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What is dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a learning challenge that makes it difficult for children to write. Kids with dysgraphia have motor weaknesses that make it hard for them to form letters and even hold pencils. They also often struggle with expressing themselves in writing. Their challenges are not related to how smart they are.

What are the symptoms of dysgraphia?

Kids with dysgraphia may struggle with:

  • Writing letters—Difficulty forming the letters, closing them up correctly or making them the same size.
  • Spacing—Letters may be clustered together without spaces or not in a straight line.
  • Writing fatigue—Writing can be tiring or painful. Kids may need to grip the pencil extra tight.
  • Written expression—Some kids with dysgraphia might have great ideas, but they have a hard time getting them down on paper. They might struggle with grammar, spelling and punctuation, or with organizing ideas and putting them down in order.

How is dysgraphia diagnosed?

Dysgraphia used to be included in the DSM, the manual used in diagnosis. It is no longer an official diagnosis, but kids can still get evaluated for dysgraphia. Occupational therapists do evaluations of motor skills. Kids can also get a more thorough neuropsychological evaluation from a neuropsychologist.

Kids with dysgraphia can often be diagnosed with one or both of two disorders that are still in the DSM. These two disorders are called “developmental coordination disorder” and “specific learning disorder, with impairment in written expression.” An official diagnosis may help them get more support in school.

How is dysgraphia treated?

Occupational therapists can work with kids to develop their motor skills. Accommodations in school can also help. Kids with dysgraphia might benefit from:

  • Using a recorder for notes
  • Getting notes from the teacher
  • Using a keyboard in class
  • Getting extra time for writing assignments, taking notes and tests

The person who does the evaluation should be able to recommend specific accommodations and treatment.

This guide was last reviewed or updated on December 18, 2023.