At WriteSteps San Diego Occupational Therapy, handwriting is one of the “occupations,”  an occupational therapist works on with children of all ages. Although technology continues to grow, handwriting continues to be a large part of a child’s school day. They continue to be asked to keep written journals, complete writing assignments, and participate in art projects that involve writing descriptions. They use handwriting to write letters to their friends, parents, and teachers. Children also need legible handwriting in order to take tests and state exams.

Many children have difficulty with handwriting, also termed dysgraphia. Dysgraphia can be effected by a child’s pencil grasp, pencil pressure, speed of handwriting, overall control of the pencil, alignment of letters, letter formation, sizing of the letter, spacing between or within words, and the memory of how to start the letter in the correct place.

It is also important to note a child that has dysgraphia, or difficulty with handwriting, can begin to have decreased self esteem. For example, they may observe their peers handing in their work faster than them or they may get marked off on spelling tests because the teacher cannot read their handwriting.

At WriteSteps San Diego Occupational Therapy, we specialize in helping children with improving their ability to have legible handwriting for the school and home environment. We utilize a neurokinesthetic, sensory and motor approach to help children reach their highest potential and increase their self esteem.

Some Signs and Symptoms of Dysgraphia

  • Cramping of fingers while writing short entries
  • Odd wrist, arm, body, or paper orientations such as bending an arm into an L shape
  • Excessive erasures
  • Mixed upper case and lower case letters
  • Inconsistent form and size of letters, or unfinished letters
  • Misuse of lines and margins
  • Inefficient speed of copying
  • Inattentiveness over details when writing
  • Frequent need of verbal cues
  • Referring heavily on vision to write
  • Poor legibility
  • Handwriting abilities that may interfere with spelling and written composition
  • Having a hard time translating ideas to writing, sometimes using the wrong words altogether
  • May feel pain while writing

Defintions and Symptoms of Dysgraphia have been selected from Wikipedia. A description of dysgraphia can also be found in the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)

Below are listed few specific types of dysgraphia that can explain some of the different handwriting difficulties a child can have

  • Motor Dysgraphia: Motor dysgraphia can be due to having weak fine motor skills and dexterity.  Letter formation may be acceptable in very short samples of writing, but this may require extreme effort and an unreasonable amount of time to accomplish, and it cannot be sustained for a significant length of time. Overall, their written work can be illegible even if copied by sight from another document, and drawing is difficult.
  • Spatial Dysgraphia: A person with spatial dysgraphia may have a defect in the understanding of space. They will have illegible spontaneously written work, illegible copied work, and problems with drawing abilities. In other words, a child may have difficulty maintaining proper alignment when writing and may have letters dancing above the line when they write.
  • Dyslexic Dysgraphia: People with dyslexic dysgraphia have illegible spontaneously written work. Their copied work is fairly good, but their spelling is usually poor.


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