Dyslexia vs Dysgraphia

Undiagnosed dysgraphia: The serious impact of the least well known learning disorder

Just as dyslexia refers in general to learning disorders that affect reading proficiency, dysgraphia refers in general to learning disorders that affect writing proficiency: “At its broadest definition, dysgraphia is a disorder of writing ability at any stage, including problems with letter formation/legibility, letter spacing, spelling, fine motor coordination, rate of writing, grammar, and composition” (Chung et al., 2020). There are two types of dysgraphia–developmental (difficulty in acquiring writing skills) and acquired (a loss of previously acquired skills resulting from trauma or disease)–but this post focuses on developmental dysgraphia.

Symptoms of developmental dysgraphia are often misunderstood by teachers who don’t identify it as a learning disorder. Consequently,  students with dysgraphia are often viewed as lazy and unmotivated (Mayes et al., 2017). Over time, this has a serious impact on students’ academic trajectory.  They need intervention or accommodation to succeed but are instead met with low expectations and an ongoing experience of failure.

How Prevalent Is Developmental Dysgraphia?

According to international researchers, writing struggles do not receive the same attention that math and reading do. For example, U.S. state and national assessments generally focus on reading and math, rather than the third education pillar: writing. Because dysgraphia often co-exists with dyslexia and because more research has centered on reading, the impact of the writing disorder may be overlooked or underestimated. Because dysgraphia is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, it is difficult to determine its actual prevalence. Estimates range from 5 to 30%, but there is not enough data to make these estimates reliable.

Undiagnosed dysgraphia

A study in 2007 by Mayes and Calhoun found that “a learning disability in written expression was approximately 3 times more common (92%) than a learning disability in reading (33%) and math (32%)” (Mayes et al., 2007). Chung et al. (2020) have written, “Depending on the definitions utilized, anywhere from 30% to 47% of children with writing problems also have reading problems.” 

Writing-related activities are estimated to take up about half of the school day. Consequently, the impact of writing-related struggles is significant. As more research is focused on dysgraphia and its impact on academic performance, evidence that it is a separate neurological learning disorder will certainly be revisited. A recent scoping article that includes 77 studies found: “Collectively, the evidence suggests that there is a significant shortfall in the research on dysgraphia. This means that children diagnosed with dysgraphia will likely face several learning barriers in traditional classroom teaching” (Kalenjuk et al., 2022).

Dysgraphia Symptoms

Symptoms of dysgraphia are far-reaching and because there has been little educational research, knowledge of the symptoms is not widespread.

“As the term ‘dysgraphia’ is not recognized by the American Psychological Association, there is no professional consensus on specific diagnostic criteria. As in the case for other learning disorders, a key factor should be the degree of difficulty that the writing impairment imposes on the child’s access to the general education curriculum. Evidence should be drawn from multiple sources and contexts, including observation, anecdotal report, review of completed work, and normative data” (Chung et al., 2020).

Using available medical, psychological, and educational research, Let’s Go Learn has compiled a list of telling symptoms. The list of symptoms combines suggestions from Chung et al., 2020; McCloskey & Rapp, 2017; and Crouch & Jakubecy, 2009.

Indicators of possible dysgraphia learning disorder:


  • Awkward grip on pencil or pen
  • Awkward writing posture and positioning of paper
  • Difficulty forming letters with automaticity
  • Awkward posture when writing


  • Difficulty spacing letters and words
  • Difficulty writing in straight lines within margins
  • Unreadable handwriting
  • Impeded writing speed
  • Switching from print to cursive or from lowercase to uppercase
  • Difficulty finding appropriate words
  • Spelling issues that don’t match progress in other areas or the performance of students of the same grade/age
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Subvocalizing while writing


  • Difficulty organizing thoughts and presenting them in writing
  • Difficulty moving from planning to writing first draft when using writing process

Research-Based Interventions

In their article “Dysgraphia,” Chung et al. (2022) have recommended three areas for intervention: accommodation, modification, and remediation. The article suggested that accomodations use mainstream instruction with supports and resources; that modifications require adaptation of instruction with services; and that remediation requires specific interventions.

The list of symptoms combines suggestions from Chung et al., 2020; McCloskey & Rapp, 2017; and Crouch & Jakubecy, 2009.



  • Pencil size
  • Paper template design
  • Additional time

Technology-driven Alternatives

  • Writing produced with voice-to-text
  • AI-supported editing
  • Spellcheck and grammar check



  • Written assignments broken into parts


  • Focus on content rather than spelling/gramma
  • Oral rather than written demonstration of learning


RTI Model

  • 1) Screening; 2) Targeted intervention; 3) Intensive intervention *Minimal intervention for 20 lessons over several weeks

Combined Motor and Orthographic Skills

  • Visualizing steps to write letters and focusing on movement rather than product

Games and Activities

  • Focus on the enjoyment of the process with free writing and positive feedback
  • Child-robot interaction (Gargot et al., 2021)

Writing Process

  • Planning, drafting, revising with focus on content not grammar, etc., and technology supports for later steps


Crouch, A., & Jakubecy, J. (2007) Dysgraphia: How it affects a student’s performance and what can be

done about it. Teaching Exceptional Children Plus. Retrieved from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ967123.pdf

Chung, P., & Patel, D. R. (2015). Dysgraphia. International Journal of Child & Adolescent Health

January-March 2015, 8 (1), 27-36. Nova Science Publishers, Inc. Retrieved from https://www.eoepmolina.es/wp-content/gallery/Dyslexia-dysgraphia/Dysgraphia.pdf

Chung, P.J, Patel, D.R., & Nizami, I. (2020, February 9). Disorder of written expression and dysgraphia: 

Definition, diagnosis, and management. Translational Pediatriatrics, S46-S54. doi: 10.21037/tp.2019.11.01. PMID: 32206583; PMCID: PMC7082241

Farrell, M. (2012). The effective teacher’s guide to dyslexia and other learning difficulties (learning disabilities) : Practical strategies (2nd ed.). Routledge, https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203152867

Frye, D. (2023). What is dysgraphia? ADDitude Magazine. Retrieved from


Gargot, T., Asselborn, T., Zammouri, I., Brunelle, J., Johal, W., Dillenbourg, P., Archambault, D., 

Chetouani, M., Cohen, D., & Anzalone, S.M. (2021). It is not the robot who learns, it is me: 

Treating severe dysgraphia using child–robot interaction. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12: 596055. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.596055. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/journals/psychiatry/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2021.596055/full

Kalenjuk, E., Laletas, S., Subban, P., & Wilson, S. (2022). A scoping review to map research on children with dysgraphia, their carers, and educators.  Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 27 (1), 19-63. doi: 10.1080/19404158.2021.1999997 

Mayes SD, Calhoun SL. Learning, attention, writing, and processing speed in typical children and children

 with ADHD, autism, anxiety, depression, and oppositional-defiant disorder. Child Neuropsychol. 2007 Nov;13(6):469-93. doi: 10.1080/09297040601112773. PMID: 17852125.

Mayes, S. D., Breaux, R. P., Calhoun, S. L., & Frye, S. S. (2019). High prevalence of dysgraphia in elementary through high school students with ADHD and autism. Journal of Attention Disorders, 23 (8), 787-796. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054717720721 

McCloskey, M., & Rapp, B. (2017). Developmental dysgraphia: An overview and framework for research. Cognitive Neuropsychology, 34 (3-4), 65-82. doi: 10.1080/02643294.2017.1369016 

Reynolds, C. (2007). Encyclopedia of special education: A reference for the education of children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities and other exceptional individuals (3rd ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.