## How to Deal with Dysgraphia: Tools and Solutions
Some teachers often notice that their students hold the pen incorrectly, during the writing of essays in class they present an illegible or even incomprehensible handwriting. During math tests, they are unable to write numbers or the traces proposed by the teacher correctly. The letter sizes are incorrect, one smaller, the others larger. The distance between words is enormous. The combination of these elements subsequently leads to a diagnosis of dysgraphia. However, it is important to make an immediate distinction: dysgraphia is not dysorthography and vice versa. The former does not involve the verbal apparatus but only the graphic processes and some motor aspects of the student. The latter involves the linguistic aspect. In the acquisition of writing, the student must use, in a combined manner, different elements:
- Set of movements to learn to write, i.e. motor skills;
- Eye-hand coordination;
- Visual orientation ability in space (paper space, blackboard space).
In dysgraphic students, the lack of these elements leads to a gap in the learning system. Children with dysgraphia are often referred to as "wrong writers" or "poor copiers", they are unable to write from dictation, do not respect margins, and do not copy well from the blackboard. In reality, there is much more, as with other learning disabilities, comorbidity of the disorder is often discussed.
How to recognize dysgraphia
Like in the case of a dyscalculic child, a dysgraphic child also presents specific characteristics:
- Unable to respect lines;
- Unable to respect margins;
- Writes large and small letters on the same line;
- Unable to write from dictation;
- Writes slowly;
- Does not hold colors, pencils, and pens well.
Reducing it to the fact that a dysgraphic child does not write in an orderly manner is not correct. Dysgraphia implies that the student has difficulties in recognizing space and moving within it; some children may not even have full awareness of their own body within a circumscribed dimension, such as the chair they are sitting on. There is also difficulty in managing homework, many are unable to be fully independent, and this aspect persists even when they are in class.
How dysgraphia manifests, the diagnosis
Let's take a closer look at this Specific Learning Disorder from its manifestations to the diagnosis. Dysgraphic students write irregularly, the cause being the incorrect grip of the pen. It produces either less or more pressure on the paper, resulting in either strong or almost imperceptible strokes.
The writing, not respecting spaces and margins, seems to go up and down without regularity. Right and left are reversed, and in copying as well as in producing texts or exercises alone, things do not go any better. When copying from the blackboard, they often get distracted and lose track. It will not be difficult to notice huge white spaces between paragraphs in their notebooks. During the attempt to copy or in dictation exercises, the writing speed varies greatly, very fast, then very slow.
Who makes the diagnosis?
A group consisting of a psychologist, educationalist, and pediatrician establishes the diagnosis of dysgraphia. After careful observation and the administration of tests, a specific intervention is studied for the student, which involves activities carried out both at home and at school. It is essential, when dealing with Specific Learning Disorders, to have synergy between the school, family, and educational agencies involved in the child's development. It should always be remembered that, like all other Specific Learning Disorders, we are dealing with a condition of absence of deficit. Furthermore, for an accurate diagnosis, specialists tend to wait until the conclusion of the second grade.
Dysgraphia, like other Specific Learning Disorders, causes frustration and low self-esteem in students.
How to deal with dysgraphia, tools and solutions
Since preschool, many propose motor exercises so that the child can develop their coordination. Going through paths with small obstacles, following a direction, gradually learning to distinguish right from left will allow the child to learn to orient themselves and become aware of their body in space.
Proceeding from general to specific, once they reach primary school, a child with sufficient awareness will have no problem sitting, arranging themselves in their place, managing the space of their desk, and later their sheet of paper. Ensuring they learn to manage their graphic space is essential. The student can perform strengthening exercises to make the hand gesture while writing smooth, and the teacher can suggest the correct grip of the pen, colors, while at home, the child needs support from their parents.
Let's see what law 170/10 provides for all students with dysgraphia:
- Specific notebooks for dysgraphia;
- Ergonomic pens, which facilitate grip and pressure on the paper;
- Educational software;
- Concept maps.
Among the mentioned compensatory tools, special notebooks for dysgraphia are valid and interesting. These notebooks, designed with colored lines, colored margins, and specific spaces for teacher's notes, allow the student to better organize the space of the sheet, whether dictating or copying from the blackboard.
It is important to remember, in case of comorbidity, the importance of using concept maps. Thanks to their characteristics, combining images and little text, they allow the child to memorize topics more easily according to the fundamental principle of sequencing. All activities proposed by the teacher and the group of experts must be gradual and engaging for the child. It should never be forgotten that this, like all other Learning Disorders, causes a high level of frustration and subsequent difficulties in self-esteem for the student.
Article by Mariana Ciaglia, educationalist.