Dysgraphia is a learning disability that causes individuals to experience difficulty when expressing their thoughts in writing and graphing. Students who have dysgraphia typically have problems with sequencing which causes them to frequently reverse letters and numbers, write words backwards, write letters out of order, or have sloppy handwriting. In order to prevent the errors in sequencing, individuals with dysgraphia are encouraged to slow down when writing in order to write more accurately however this may cause them to lose their thoughts and ideas while writing which is a source of frustration for students with dysgraphia. The symptoms of dysgraphia include strong verbal skills but poor writing skills, random punctuation and spelling errors, illegible writing, unfinished words or letters, cramped or unusual grip, labored copying or writing, or inconsistencies within the writing (print/cursive, upper/lower case).
I was interested in learning more about dysgraphia, specifically how it affects a student’s performance in the classroom and what strategies can be used to improve the their success in the classroom. While doing research on dysgraphia, I found a study done by Alyssa Crouch and Jennifer Jakubecy comparing two techniques to use in the classroom in order to improve the handwriting of students with dysgraphia. Their study focused on improving the handwriting of one student during an eight week time period to determine which technique worked most effectively.
There are two different approaches to address dysgraphia, remedial treatment which uses systematic techniques to improve functioning and bypass strategies which use different forms of technology to alleviate the problem with handwriting. Crouch and Jakubecy tested two different remedial treatments, drill and practice and building of fine motor skills, on their subject throughout the eight week study. The student they based their study on was a second grader who had been identified as having weaknesses in reading, comprehension, and writing. His writing displayed the characteristics that are consistent with dysgraphia, excessive erasures, mix of upper and lowercase letters, and inconsistent letter forms. During the first two weeks of the study, the student was given direct instruction and intensive practice in handwriting. The second two weeks he used fine motor activities to improve the strength of his hand muscles. He went through this same sequence of remedial treatments during the last four weeks of the study. In total, the subject had four weeks of drill/practice and four weeks of hand muscle strengthening activities. The data collected throughout the study included copies of the student’s work and anecdotal notes taken by the individual who was instructing him.
The purpose of direct instruction and intensive handwriting practice was to help the student’s hand get used to writing so that it would become more “fluent and automatic”. The fine motor activities were used to strengthen the hand and arm muscles so the student would feel more comfortable writing and have more control over his writing utensil. The results of the study show that the student’s handwriting improved drastically throughout the eight week investigation. The researchers were unable to determine which approach was more effective because there was not a difference in gains between the two week phases. They believe this may have occurred because the phases were too short or the rubric they created for measuring improved handwriting was not sensitive to small changes. The outcome of the study demonstrates that using drill and fine motor activities together improve the handwriting of young students.
The results of the study performed by Crouch and Jakubecy have many implications for educators who have students in their classroom who are experiencing symptoms of dysgraphia. Dysgraphia is a motor-related learning disability that can be improved with certain forms of intervention. Providing students with handwriting practice and direct instruction on how to form specific letters proves to be one successful intervention method. Incorporating practice into daily lessons or station work along with providing students with dysgraphia extra help before and after school will increase their confidence when writing and greatly improve their writing skills. Teachers can incorporate the second successful intervention, fine motor exercises, by demonstrating the exercises to individual students and provide time throughout the school day for students to practice the activities. Teachers can also assign the exercises for homework or incorporate them into other classroom activities, including finger painting, gluing, cutting, sewing, or weaving. Over time, students who perform the fine motor exercises will develop their hand muscles and improve their handwriting ability.
Writing is extremely important for functioning in today’s society. It is used primarily to communicate thoughts and ideas and is an integral part of the cognitive learning process. Educators must be held responsible, along with other member of the school community, for identifying students with dysgraphia and providing them with successful intervention techniques. This will ensure that students who have this motor-related learning disability are able to work towards improving their handwriting skills during the early stages of their educational experience.
Crouch, Alyssa L. and Jennifer J. Jakubecy. (2007) Dysgraphia: How it Affects a
Student’s Performance and What Can Be Done About It. Teaching Exceptional Children Plus, 3 (3).
This page has been provided by Emily Greenlee