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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ask Amanda: Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia

Not too long ago a parent asked me to blog about Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia. They were wondering what these labels meant, and what could be done to help their child.

Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia can be diagnosed alongside Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit Disorders. Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia are neurological disorders that effect the way people learn literacy and numeracy skills (NINDS, 2009; SPELD, 2008).


Dysgraphia is demonstrated in a person's significant difficulty with written expression - handwriting, spelling and structuring a piece of written work.

Children with dysgraphia generally have difficulty with processing and sequencing information (Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, 2008). They may also have auditory, language and visual processing difficulties as well.

Information processing difficulties mean that children find it difficult to transfer what they are thinking onto paper. This can be because they find it hard to store the information long enough in their working memory to go through the physical process of writing it letter-by-letter, word-by-word. So what is a complex, creative story in their head, may come out as a jumble of random words and/or sentences on paper.

Sequencing difficulties mean that they find it hard to use the conventions of writing, like spelling and grammar. Proficient writers are able to spell "automatically" as they remember patterns of letters and shapes of words, thus not having to really pay attention to each individual letter in a word. This frees up a lot of working memory so that they are able to write fluently and focus on making meaning rather than spelling. For children with sequencing difficulties, it means that they will struggle to make meaning because they have to focus to much on each letter.

The same goes for grammar. Proficient writers most of the time use grammatical patterns without having to actually think about it. But children with sequencing difficulties will struggle to put their ideas on paper as well as follow the conventions of writing.

For children with auditory processing difficulties, they will struggle to use sounds to help check spelling. For children with language processing difficulties, who may think in pictures or concepts rather than words, it will be very difficult to translate their ideas into writing. For children with visual processing difficulties, it would be very difficult for them to use visual cues such as the shape of letters and words.

A Sample

You can see a sample of writing from a child with dysgraphia at

Next time... I will discuss Dyscalculia...

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