More commonly known as “written expression learning disorder,” dysgraphia is a learning disability that involves difficulty with written expression. Dysgraphia can cause issues with spelling, handwriting, and translating thoughts to paper.

Students with dysgraphia may struggle to form letters, numbers, and words by hand, and may also have trouble thinking and writing at the same time. In more severe cases, the student may be unable to hold a pencil correctly or draw a straight line.

Early Signs of Dysgraphia

  • Better at communicating through speech than through writing1
  • Tight or awkward pencil grip1
  • When writing, says words out loud or carefully watches hand1
  • Tires easily when writing by hand
  • Hands are sore when they finish writing
  • Body position is awkward, or eyes are too close to the paper
  • Illegible handwriting
  • Uneven spaces between letters and words on paper, or difficulty writing within lines and margins1
  • Incorrect orientation of letters (either vertically or horizontally)1
  • Trouble with tasks that require thinking and writing at the same time, such as notetaking1

What to Do if Your Child is Diagnosed with Dysgraphia

Find a Specialist

Students with dysgraphia need ongoing, explicit instruction in handwriting, spelling, and composition, but many schools do not offer these services. Look for professionals with full certification and continued professional development related to dysgraphia. Students with dysgraphia respond well to multisensory approaches that use auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile senses, such as the Wilson Reading System

Request Classroom Accommodations

Talk with your child’s teachers about making small changes in the classroom to help your child succeed. For example, ask the teacher to:

  • Allow your child to use pencil grips and other writing aids
  • Let your child use a keyboard, tablet, or other technology as a substitute for written expression so they can focus on the ideas rather than the mechanics of writing
Create an Individualized Education Plan

Meet with your child’s teacher and administrators to create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This document will map out specific challenges, goals, and accommodations for your child. Be sure to ask for a copy of the document.


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