 to 4 times more boys than girls.
  • It’s not usually possible to get a definitive diagnosis before a child is at least 4 to 5.
  • The condition is also sometimes referred to as Specific Developmental Disorder of Motor Function (SDDMF).
  • Children with dyspraxia often have other conditions including ADHD, autism, dyslexia and/or sometimes problems with speech.

How Does it Affect Children?

Although dyspraxia usually has nothing to do with intelligence or the ability to think, the condition can really hold children back. As well as the innate inconvenience of not being good at co-ordinating movements and physical tasks, it can leave children prone to being less fit. This is simply because they’re not naturally co-ordinated enough to be good at sport and physical activities, so are less likely to partake in them.

Children with dyslexia/DCD may also have trouble with concentration, low attention spans, following instructions, copying information and organising themselves or other items. Due to the issues around the condition, they are often slower at picking up new skills. All of this can be very frustrating for them, so sometimes they develop behavioural problems too. Dyspraxia/DCD can make a child feel different, feel isolated, sometimes become the focus for bullying and often have trouble making friends. All of this can lead on to give sufferers a low sense of self-esteem.

Signs to Look Out For

Babies and toddlers with dyspraxia may start to exhibit a delay in starting to crawl, roll or sit. Before they’re one, they may also end up in odd body positions or have strange posture.

As they develop and grow older, they may show difficulty when they eventually walk, feed themselves, dress, draw and/or write. They may have trouble stacking things, playing with certain toys, using pencils, using cutlery, eating and generally co-ordinating their movements. Playground activities like running, jumping, and kicking or catching a ball may be difficult for them to co-ordinate correctly. Trouble with buttoning clothing when they’re older and tying show laces is also a classic sign.

Why Children Develop Dyspraxia

It’s not known why children develop dyspraxia/DCD but children are more likely to develop it …

  • if they were born prematurely;
  • if they were low in weight at birth;
  • if they come from a family with a history of it;
  • if their mothers drank alcohol or took illegal drugs whilst pregnant.

Diagnosing Dyspraxia/DCD

If you suspect that your baby, toddler or child may exhibiting possible symptoms of dyspraxia/DCD, you should consult your GP, Health Visitor or the Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) at your child’s educational setting. Your child may then be referred to a specialist healthcare professional who can assess them. Diagnosis itself is usually undertaken by a paediatrician, often in tandem with an occupational therapist who will later be involved in treatment if the diagnosis turns out to be positive. Much more detail about dyspraxia/DCD diagnosis is available on the NHS website.

How to Help Children with Dyspraxia/DCD

While dyspraxia cannot be cured, there are ways to help children with the condition and indeed they may well require help for the long term. A tailored help plan is usually generated by a combination of healthcare and educational professionals in tandem with parents and the individual concerned. The plan will be designed to mitigate the specific challenges that a child is facing, so will differ from case to case. For example, a child may need help from a paediatric occupational therapist to master use of cutlery, writing, playing and dressing etc. And/or a clinical psychologist may be needed to help with the child’s mental health. An educational psychologist may be able to help the child overcome barriers to them progressing their education … and so on. Learn more about the types of treatment available for children with dyspraxia here.

The following video may also be useful as an illustration of how one family deals with childhood dyspraxia.

Dyspraxia & Special Educational Needs at Little Cedars Nursery, Streatham

It’s important for nursery staff, education professionals and parents to look out for the signs of possible dyspraxia, and any other conditions, in children under their care. The earlier symptoms are spotted, the more likely the child can be helped to best effect. While it’s not possible for children under 4 or 5 to be positively diagnosed with dyspraxia/DCD with full certainty, should a positive diagnosis be suspected, then a tailored learning and development programme can be put in place at the earliest opportunity. In this way, the child will be supported where needed and any adverse effects of the possible condition can be reduced to a minimum. Using this approach means that even children with special educational needs can thrive, achieving personal bests as they progress through their learning and development milestones.

Little Cedars Nursery is in Streatham, near Tooting, Furzedown & BalhamLittle Cedars is one of the best nurseries in the area around Streatham, Streatham Common, Streatham Hill, Streatham Park, Furzedown, Tooting and Balham. We’re based at 27 Aldrington Road, Streatham, SW16 1TU and offer outstanding, weekday childcare services for babies, toddlers and preschoolers up to the age of 5. So, if you are looking for a high quality nursery or pre-school in any of these south west London areas, please make contact with us while a few places are still available (please choose a button):