Dysgraphia: Symptoms, Causes
Man is unique in his ability to communicate ideas in symbolic language, and for centuries writing has been an important method of communication. Even in these days of self-correcting typewriters and the magic of computer word processing, written communication is a necessary competency. In school, it is the usual medium through which students convey to teachers what they have learned. In many situations, adults also find writing a necessity that they cannot avoid. For a person with dysgraphia, writing can therefore be an uphill battle.
The word dysgraphia was coined from the Greek words dys meaning ill or difficult and graphein meaning to write, and is used to describe a severe problem with handwriting. Synonyms for dysgraphia include motor agraphia, developmental motor agraphia, special writing disability, specific handwriting disability, specific learning disability in handwriting. The problem is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Generally illegible writing.
- Letter inconsistencies.
- Mixture of upper/lower case letters or print/cursive letters.
- Irregular letter sizes and shapes.
- Unfinished letters.
- Struggle to use writing as a communicative tool.
As early as 1896 Baldwin noted that human learning is a stratified process. This implies that certain skills have to be mastered first, before it becomes possible to master subsequent skills. One has to learn to count before it becomes possible to learn to add and subtract. In the same way, there are skills that a child must have mastered first, before he or she will be proficient in handwriting. Unless underlying shortcomings are addressed first, the child's handwriting will not improve.
In her book Learning Disabilities: Theories, Diagnosis, and Teaching Strategies, Janet Lerner states that some of the underlying shortcomings that interfere with handwriting performance are (1.) poor motor skills, (2) faulty visual perception of letters and words, and (3.) difficulty in retaining visual impressions. The studentís problem may also be in cross-modal transfer from the visual to motor modalities.
The Audiblox Dysgraphia Program addresses all the above-mentioned skills: It automates visual perception, improves visual memory, addresses motor skills, and teaches sensory-motor integration.
The handwriting below belonged to an eight-year-old German boy with severe perceptual-motor problems. His parents started with intensive Audiblox training in April. The second example was taken from his schoolwork three months later.