Dysgraphia (“Why can’t I write right?”)

by Lisa Lichak, OTR


Many people are familiar with learning and attention issues such as dyslexia and ADHD. Although dysgraphia may not be a familiar term, the symptoms of dysgraphia are not uncommon.


Dysgraphia is a specific learning disability that affects how easily children acquire written language and how well they use written language to express their thoughts. It is a lesser known condition and an often misunderstood condition. The term dysgraphia comes from the Greek words dys (“impaired”) and graphia (“making letter forms by hand”). 


Children with dysgraphia often have difficulty writing legibly, spacing correctly between words, spelling words accurately, and putting their thoughts on to paper. It is a brain based condition in which there is a disconnect of the processing between the language and motor parts of the brain.


Dysgraphia is often overlooked and underdiagnosed, especially in children who are bright and highly verbal. Due to this mismatch between a child’s verbal abilities and their written abilities, this can incorrectly be assumed to be due to laziness or lack of effort. This can lead to frustration and embarrassment of the child and can negatively impact the child’s academic performance and social skills.


Depending on the type of dysgraphia, intervention can be provided by occupational therapists, teachers, school psychologists, and speech language therapists. There are a variety of intervention strategies which can include:

  • Remediation: direct instruction (such as direct occupational therapy services)
  • Accommodation: reducing the impact writing has without changing the process or product (child has to copy all spelling words 3x each rather than 10x each)
  • Modification: changing the expectation to meet the child’s needs (child has to learn only 10 of the 20 spelling words per week)
  • Compensation: finding a way around the task of writing (such as keyboarding, dictation)

Written communication is an essential part of a child’s daily education. If your child has difficulty with the process of writing, contact your child’s teacher or the school psychologist for further assessment. You can also refer to https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia/ or https://dyslexiaida.org/understanding-dysgraphia/ for more information.