While dyslexia, reading struggles, and language-based learning disabilities have been points of focus for public schools, many experts are now shining light on written expression issues. With a rising number of students struggling with conveying their thoughts, feelings, or ideas in writing, public school leaders are striving to create programs to support written expression disabilities.
Labeled dysgraphia, a written expression disability is essentially a cognitive struggle that inhibits an otherwise intelligent child from explicating ideas in a written form. To find out if your child is coping with an undiagnosed written expression disability, learn more about the symptoms, as well as how your child's public school can offer support.
The Symptoms of Dysgraphia
Often referred to as the "sibling" of dyslexia, dysgraphia can be identified from a variety of symptoms. As the National Institute for Neurological Disorders reveals, "Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities... (causing) a person's writing to be distorted or incorrect."
Expanding on this definition, Audiblox, a cognitive educational company, reports that the most common signs of dysgraphia typically include:
- Illegible writing and consistently poor handwriting
- Inconsistent use of letters
- Mixture of upper and lower case letters
- Mixture of print and cursive letters
- Irregular and inconsistent letter sizes
- Irregular and inconsistent letter shapes
- Incorrect spelling
- Reading words incorrectly (i.e. saying "boy" instead of "child")
- Unfinished words and sentences
- General struggle to communicate through writing
Dysgraphic students often display frustrations when attempting to write thoughts and ideas in an organized manner. This is most obviously observed by a student's hate for writing. However, experts have found that students with dysgraphia rarely have any other academic, cognitive, or social problems. Furthermore, researchers have still not found the cause or catalyst for dysgraphia.
Coping with Dysgraphia
Unfortunately, as the cause of dysgraphia is still unknown, the "cure" for this disorder has also not yet been discovered. As experts continue to study students with symptoms of dysgraphia, new and innovative treatment methods are continually being created. Further reports from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders reveals that modern treatment methods include:
- Treatment for motor disorders (as this may help improve students' handwriting and writing control abilities)
- Treatment for impaired memory
- Treatment for other neurological problems
How Can Public Schools Help?
While each public school is certainly limited by its own budgetary constraints, every public school in the United States is legally required to support all eligible students with special needs. While dysgraphia is not yet accepted as an official disability in all public schools, children who may be struggling with written expression disabilities are still legally eligible for help. Oftentimes, if a parent intercedes for special needs support for their child, a dysgraphic student can be accommodated with services such as:
- Additional tutoring assistance
- One on one teacher support
- Additional writing seminars and course guidance
- Extended deadlines on writing assignments
- Adjusted assignments and special accommodations
Some studies are currently investigating the benefits of typing instead of handwriting, and therefore, some schools may permit dysgraphic students to use computers for some (or all) of their assignments. Furthermore, some students may even be permitted to use a laptop in the classroom, as many leaders believe that the support of a computer helps students with written expression struggles overcome some of their most frustrating challenges.