The Underlying Causes of Why Kids Have Difficulty With Handwriting

An important focus in the elementary school years for any child is learning how to effectively write words and sentences. While all young children at one time or another might have some difficulty with handwriting, if your child's handwriting is consistently unclear or distorted, it could indicate a learning disability known as dysgraphia.

Dysgraphia is a nervous system issue that impacts the child's fine motor skills required to write. It makes it difficult for your child to perform handwriting assignments and tasks. There are certain underlying causes of dysgraphia, including:

1. Visual Motor Integration Skills

This consists of accurately perceiving visual information, processing it and moving your body and hands accordingly. Visual-motor speed is the ability of effectively integrating motor skills and visual skills for the sake of completing a task.

Research shows a substantial association between visual motor integration skills and academic performance in:

  • Math
  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Writing

Despite taking overall learning disabilities and cognitive abilities into account, visual motor dysfunction adversely affects standardized test scores and performance.

2. Delay

Dysgraphia is due to:

  • A deficient or delay in fine motor skills
  • Bad muscle tone
  • Poor dexterity
  • Unspecified motor clumsiness

Typically, handwriting is poor to illegible, despite being copied by sight from some type of document.

3. Visual Perception

This is where your child can make sense of visual data and includes categories like:

  • Visual closure
  • Visual discrimination
  • Visual figure ground
  • Visual memory

Consider this: If your child can't differentiate between complex shapes well, how can they copy letters and remember things like the letters' orientation, direction, its parts or if it reaches tall above the line or falls below it?

China researchers were curious about the effect on handwriting addressing visual perception had. They conducted a study that found improvement in a couple different areas. One was in a child's ability of copying at far- and near-point with fewer errors. And, the other was in the child's speed to copy from a point far away.

4. Other Conditions

Dysgraphia can develop on its own, but in many cases, it's accompanied by another condition like:

  • Speech impairments
  • Dyslexia (difficulty reading)
  • Developmental coordination disorder
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)

If your child is having handwriting difficulty or you suspect dysgraphia, you can talk with their teacher or pediatric occupational therapist for some ideas of how you can help them at home to improve their handwriting.

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