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Dysgraphia in Teenagers

by Candace Webb

Dysgraphia is a disorder that affects handwriting and spatial aspects of organizing words on paper, according to the article, "What is Dysgraphia,” published on the National Center for Learning Disabilities website. Teens with dysgraphia have trouble with the mechanics of handwriting, which leads to poor handwriting. In addition, they exhibit problems organizing numbers and letters on paper. According to Delaware's Division of Health and Social Services, three types of dysgraphia exist: dyslexic dysgraphia, which includes illegible written work and poor spelling; motor dysgraphia, which is a result of under-developed fine motor skills; and spatial dysgraphia, which results in illegible handwriting but adequate spelling. A child with dysgraphia can have difficulty completing schoolwork and in some cases, might avoid completing written assignments. If you have any concerns about your teen, speak to your child's pediatrician for follow up.

What Dysgraphia Is

Dysgraphia is more than poor handwriting. In some cases, the brain has difficulty deciphering what the eyes are seeing. Centered in the visual-spatial area of the brain, which differentiates visual differences in letters or numbers, for example, it translates to the inability to copy information to paper, according to the website for the National Center for Learning Disabilities. The website further explains that developmentally, this affects not only fine motor skills, but also the thinking skills necessary for copying information to paper.

How Dysgraphia Manifests Itself in Teenagers

Dysgraphia includes an awkward pencil grip, poor handwriting and pressing very hard on the paper while writing, according to the article. In addition, dysgraphia also makes it difficult for the teen to organize thoughts on paper. When writing prose, the teen often has trouble with syntax and sentence structure. Grammatical problems may also show up. A teen who expresses advanced ideas and concepts orally but who demonstrates a large gap between that ability and putting ideas on paper, may have dysgraphia. He can verbalize the steps to build a science project, but when he is required to put the steps in sequence on paper, it can be difficult for him to follow through correctly. Some steps may be missing or they may have grammatical errors.

Things That Can Help

Several things can help the student with dysgraphia. The teacher can break down larger assignments can into smaller writing tasks. Assistive tools, such as speech to text programs, allow the teen bypass the writing end of assignments, while demonstrating their understanding of the concepts taught. For example, software that allows the student to speak into the computer and translates the speech to written words give the student the opportunity to express herself in writing as well as she does verbally. Other possible accommodations include providing more time for written assignments, using a friend-note taking system in which the teacher gives the student a carbon copy of notes that other students took and the use of a word processor. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America's website, wide-ruled paper and graph paper can help the teen overcome some of the handwriting problems dysgraphia cause. Oral exams and videotaped assignments allow the student to demonstrate concept knowledge without letting dysgraphia interfere.

Accommodations and the Law

Several things can help the student with dysgraphia. The teacher can break down larger assignments can into smaller writing tasks. Assistive tools, such as speech to text programs, allow the teen bypass the writing end of assignments, while demonstrating their understanding of the concepts taught. For example, software that allows the student to speak into the computer and translates the speech to written words give the student the opportunity to express herself in writing as well as she does verbally. Other possible accommodations include providing more time for written assignments, using a note-taking system in which the teacher gives the student a carbon copy of notes that other students took and the use of a word processor. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America's website, wide-ruled paper and graph paper can help the teen overcome some of the handwriting problems dysgraphia cause. Oral exams and videotaped assignments allow the student to demonstrate concept knowledge without letting dysgraphia interfere.

About the Author

Candace Webb has been writing professionally since 1989. She has worked as a full-time journalist as well as contributed to metropolitan newspapers including the "Tennessean." She has also worked on staff as an associate editor at the "Nashville Parent" magazine. Webb holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in business from San Jose State University.

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