A learning disability, technically defined as a minimum 20 point drop in apparent IQ as soon as fine motor skills are required. It shows up most in handwriting -- people with dysgraphia have messy handwriting and often have to write slower to get the correct letters to come out.

Not everyone with messy handwriting is dysgraphic, though. In many cases, practice of the right sort will improve handwriting. Dysgraphic people are, in general, unable to improve. I was lucky; my third-grade teacher realized I would never write any better (and that, in fact, printing was better for me than cursive) and set me up with the school secretary to learn touch-typing. Later on, though, this disability actually cost me a level or two of letter grades until my parents decided to have me tested by a neuropsychologist. The tests ranged widely, including your basic ancient mental health questionaire, hand strength tests, and logic puzzles. Once this was done, I had dispensation to do things like use a typewriter on exams, which made my life much easier.

As might be guessed, this is related to dyslexia and dyscalcula, both in derivation and the actual problem in the brain itself.

Dysgraphia is a blanket term for difficulty in written communication and producing the written word, generally with an onset in childhood. The term dysgraphia is generally understood to encompass a variety of conditions with seperate causes and symptoms, but all of them, obviously, share this interference with writing.

Probably the most common situation that dysgraphia occurs in is comorbidity with other learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia, and sometimes ADD or Asperger's Syndrome. In this case, the problem is probably a result of general problems in the parts of the brain responsible for processing the written word in general, and the symptoms of this sort of dysgraphia tend to reflect that: transpositions of letters and words, the mixing of upper-case and lower-case, as well as cursive and print letters, and confused production of similarly-shaped letters. There's no real cure for this form of dysgraphia other than lots of practice, slow and careful writing, and even more careful proofreading.

The dysgraphia through poor fine motor coordination that sleeping wolf describes above is another common form. The technical term for the poor coordination that he talks about is developmental dyspraxia, and dysgraphia caused by it will indeed be manifested largely through very sloppy handwriting, and problems in properly holding and controlling a pencil. The treatment for this form of dysgraphia is both obvious and largely successful: simply do as mucb writing as possible on computers and word processors.

Developmental therapists sometimes include another form of dysgraphia, which they refer to as non-specific dysgraphia. In this case, the difficulty in writing is not from some specific neurological condition, but more generalized and often environmental causes like poor or no instruction, and general poor performance in school. In this case, treatment usually takes the form of sessions with a handwriting tutor, or some related therapist, and the prognosis varies widely with individual circumstances.

I've been living with Dysgraphia for years and years. Specifically, it's a form of dyspraxia, very much like what sleeping wolf and narzos write about. Here's my two cents on the matter:

The specific disability I dealt with was rather severe, it affected both fine and gross motor control. There's an idea of standard deviations from "normal" motor control when diagnosing this disability. 1.5 S.D.s is grounds for diagnosis. I am 2.7 S.D.s I was extremely clumsy and accident prone, along with all the difficulties in the written word. In about fourth grade, after several years in school where I had been thought of as subnormal by some, or even an idiot savant by a few others, a techer finally noticed the massive disparity between my intellect and my ability to express it properly.

I'll try not to toot my own horn but she told me years later that "when you spoke, you were like Shakespeare or Einstein, but you were a mind trapped in an unwilling body." She was right. Having this disorder, and the trials of overcoming it as much as possible (thanks in large part to the ubiquity of computers). On some tasks, it does feel like the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I've had several years of physical and occupational therapy, it's still infuriating to have trouble with small tasks. An example of what I've learned to deal with, and accept, you can even try it at home!

  1. Put on a pair of welding gloves.
  2. Try put books on a shelf, or write a paper.
  3. Try to button a button.

Annoying, ain't it? I learned a lot of patience and ways to calm myself down because of this, and sharpened my verbal skills to a keen edge to compensate. Over the years I've made vast improvements, but I still find myself sometimes tripping on nothing, or having to slow down to properly place words on paper. It's worse if I'm tired, angry, or three sheets to the wind.

My handwriting may suck, but it helped me to be a better person.

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