Dysgraphia: The Handwriting SLD
When people hear the word “dysgraphia”, they think of “Chicken Scratch” handwriting, but this Specific Learning Disorder impacts much more than letter formation (although that is the first clue of a problem!). Dysgraphia is a learning disability that makes both holding a pencil and drawing difficult and painful. It also turns organizing thoughts, expressing ideas, and structuring essays into Herculean tasks. For these students, alternative assessments are the best way to show what they know.
Dysgraphia makes it hard to form letters, words, and phrases with proper spacing, correct height, or use blank space to separate ideas. Older students can struggle to create a timeline, a structured essay, or to remember that paragraphs need indentation. Their writing topics can ramble or turn back on themselves without cohesion. In this way, dysgraphia impacts not only Language Arts class, but also history, humanities, and science classes. In math class, dysgraphia can make it hard for students to show work or to remember the steps and procedures in problem solving.
Interventions for dysgraphia include giving students an outline to follow, allowing the use of a voice-to-text program or a transcriber, and using paper with wide-spaced lines. Expect to give extra support for papers and reports. Posters and projects should be graded for content, not for layout. Accommodations for dysgraphia might be offering oral assessments or using matching questions on tests. Let students use worked examples or a list of problem-solving steps during math tests. Grade essays for content but not for mechanics (spelling, punctuation, capitalization); give students a checklist of rules to follow as they correct these mistakes. Of course, the best support is an understanding, patient teacher.