The Difference Between Dyspraxia and Dysgraphia

By Peg Rosen
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Dyspraxia vs. dysgraphia: Both of these learning differences can affect fine motor skills and impact writing. But they’re two distinct conditions, even though they can co-occur in some kids. This chart can help you understand the areas where dyspraxia and dysgraphia overlap and where they differ.

Dyspraxia Dysgraphia
What is it?

An issue that can impact fine and gross motor skills. Trouble with fine motor skills in particular can affect handwriting. Dyspraxia also typically affects a person’s conception of how his body moves in space.

Kids with dyspraxia can have other learning and thinking differences, such as dysgraphia, dyscalculia and ADHD, but dyspraxia isn’t the cause for these.

An issue that impacts written language. It can affect both information and motor processing (which can impact handwriting). And it can cause trouble with many aspects of writing, usually because of language-based weaknesses.

Kids with dysgraphia can have other learning differences. The two that co-occur most often with dysgraphia are dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Signs you may notice
  • Trouble riding a bike or throwing a ball
  • A tendency to bump into and drop things
  • Delayed development of right or left hand dominance
  • Trouble grasping a pencil correctly
  • Poor letter formation
  • Slow and messy handwriting
  • Trouble using buttons, snaps, zippers, utensils
  • Trouble organizing thoughts and putting them into writing
  • Unreadable handwriting
  • Slow, labored writing
  • Odd spacing of words and letters
  • Poor spelling and grammar
  • Trouble with grasping a pencil correctly
  • Poor punctuation skills
  • Run-on sentences and lack of paragraph breaks
Possible emotional and social impact

Kids with dyspraxia may avoid games and sports that call attention to their physical awkwardness. They may also experience anxiety at a higher rate than other kids, for unknown reasons.

As can happen with any learning difference, kids with dysgraphia may feel frustrated or angry about their challenges. They can also have trouble with self-esteem.

What can help
  • Occupational therapy (OT) or physical therapy can strengthen gross and fine motor skills. OT can also help with balance and body awareness.
  • Therapists can also work on breaking down physical tasks (such as brushing teeth) into smaller steps.
  • Graphic organizers can help kids organize their thoughts.
  • A checklist can make it easier to review and edit written work.
  • Assistive technology or word processing can make writing easier.
  • OT can strengthen fine motor skills and support motor coordination.
Accommodations
  • Teaching physical skills in small parts before they’re taught to rest of class
  • Repeating activities to help develop motor pathways, which can help kids get better at carrying out specific movements
  • Multisensory instruction to help students remember the steps for motor actions
  • Use of a keyboard for taking notes in class; use of a word processor in school
  • Keyboarding instruction
  • Extended time on tests and assignments that involve writing
  • Permission to record class lectures
  • Access to another student’s or the teacher’s notes
  • Option to respond in alternative ways rather than writing
  • Sentence starters to show how to begin a writing assignment
  • Breaking writing assignments into steps
  • Worksheets, notes and textbooks with larger print
  • Option to respond in alternative ways rather than writing
  • Sentence starters to show how to begin a writing assignment
  • Breaking writing assignments into steps
  • Use of a keyboard for taking notes in class; use of a word processor in school
  • Keyboarding instruction
  • Extended time on tests and assignments that involve writing
  • Permission to record class lectures
  • Access to another student’s or the teacher’s notes
What you can do at home
  • Provide lots of opportunities for physical activity like running or swimming to develop gross motor skills, muscle strength, coordination and “muscle memory.” (You can even turn your living room into an obstacle course using pillows or wastebaskets to help with motor planning.)
  • Have your child play with jigsaw puzzles to help with visual and spatial perception.
  • Toss beanbags and balls to practice hand-eye coordination.
  • Have your child work on keyboarding skills.
  • Use speech-to-text tools to translate your child’s speech into writing.
  • Provide many opportunities for practice and repetition.
  • Have your child work on keyboarding skills.
  • Use speech-to-text tools to translate your child’s speech into writing.
  • Use clay, shaving cream and other materials to practice forming letters at home.
  • Have your child shake or rub his hands to relieve tension before writing or as a break while writing.

If your child has trouble with writing, a full evaluation can help to determine the exact cause.

Talk to your child’s teacher about what you’ve been seeing, and find out what’s been happening in the classroom. Together, you can come up with a plan to help your child improve his skills. That plan may include classroom accommodations for dyspraxia or dysgraphia.

About the Author

About the Author

Peg Rosen 

writes for digital and print, including ParentCenter, WebMD, Parents, Good Housekeeping, and Martha Stewart.

Reviewed by

Reviewed by

Keri Wilmot 

is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.

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