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Teaching Strategies to Deal with Dysgraphia

Janelle Cox

Students who struggle with handwriting to the point that they cannot express themselves through the written form may have a neurological learning condition called dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is a condition that some students have that causes trouble with written expression. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to, trouble with forming letters, numbers or words, spelling words incorrectly, trouble with organizing thoughts into the written from, and trouble holding a pencil, to name a few issues. Like most learning challenges, dysgraphia can be range from mild to severe and may vary in children. Frankly, this learning condition can make writing quite difficult for students. While there is no cure for dysgraphia, there are a few teaching strategies that you can try to help improve students’ writing skills.  Here we dive a little deeper and look into a few more of the symptoms to help you to know what to look for, as well as discuss a few teaching strategies to try with students who struggle with this condition in your classroom.

Symptoms of Dysgraphia

According to research, dysgraphia can fall into six categories: Visual-spatial, fine motor, language processing, spelling/handwriting, grammar, and organization of language. A student who you may consider a “Lazy” writer or one who “Lacks” motivation in writing very well may have a few of these symptoms. Here are a few more of the symptoms to look out for.

Visual-Spatial

  • Trouble organizing words on the page from left to right.
  • Trouble writing inside margins.
  • Written letters go in all directions and words run together.

Fine Motor

  • Trouble holding pencil, tying shoes, tracing, etc.
  • Unable to use scissors well.
  • Positions body or body parts in awkward position when writing.

Language Processing

  • Has a difficult time following directions.
  • Loses train of thought easily.
  • Has trouble getting ideas down on paper.

Spelling/Handwriting

  • Doesn’t understand if a word is misspelled.
  • Mixes up lower and uppercase letters.
  • Trouble reading their own writing as well.

Grammar and Usage

  • Doesn’t start sentences with a capital letter.
  • Doesn’t use punctuation or overuses punctuation.
  • Doesn’t write in complete sentences.

Organization of Written Language

  • Has trouble telling a story from beginning to end.
  • Leaves out details or provides too much.
  • Never gets to the point.

Teaching Strategies to Try

Start with Alternatives to Writing

Before you try and “Fix” the problem with the students’ writing skills, many teachers have found that you should start by working around them first. This means finding a few alternatives to help give the student some confidence, and reducing the stress they are experiencing when it comes to writing. Allowing the student to use a keyboard and type their words can be a great stress reliever for a struggling writer. Giving the option for the student to orally give her report instead of writing it on paper is another idea. Using videos, audio recording, charts, graphs, models, drawings, or apps are other ways that students can express themselves without using the written form. Once the student feels at ease, it will be easier to assist them with working on their writing skills.

Address Handwriting Position and Posture

Oftentimes, children with dysgraphia have incorrect handwriting posture. The next strategy to try is to position the students correctly in their seats by showing them how their feet should be on the ground and how their hands, paper, and pencil should be positioned on their desk. As you work to improve their position and posture continue to give the student alternatives to writing, and reduce the amount of schoolwork they needs to be “Written” until they have mastered the correct posture and pencil grip.

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Try Short Bursts of Handwriting Exercises

As you continue to work with students struggling with dysgraphia, try short bursts of handwriting exercises that are tailored to their specific symptoms. If they need help with fine motor skills, then work on that, or they are struggling with letter formation, work with them on that. Schedule about 5-15 minutes a day on penmanship practice and utilize the other time working on brief specific skills that need to be addressed.

Use the Multisensory Approach

Many teachers have found that using the multisensory approach to be an effective method to help dysgraphia learners. Learning happens through a variety of different senses and using this approach, one that focuses on site, sound, and touch can be effective in helping children who struggle with expressing language through the written form.

Helping a student who has dysgraphia requires a lot of patience. It also requires the student to be able to have enough motivation to want to practice daily. You will need to reach out to the students’ parents with a few strategies that they can do with their child at home. As you all work together as a team, the student can eventually succeed.

Do you have any students with dysgraphia in your classroom? If so, what teaching strategies do you find effective? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below, we would love to hear what you have to say.


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Skyword. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.