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Help with new diagnosis - Dysgraphia

Discussion in 'Special educational needs' started by Bobby_Carrot, Jun 2, 2011.

  1. A child in my class has been diagnosed with disgraphia. Despite asking parent and doctors (incl hospital specialists) for more information into how this will affect the child in the classroom, no information has been forthcoming. The child also takes medication for ADHD. I have been asked to fill in forms for DLA but couldn;t really answer whether or not the condition affected him beyond the IEP he has, which is no different to some of my other SEN children who don't have a diagnosis of something. He certainly doesn;t have any problem changing for PE or staying safe which the DLA seemed to be asking.
    Does anyone have any experience with Disgraphia or could point me in the direction of further info?
  2. A child in my class has been diagnosed with disgraphia. Despite asking parent and doctors (incl hospital specialists) for more information into how this will affect the child in the classroom, no information has been forthcoming. The child also takes medication for ADHD. I have been asked to fill in forms for DLA but couldn;t really answer whether or not the condition affected him beyond the IEP he has, which is no different to some of my other SEN children who don't have a diagnosis of something. He certainly doesn;t have any problem changing for PE or staying safe which the DLA seemed to be asking.
    Does anyone have any experience with Disgraphia or could point me in the direction of further info?
  3. As far as I understand it, dysgraphia is a specific learning difficulty that affects handwriting and little else so, unlike dyspraxia, the person affected can be a really talented artist or basketball player but be unable to hold a pen (not saying that dyspraxics can never be talented at art or sport but, as a dyspraxic myself, I haven't met any yet!) Dysgraphia can also affect fine motor skills so people with it may struggle to do buttons or ties but this is not always the case and it seems like the boy in your class does not struggle with this aspect from what you mentioned. I don't know much else about it-I think it's a far rarer diagnosis than dyspraxia because it only truly affects handwriting.
  4. http://www.as.wvu.edu/~scidis/dysgraphia.html

    I did find this website-it's US based but should still be helpful to you hopefully.
  5. Don't know what happened to the link but copy it into your address bar-the hyper link didn't work for some reason.
  6. Thanks. In all fairness he is behind many of his peers but I think much of that has been down to the ADHD which is now getting more under control and he has been to three different schools now which probably hasn't helped either. He is very artistic and actually enjoys practicing his handwriting in his handwriting book - certainly more than he enjoys reading. Looking at the link it seems like we have everything in place that we should have. I have also tried using one of the typing stations, which seems to work very well with him so this could be a good step forward for his teacher in September.
  7. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    So is their drawing good or do they display similar sorts of difficulties as when trying to write with a pen?
  8. R13

    R13 Occasional commenter

    there appears to be a confusion here - an artist isn't necessarily a 'good drawer'
  9. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    No, that's right. But if a child could draw reasonably well (and I'm not talking about artistic merit here, just able to put some lines and fine detail in the right place to draw approximately what they wanted to draw) it would seem that they should be able to hold a pen and write reasonably well if letter formation was well taught to them. If you could draw well, but claimed not to be able to form letters, my first guess would be that the task is being avoided for some reason, not that the child has some great difficulty holding a pen and forming letters.
  10. A 'diagnosis' of a developmental condition with no known cause (e.g. dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, autism, ADHD) is not the same as a diagnosis of a developmental condition with a known cause, such as Down Syndrome or Williams syndrome. It's more accurately a description of the presenting problem.
    So a 'diagnosis' of dysgraphia essentially is a suitably qualified practitioner saying, 'in my professional opinion, this child's difficulties with handwriting are such that it's a pretty safe bet that there is a biological cause, rather than a behavioural one - such as the child not liking writing or not being taught properly.'
    There could be lots of different causes for problems with a complex skill like handwriting. Writing requires fine grained discrimination between letters that are often visually similar, so dysgraphia could be due to a visual problem that doesn't manifest itself in a skill like drawing, where the visual discrimination required is less fine-grained. Or it could be due to problems with a component skill - writing involves (obviously) writing, spelling and reading. A child who has a slight difficulty with reading but manages, and/or a slight difficulty with spelling, but manages, could find writing as well, a step too far.
    As for reported fatigue - 'it's such hard work' - a phenomenon that keeps popping up in fMRI scans of pupils who show dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia etc is that because they haven't yet automated these skills, a much larger area of the brain is engaged when they are reading, doing arithmetic or writing than in typically developing children of the same age. Brain activity uses up huge amounts of energy, so it's quite possible the child is getting physically tired.
    Whether you press on with developing handwriting or use a keyboard instead is a judgement call. Personally, I'd do both - but little and often to ensure frequent success.
  11. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    So if you do a series of fMRI scans of the same child going through the learning to write process do you see the area of the brain engaged diminishing over time?
    Do you think that different people need more / less practice to automate these skills, and the children who need the most practice are the ones most likely to display "dysgraphia" if the hurdles are too great for them to get in the required number of hours which they personally need so to speak.
    Do people really ever need to write using a pen?
  12. I don't know if anyone has done that, but that's what you'd expect to see. A new stimulus or task would activate a whole bunch of undifferentiated neurons. If the stimulus or task is repeated, some connections between neurons would be strengthened and others weakened until eventually a 'pathway' develops and the skill becomes automatic. On a scan that would show up as a smaller area of the brain being activated when an expert was exercising the skill, than when a novice was.
    There are several possible explanations as to why problems might occur. For example, there could be damage to the brain area involved; there could be differences in the way brain areas connect - such as neurotransmitter levels; or there could be fluctuations in sensory input - from the eyes and ears, perhaps. If there's any inconsistency in the information getting to and across the brain, it would take the person much longer to learn the skill.
    Ironically, it's the skills that children struggle with that are the very ones they need to rehearse, so it's easy to get into a vicious circle. In my son's case, we've found that breaking down a complex skill into its component parts and rehearsing each one separately has helped reduce the cognitive load. So breaking down 'writing' into spelling and handwriting has made a big difference. He's learning spelling verbally, and practising handwriting through letter-by-letter dictation, so he doesn't have to think about spelling and letter formation simultaneously. Both skills have improved significantly. Once they are both up to speed we'll combine them. He's also learning keyboard skills because it's unlikely he'll ever be able to write quickly.

  13. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    It would be an interesting experiment if it did show what one would hope - that over time there is evidence in the brain that the task is becoming automated and easier. Otherwise if you just say take an fMRI scan of a child of age10 with "dysgraphia" and another one of age 10 who can write as fast the wind it's kind of scary for the teachers and the parents. It could be falsely giving the impression there is something wrong that will not improve greatly, rather than the message that with rehearsal the task can get so much easier that it can start to approach that of the one who can write like the wind.

  14. Well, exactly, Children do develop at different rates and small, manageable chunks every day can build up a skill without it leading to aversion or anybody panicking that there might be a serious problem.
  15. Hi Bobby
    To give a different view of this issue; I have disgraphia. I am 30 years old and have handwriting like a 5 year old! I have no other diagnosis and did fine at school and very well at university. I do however have poor motor skills and balance and have never been very good at spelling, but nothing I would say was a huge issue. I have read that spelling is a common issue with disgraphia.
    I would say the biggest hurdle I have faced with disgraphia is the embarrassment that comes along with people assuming you are stupid. I am still very embarrassed to write in front of people. At school I found that once I was allowed to use a laptop in class and in tests and everone just accepted me for what I was, my life became SO much easier. My laptop was a godsend, but I do understand the potential for behaviour issues with some students. I would say allow the student to work out how to get around their disgraphia by themselves; give them the freedom to find their strengths rather than focus on their weekness.
    Good luck :)
  16. Hi this discussion interested me as I myself have been diagnosed with dysgraphia which I had not previously heard of before my diagnosis. Throughout school I was seen as lazy and slow by teachers who felt I wasn't trying my hardest. This however was not the case I tried very hard in all subjects but it took me a long time to complete tasks. One of the major difficulties with disgraphia is the speed of writing, I write half the number of words per minute compared to an average pupil without disgraphia. Through my diagnosis I should have had 25% extra time in exams but however I did not find this out until I came to university when I was no longer doing exams anyway. It was found that I could type faster than I could write so a laptop was beneficial. When asked to write anything in a hurry my writing would not be legable and I would miss out vital information becasue I couldn't write it down quick enough. I was also advised to use coloured overlays as the words appear to jump around on the page but don't with a coloured background. I don't know whetehr this is standard for sufferers of disgraphia. My spelling and word decoding techniques are poorer than they should be also which is all linked.
    There isn't alot of knowledge about the subject but giving more time to complete literacy tasks is certainly a starting point, however with the child also having ADHD you may not want to give him so much time that allows him to loose concentration.
    I hope this helps.
  17. wow I've never heard from anyone else with disgraphia! until recently I thought it was just me. funny you say about 'the words jumping around' - that happens to me too but I always assumed it was a problem with my eyes
  18. If words appear to be jumping round on the page, it is often inked to Saccadic Eye Movements and weak eye muscles. Covered overlays are becoming widely used, as they appear to halt the movement of words and allow the individual to read, but for long term benefits you are better off looking at Behavioural Optometry. Expensive, but worth it.

    My son was diagnosed with Dysgraphia at 6, though it is co-morbid with Dyspraxia and GDD. We have found helpful at one time or another
    Yoro pen
    Writing Slope
    Stress ball; reduces pain caused by atypical and tight grip
    Laptop; reduces stress of writing, enables thoughts to be put to paper. WPM doubles.

    Dysgraphia can have a massive impact on learning. Dysgraphia, is more often co-morbid with Dyslexia so though he has diagnosis of ADHD as well, is it possible he could also be behind his peers due to Dyslexia?

    You may find these sites helpful

  19. Thank you for your reply. It is the most sensible and informed I've read thus far.
  20. Hi Bobby,

    I am middle aged adult and I have personal experience with Dysgraphia.

    When I was in France at the age of seven I was diagnosed as having dyslexia and took remedially reading training in French in France. When I was 11 when we returned to Canada. I completed Grade 5 and six in elementary school in the same year due to my proficiency in French grammar, strong skills in maths and good memory. I used to memorize text that I was asked to read out loud.

    I started high school slightly after I turned 12 and graduated slightly after my 16th birthday (a year younger than most). Then struggled to complete college and stopped my formal education and went to work.

    At 21, at my father's suggestion, having witnessed my interest in the stock market and investing, I became a stockbroker. At 27 I was diagnosed with ADHD. And discovered that a small 10mg ritalin pill, would allow to function on all cylinders.

    After my failed attempt at being an entrepreneur after 4 years, largely after the Internet bubble burst in March 2001, I applied to take part in a Executive MBA program at 37 years old.

    Following a decent GMAT score and a personal interview with the program coordinator, I was accepted me into the program despite not having completed neither college nor a bachelor's degree right into their master program. I was very pleased to being part of the 2%.

    A phenomenal experience of 22 months with 52 other A type personalities. The intellectual stimulation was great. AND FINALLY being pushed to perform and showing some learning challenges, I was reassessed for my dyslexia.

    Here is what they discovered.

    My dyslexia had nearly disappeared, but they identified an auditory processing defiency at 50% below the minimum level, normally associated with successful master program candidates. And to add further challenge, I was diagnosed as severely dysgraphic....So the tasks of listening to lectures and taking notes was a real effort for me. I was essentially working at 25% efficiency as compared to the average master's student. I was able to write but this requires a higher than usual degree of concentration and working memory.

    My main Saving Grace , was that they also discovered that I was in the 98 percentile in spacial memory. When I made large colour and pattern coded input and output summary notes, I was able to handle complex accounting problem with ease. I was then able to hard wire my brain for a while.

    Boddy, THIS IS THE TRAIT I WANTED TO SHARE WITH YOU and bring you hope for this child future.

    By applying these new learning techniques, I graduated with an MBA from a world top business school.

    Keep believing in him and help him find his unique talent.

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