By Dr Liliya Korallo On April 10, 2023
Ever wondered why your child finds difficulty in writing a single sentence in the perfect alignment? And that writing with a pen or pencil seems like a mountain to climb? This can mean your child suffers from a type of Special Learning Disorder or SLD. In disorders, the affected find trouble controlling themselves from issues. For example, dysgraphia is a type of SLD in which a person cannot correctly form and align a sentence. However, with an accurate judgment of which kind of dysgraphia they are suffering from and what type of assessment suits them, you can help to eradicate the issue better.
What is Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia refers to a Special Learning Disorder where a person cannot write something with proper alignment. A typical example can be a person writing a sentence above and below the horizontal reference line on a writing page. In short, this disorder makes writing difficult, and people suffering find trouble in spelling, handwriting, and written expressions, alongside a lack of clarity and accuracy in writing. Moreover, the disorganization is more than just when writing sentences. Poor alignment and organization are also visible while arranging letters, words, and symbols on a page.
Types of Dysgraphia
In addition to what dysgraphia is, you can easily distinguish it in two ways a person behaves. Either the person affected can be suffering from motor-based dysgraphia or language-based.
A motor-based version of this disorder deals with the mechanical aspects of writing. These aspects include paper from a pen or pencil, the grip of your pencil, and the pressure applied. A person suffering from this type can have trouble aligning his pen or pencil on paper. And a specific pressure causes them to misalign their entire sentence or letters. An occupational therapist is the preferred choice for this type of disorder.
In the following type of dysgraphia, people cannot convert their ideas into a perfect structure on paper. However, they can express those ideas with clarity but must maintain what they see or hear to perfection. Miscommunication of the brain with eyes and ears disables them from writing with accuracy.
What are the Causes and Effects of Dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia can develop through several causes and reasons. The simplest explanation can be structural damage to some parts of the brain that process language. However, since half of this disorder is associated with motor-based skills, there is a role in muscle toning. The slow growth of the muscles or weakness in them triggers dysgraphia. A child can feel lazy or burdened even with small efforts in writing or within smaller durations. There are some instances in the scene where a person can write correctly quickly. But the handwriting and structuring deteriorate swiftly afterward.
But the brain and muscles are not the only reasons for dysgraphia to extend. Often, a child's behavior plays an impact. A child being lazy and unmotivated also triggers the mildest symptoms that develop into this disorder. Moreover, some form of punishment to them can lead to this disorder extending. Suffering from a trauma or relative incident is also a probable cause affecting a child's brain. But children and people generally do some hard work to cope with it. Intelligent people enhance their communication skills to the extent that it masks this disorder.
Effects of Dysgraphia:
Incorrect use of capitals
Problems in spacing and sizing letters correctly
Slow writing with difficulty
Struggle in visualizing words before writing them
Getting in an uncomfortable position while or before writing
Holding a pen or pencil tightly results in cramps
Watching one's hands with closeness during the writing
Repeating words aloud while writing them
The habit of leaving out essential comments while writing sentences
How is Dysgraphia Assessed?
Like dyslexia, dysgraphia UK is assessed through a series of control points. An assessor conducts several tests to understand a person's learning strengths and weaknesses, their educational history, the extent of their difficulties in spelling and writing, and the impact of remedies and support on their curriculum level.
When assessing dysgraphia, the role of an educational psychologist is of great importance. Since this disorder is mainly related to students, educational psychologists use various tests.
Dysgraphia test parameters include:
Rapid automatized naming
Overall cognitive ability
Considering the outcome of these tests, a psychologist can identify if a child suffers from dysgraphia and what can be the best solution for them.
Students who suffer from writing difficulties primarily due to motor-based symptoms and causes must undergo assessments by an Occupational Therapist with expertise in Development Coordination Disorder.
What are the Types of Tests for Dysgraphia?
Different sets of tests can be conducted to deal with several problems relating to dysgraphia. Remember that dysgraphia is a disorder that consists of several factors a person can face, from spelling to writing and incorporating that in a sentence on a paper.
Tests to Assess Mechanics of Writing
Test: Test of Written Language- Fourth Edition or TOWL-4 for vocabulary, punctuation, spelling, logical sentences, and sentence combining.
What it Measures: The ability of a child to use standard rules of sentence writing, such as punctuation rules.
Why It's Important: If a child fails to recall the rules of grammar and punctuation, they cannot express their thoughts, and the reader may not understand them at all.
Tests to Assess Thematic
Test: Test of Written Language - Fourth Edition or TOWL-4 for story composition and contextual conventions
What it Measures: This test covers the quality of your plot, character development, vocabulary, sentence construction, and the flow in which you present the entire idea. Word usage, sentence structure, and sentence organization are other points of interest in this test.
Why it's Important: This higher-order writing test allows a child to express in writing what they are thinking.
Tests to Assess Fine Motor Skills
Test: Grooved Pegboard
What it Measures: The ability of your child to control small muscles of your hand alongside hand-eye coordination.
Why It's Important: Trouble in fine motor skills makes it difficult for a child to control the movement of their pen or pencil by misbalancing it.
Dysgraphia Assessment in the UK
While you have read about specific tests that can be conducted for various reasons during dysgraphia diagnosis, assessments are also crucial. With reviews, the child suffering from the disorder finds a series of sessions to enhance their skills. Unlike tests that only show a measure of the disease, assessments help to eradicate the issues. Here are a few assessment types that children undergo at City Psychological Services.
The DASH 17 + is a detailed assessment for dysgraphia that involves a series of subset assessments. Primarily, this assessment deals with fine motor skills that a child lacks. A child cannot write for more extended periods with precision and accuracy in a fine motor lacking. Multiple factors play a part, such as improper hand-eye coordination, misbalancing the pen while applying pressure, and inability to move the muscles properly.
The DASH 17+ test is optimal for people aged 17 to 25. Benefits of undergoing this assessment include benefits such as access arrangements during examinations alongside Disabled Students' Allowance. In details, the subtests involve the examining precision skills, the pace of producing well-known material, the capacity to change the rate under various conditions.
The Beery VMI or Beery-Buktenica Development Test for Visual Motor Integration is an assessment type to measure writing disability in children. In essence, like other acceptable motor skill assessments, this type of test also consists of subtests to judge several motor skills that a child deals with while writing. In essence, this assessment is a perfect way to identify why your child avoids or finds it difficult to perform tasks such as coloring, cutting, writing, catching a ball, tying his shoelaces, etc.
Three subtests follow in the Beery VMI assessment. The first test is Visual Motor Integration, where a child is asked to copy a sequence of images from a model. This starts from a simple line and extends to a problematic geometric shape. In the second subtest of Visual Perception, the examinee is shown a series of images but is asked to identify each item's identical match from this series of images. The third subtest is Motor Coordination, where an individual is asked to trace the interior of different shapes without crossing over the shape's borders.
ART 2- Adult Reading Test
Like the above tests are solely based on motor skills of hand and handwriting, the ART-2 Adult Reading Test is associated with a child's reading ability. This test deals with reading accuracy, comprehension, and reading speed. In the following assessment, the trial begins with simple passages, with two practice passages for silent and loud reading alike. This increases to three passages for reading silently and three for reading aloud, with increased difficulty. Students are then timed and asked questions orally.