Dysgraphia is a ‘transcription disability’, i.e. it is a learning difference that affects writing. It is associated with impaired handwriting, orthographic coding and finger sequencing. It usually becomes evident because of the gap between the ideas or understanding a child can demonstrate when speaking compared to when they are writing.
Dysgraphia and Dyslexia are two distinct learning differences. Dysgraphia is associated with poor orthographic, motor and/or spatial skills usually accompanied by some degree of working memory issues. Dyslexia is associated with poor phonological awareness, working memory and rapid recall/automaticity. A child with dyslexia who has terrible handwriting does not necessarily have dysgraphia. This difference is very important as the most effective specialist support is completely different for each of the specific learning differences.
However, as the term 'Dysgraphia' becomes more common it is also being applied to any dyslexic child who cannot write, regardless of their orthographic processing, fine motor or spatial processing abilities. Orthographic processing refers to the ability to 'see' letters and words in the mind’s eye. This can cause particular difficulty with writing where spelling choices and knowledge of irregular words are guided by our orthographic memory of the words. (Orthographic/surface dyslexics have the same difficulties as they also have orthographic processing difficulties). Children with dysgraphia have poor orthographic processing, but also have difficulty remember and/or reproducing letter shapes. Their letter formation may be poor because of poor spatial awareness and/or poor fine motor skills, but either way the process of writing is a more laborious and taxing process letter by letter. This results in the messy, uneven, slow or badly spelled writing typical of dysgraphia.
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