Dysgraphia – How to Help Adults with Writing Disabilities

Being able to write is generally considered an essential skill if someone is to be successful in life. There is a reason that reading, writing and mathematics are often cited as the most basic functional skills to be taught at school. For some children with learning disabilities, however, dysgraphia can make mastering writing particularly challenging. If you are teaching life skills to adults with learning disabilities, you may need to include specific writing support.

What is dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a learning disability specifically associated with trouble with the physical act of writing. It may be compared with dyslexia, or trouble reading, or dyspraxia, which affects movement and coordination more generally. Dysgraphia generally manifests as poor or illegible handwriting, including misshapen, inappropriately sized or poorly spaced letters as well as unusual and incorrect spellings. It may exist on its own in combination with other learning and intellectual disabilities. On its own, it does not affect intelligence.

Children may show signs of dysgraphia from first learning to write. Traumatic brain injuries can cause a late onset form in adults. The exact cause of dysgraphia in children is unknown. It cannot be cured, and whilst some people may learn to manage it, others may continue to struggle.

How life skills activities for adults with disabilities can include dysgraphia support

As with many forms of disability, early intervention is the most effective way to manage dysgraphia and minimize its impact. Adults with dysgraphia may not have received needed support in childhood, or they may be struggling to deal with the wider impact of a traumatic trigger.

Teaching life skills to adults with learning disabilities can involve multiple techniques to manage dysgraphia. This may include physical therapies similar to the treatment used for other motor disorders. This may help with coordinating finger movements. Other approaches could tackle the neurological aspect of the condition, such as issues with memory.

Teaching life skills activities should provide opportunities for adults with dysgraphia to use all their senses when writing, such as different textured or colored paper. Bold lines on wide-ruled paper can provide a useful frame for the page. Tracing letters may also help. Some students may benefit from different pencil grips.

Using technology when teaching life skills to adults with learning disabilities

In the modern world, one of the most effective ways to deal with dysgraphia may be to utilize computers and word processing software. This may allow the adult with dysgraphia to sidestep many of the most common issues they experience when attempting to write. It does not, however, teach them how to manage the underlying symptoms, meaning they may struggle if they encounter a situation where they do not have access to a keyboard. Some people with dysgraphia may also struggle with the finger control needed to type and may find dictation software more useful.

Adults with dysgraphia may have otherwise ordinary academic and social skills, or their condition may just be one small aspect of a wider set of disabilities. Either way, a variety of techniques are available to help them improve their writing and, with it, their overall quality of life.

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