Skip to content

What is dysgraphia?

By Understood Team

At a Glance

  • Dysgraphia refers to a challenge with writing.

  • It impacts skills like handwriting, typing, and spelling.

  • There are many ways people with dysgraphia can improve their writing skills.

Dysgraphia is a term that refers to trouble with writing. Many experts view dysgraphia as challenges with a set of skills known as transcription. These skills — handwriting, typing, and spelling — allow us to produce writing.

Trouble expressing your thoughts in writing isn’t formally recognized as part of dysgraphia. That’s a learning disability known as written expression disorder . But when people struggle with transcription, it can get in the way of thinking about ideas and how to convey them. 

For example, people with dysgraphia may write more slowly than others. That can affect how well they express themselves in writing. Plus, they tend to have trouble with spelling because it’s hard for them to form letters when they write. 

Dysgraphia isn’t a matter of intelligence. The challenges are often caused by trouble with motor skills. Those skills can improve with help. And people with dysgraphia may also be eligible to use accommodations at work or school.

Dive deeper

Signs of dysgraphia

One of the main signs of dysgraphia is messy handwriting. Here are some of the key handwriting skills people with dysgraphia may struggle with:

  • Forming letters

  • Writing grammatically correct sentences 

  • Spacing letters correctly 

  • Writing in a straight line

  • Holding and controlling a writing tool 

  • Writing clearly enough to read back later

  • Writing complete words without skipping letters

Learn more about messy handwriting in kids. If you’re noticing trouble with expressing ideas in writing, explore signs of written expression disorder in kids and adults.

How trouble with motor skills impacts writing

Producing writing involves different motor skills. For example, people use fine motor skills for holding writing tools. They use gross motor skills for holding their arm in the right position. And they use motor planning for forming and spacing letters.

Having trouble with motor skills has a direct effect on transcription. Kids who have these challenges may be diagnosed with developmental coordination disorder (DCD). You may also hear the term dyspraxia .

Find out about developmental coordination disorder (DCD).

How dysgraphia is diagnosed

Years ago, dysgraphia was considered a learning disorder. It was the term for trouble with written expression. Dysgraphia appeared in the DSM, the manual used to make diagnoses.

While dysgraphia is no longer an official diagnosis, some people may still use the term. (Dysgraphia also isn’t considered a learning disability under IDEA. That’s the federal special education law. Difficulty in written expression is a learning disability.)

Even though dysgraphia isn’t a formal diagnosis, the challenges with transcription are very real. And people who have them often need extra support to improve skills and manage the challenges.

Occupational and physical therapists often do the evaluations that look at the motor skills involved in writing. 

For kids, this evaluation can happen at school for free. Adults have to find private therapists to evaluate motor skills.

Dysgraphia often occurs along with ADHD and learning differences. These include dyslexia, written expression disorder, and expressive language disorder. So, it’s important for kids to have a full evaluation at school to see if something else is going on. These evaluations are free.

Learn about free school evaluations .

How to help

There are many ways to help with dysgraphia at home, at school, and at work. Two common treatments are occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT). Occupational therapists help improve fine motor skills and motor planning. Physical therapists work on gross motor skills. 

The earlier therapy starts, the better. Kids may get these services for free at school. They may also get accommodations to keep dysgraphia from getting in the way of learning.

OT can be helpful for some adults. But they’ll need to find therapists who work privately, outside of schools. Adults may get accommodations that can help at work.

For families: Discover techniques you can use at home to improve handwriting.

For teachers: Find out about classroom accommodations for dysgraphia .

For adults with dysgraphia: Learn more about workplace accommodations and other employee rights .

Related topics

Reading and writing

Tell us what interests you

Tell us what interests you

Select the topics you want to learn more about

Share

Share What is dysgraphia?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom

Share What is dysgraphia?

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Email
  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom