Are Reading & Writing Connected?
Q: Is it possible to have a learning disability that just has to do with writing and is not connected to reading?
Most people assume that if you have no trouble reading, then writing should be a cinch. Or, parents assume that trouble with writing is a physical impediment rather than a mental one. Dysgraphia, a learning disability that affects writing abilities, debunks these myths.
Dysgraphia can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. However, children who suffer from dysgraphia often have reading skills that are on par with other children their age. Dysgraphia is not simply a motor problem, but also involves information processing skills (transferring thoughts from the mind through the hand onto the paper). If your child has trouble in any of the areas below, additional help may be beneficial:
• Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
• Illegible handwriting
• Avoiding writing and drawing tasks
• Tiring quickly while writing
• Saying words out loud while writing
• Unfinished or omitted words in sentences
• Difficulty organizing thoughts on paper
• Large gap between written ideas and speech
For young children who are just learning how to write, here are some suggestions:
Use paper with raised lines so that children can feel the lines on the paper.
Experiment with different pens and pencils.
Practice writing letters with exaggerated arm movements. This will help improve the motor memory without the pressure of the paper.
Consider introducing a word processor (through a computer) earlier than with other children, but do not eliminate writing on paper.
Encourage proper grip, posture, and paper positioning.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when dealing with children who suffer from dysgraphia is that they are not “lazy” or “sloppy.” In reality, they are struggling mightily to do what most other children can do with little effort. Lend a hand so that they can better use theirs!
A learning disability that is connecting to writing and not to reading? You’ve probably never even heard of it, but dysgraphia is a real learning disability that affects thousands of children. Check out this 30 Seconds with Rifka Schonfeld column to learn more about it.