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EDUCATION REPORT - Dysgraphia: More Than Just Bad Handwriting

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

People who have unusual difficulty with reading, writing, listening or working with numbers might have a learning disability. We talked last week about a reading disorder, dyslexia. Today we discuss a writing disorder, dysgraphia.

Writing is not an easy skill. Not only does it require the ability to organize and express ideas in the mind. It also requires the ability to get the muscles in the hands and fingers to form those ideas, letter by letter, on paper.

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing abilities
Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing abilities

Experts say teachers and parents should suspect dysgraphia if a child's handwriting is unusually difficult to read. Letters might be sized or spaced incorrectly. Capital letters might be in the wrong places. The child's hand, body or paper might be in a strange position. These can all be signs of dysgraphia. Spelling problems can also be related to the disorder.

Many people have poor handwriting, but dysgraphia is more serious. Dsygraphia is a neurological disorder that generally appears when children are first learning to write. Writing by hand can be physically painful for people who have it. There are different kinds of dysgraphia. And it can appear with other learning disabilities, especially involving language.

Experts are not sure what causes it. But they say early treatment can help prevent or reduce many problems. For example, special exercises can increase strength in the hands and improve muscle memory. This is training muscles to remember the shapes of letters and numbers.

Children can try a writing aid like a thick pencil to see if that helps. Schools can also provide simple interventions like more time to complete writing activities or assistance from a note taker. Teachers could have students with dysgraphia take tests by speaking the answers into a recorder, or type their work instead of writing it.

Children with dysgraphia might be able to avoid the problems of handwriting by using a computer. Yet experts say they could still gain from special instruction to help them organize their thoughts and put them into writing. Such skills become more important as children get older and schoolwork becomes more difficult.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Our continuing series on learning disabilities, along with links to more information, can be found at www.unsv.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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