Dysgraphia is a Specific Learning Difference characterised by persistent difficulty with handwriting, written expression and spelling that may occur in isolation, but may occur in conjunction with Dyslexia or other learning differences. The word Dysgraphia comes from the Greek dys’ meaning ”difficulty”, and ‘graph’ meaning “to write” and so is a ‘difficulty writing’.

Research to date has shown that students who have Dysgraphia may have an impairment in their ability to create a permanent memory of written words linked to their pronunciation and meaning. They may also have difficulty planning sequential finger movements without visual feedback.  The ongoing delays in spelling, handwriting and writing development are often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities.

Two types of Dysgraphia are commonly recognised: Motor-based dysgraphia which involves difficulty with the mechanics of writing: awkward pencil grip and handwriting is tiring, slow and sometimes physically painful; whilst Language-based dysgraphia is related to difficulty in processing and sequencing ideas in writing. The student may be able to give wonderful oral presentations, but fail in written tasks.

‘Writing skills among dysgraphic children vary greatly. Some can’t discern the difference between upper and lowercase letters. Others confuse right, left, up and down. Most make spelling and punctuation errors. Often, these children can perform verbally but can’t write the same information.’ [1]

Explicit teaching in the areas of handwriting, spelling and written expression help the student to achieve a higher standard of writing, however, weaknesses in fluency is likely to be lifelong. These students need to work much harder and longer to produce their assignments. Assistive technology is recommended to support the student with touch typing as an alternative to handwriting, speech recognition, and oral recording of ideas in the planning process.

What you might see in Prep and Year 1

  • Ineffective pencil grip
  • Tense hand and arm when drawing, writing and colouring
  • Avoidance of drawing, colouring and writing tasks
  • Immature scribbles for drawing and colouring in
  • Illegible writing
  • Pressing down hard with pencil
  • ‘Writing from the shoulder’ not the wrist/hand

What you might see in Year 2 and beyond

  • Anxiety when presented writing tasks
  • Rushing drawing and writing to get it done
  • Pain and fatigue in hand/ and or arm during and after writing
  • Continued reversals of letters
  • Illegible writing
  • Irregularly formed letters with irregular spacing and position
  • Slow, laboured writing
  • Difficulty thinking of what to write
  • Difficulty planning assignments and ordering information into a logical order
  • Poor sentence structure of written text compared to oral ability



[1] Cavey, D 2004 ;Dysgraphia- A Handbook for Teachers and Parents, Pro-ed Publishers