9 Terms to Know If Your Child Struggles With Writing Issues

By Erica Patino

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You may already know that dysgraphia is a brain-based condition that makes the physical act of writing difficult. Understanding the terms your child’s school and doctors use can make it easier to help your child get the support he needs.

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Orthographic coding

The ability to remember how to write a letter or word and then write the word or letter accurately. Children who have difficulty with orthographic coding will often forget how to form certain letters and may have trouble with spelling.

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Disorder of written expression

A condition in which writing abilities fall below what’s expected, based on a person’s age and intelligence. This term is used interchangeably with “dysgraphia.”

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Sequencing problems

Difficulty putting letters and numbers in the proper order. Kids with writing difficulties may write letters and numbers backwards or out of order. This can lead to sloppy handwriting.

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Working memory

Short-term memory, or the part of the brain that temporarily stores information before you react to it. Children with writing difficulties may have trouble retrieving information from their working memory because so much of their energy goes into the physical act of writing.

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Graphic organizer

A visual tool to illustrate and map out ideas before writing (sometimes referred to as concept maps or mind maps). Kids with writing issues might find graphic organizers helpful for outlining assignments before writing.

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Fine motor skills

The abilities required to control small muscles, such as in the hands and feet. Children with writing issues typically have weak fine motor skills and find it hard to manipulate objects like pencils and scissors.

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Visual spatial difficulties

Trouble making sense of what the eye sees. Children with writing issues might have visual-spatial difficulties that make it hard to read maps or differentiate left from right.

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Language processing

Making sense of what the ear hears. Children with language processing issues may take longer to understand what they hear. When coupled with writing issues, language processing issues can make it even more difficult to translate what’s heard into writing.

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Sequential finger movement

Moving fingers in a particular order; for example, touching the thumb to the pinkie finger, then to the ring finger, and so on. Handwriting requires this ability, but word processing doesn’t. That’s why many kids with writing issues have an easier time typing than writing by hand.

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About the Author

Portrait of Erica Patino

Erica Patino is an online writer and editor who specializes in health and wellness content.

Reviewed by

Portrait of Sheldon Horowitz

Sheldon H. Horowitz, Ed.D., is senior director of learning resources and research at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

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