Common Signs of Dysgraphia: Children Grade 3 – 8



Dysgraphia Warning SignsDysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing, which requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Is your child is having trouble with the physical act of writing or putting thoughts down on paper? If so, the following list of common warning signs of dysgraphia in children in grades 3-8 may help you to more clearly identify the specific areas of concern and seek help to address these problems.Everyone struggles with learning at times, although learning disabilities such as dysgraphia will persist over time. If your child has displayed any of the signs below for at least the past six months, it may be time to seek help from your child’s school or other professionals.And because some of the “symptoms” listed below also apply to other types of learning disabilities and/or to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), which often co-exist, you may want to review our more comprehensive Interactive Learning Disabilities Checklist.

For At Least the Past Six Months, My Child Has Had Trouble:


  • Gripping a pencil comfortably when writing or drawing.
  • Writing neatly, evenly, and legibly.
  • Using either printed or cursive (or mixing the two styles).
  • Leaving consistent spacing between letters and words.
  • Writing on a line or within margins.
  • Copying letters and numbers neatly and accurately.
  • Spelling even familiar words correctly.
  • Being consistent in spelling.
  • Writing/printing neatly and without a lot of cross-outs and erasures
  • Expressing written ideas in an organized way.
  • Preparing outlines and organizing written work.
  • Writing without saying the words aloud.
  • Thinking of words to write.
  • Remembering to use all the words he intends to in his written work.
  • Focusing on the meaning of what he writes; (because of the physical demands during writing)
  • Maintaining energy and easy posture when writing/drawing.


  • Aligning numbers correctly when doing math problems.


  • Being motivated and confident about writing.
  • Taking pride in written work.

If your child displays several of these warning signs, talk with a professional right away. Use a printed copy of this article — marked with the warning signs that apply to your child – to start the discussion with your child’s teachers or other professionals. By seeking proper identification and support in a timely way, your child will soon be on track for success in school and in life.


Dysgraphia is a condition that makes writing difficult and  is referred to as disorder of written expression that is unrelated to a person’s intelligence.

What is Dysgraphia? Video link

Signs of Dysgraphia

The following is list symptoms of that can be observed in dysgraphia.  The list begins with young children’s signs and ends with symptoms you would see in teens.  These can often cross over.  Every person is different and most won’t have all of the following signs:

  • Awkward grip when holding a pencil/pen,
  • Avoidance of pre-writing activities,
  • Difficulty cutting,
  • Mix of upper and lower case letter (mix of cursive and manuscript),
  • General illegibility,
  • Hand fatigue when writing,
  • Poor use of the space on the paper  (larger margins or no margins),
  • Having a hard time choosing a dominate hand (a young student may switch from one hand to the other while they are writing with in the middle of a word),
  • Letters can be significantly varying in size and proportion in relation to one another,
  • Many misspelling in words,
  • Unfinished letters or words,
  • Omit words in a sentences,
  • Talks to self while writing,
  • Sometimes struggles with buttons and use of silverware,
  • Forms letters in an unconventional way,
  • Often has to “think” about what a letter looks like before they write it (after you would expect this developmental),
  • Writing fluency may be extremely compromised or they may write extremely fast (“so I don’t forget what I wanted to write”),
  • Takes a long time to do homework,
  • Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech,
  • Trouble organizing thoughts on paper,
  • Can’t keep up taking notes in a lecture or writing down assignments,
  • Trouble keeping track of thoughts already written down,
  • Notes are often illegible and therefore useless for studing,
  • Unfinished words, letters, ending, omitted words,
  • Math problems are not in-line sometimes geometry (visual) is especially difficult,
  • Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar.

Types of Dysgraphia

Susan Hutchinson in Handwriting Problem Solutions outlines various types of dysgraphia In children and young adults.  Types of dysgraphia include:

  • Dyslexic Dysgraphia a person’s spontaneously written work is illegible, copied work is pretty good, and spelling is bad. Finger tapping speed (a method for identifying fine motor problems) is normal. A Dyslexic Dysgraphic does not necessarily have Dyslexia. Dyslexia and Dysgraphia appear to be unrelated but often can occur together.
  • Motor Dysgraphia is due to deficient fine motor skills, poor dexterity, poor muscle tone, and/or unspecified motor clumsiness. Generally, written work is poor to illegible, even if copied by sight from another document. Letter formation may be acceptable in very short samples of writing, but this requires extreme effort, an unreasonable amount of time to accomplish and cannot be sustained for a significant length of time. Writing is often slanted due to holding a pen or pencil incorrectly. Spelling skills are not impaired. Finger tapping speed results are below normal.
  • Spatial Dysgraphia is due to a defect in the understanding of space. This person has illegible spontaneously written work, illegible copied work, but normal spelling and normal finger tapping speed. Students with Spatial Dysgraphia often have trouble keeping their writing on the lines and difficulty with spacing between words.
  • Phonological Dysgraphia is characterized by writing and spelling disturbances in which the spelling of unfamiliar words, non-words, and phonetically irregular words is impaired. Individuals with Phonological Dysgraphia are also unable to hold phonemes in memory and blend them in their appropriate sequence to produce the target word.


Useful Apps for Students with Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing abilities. It can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper.

With Dragon Dictation 2.0, you can dictate text or email your friends, send notes and reminders to yourself … all using your voice.

Click here for more information

iTalk Recorder Premium is a smart, simple audio-recording device with options to select recording quality and to name the recording.

Click here for more information

iBook Creator:

Develop your own books with this amazing app!  Add videos, images and text.  The speech tool provided by the iPad also works with this app adding to its versatility.

iEarned that:
This is a productivity app used to motivate students by keeping track of their merits.

Idea Sketch:
Good for brainstorming new ideas, illustrating concepts making lists and outlines, planning presentation, creating organizational charts.  Lets you easily draw a diagram, mind map, concept map or flow chart and convert it to a text outline.

Tools 4 Students:
25 top quality graphic organizers.  Choose the best template and fill in your information right on your mobile device.



Great day to be outside and, of course, …. to READ!

Resources for learning about learning challenges:

The Mislabeled Child: Looking Beyond Behavior to Find the True Sources and Solutions for Children’s Learning Challenges By Brock Eide MD, MA and Fernette Eide MD

Chapters on:  Memory Strengths and Weaknesses , Visual Processing Problems in Children, Auditory Processing Problems in Children, Language Problems in Children, Attention Problems in Children, Autism and Autism-Like Disorders , Sensory Processing Disorder, Dyslexia in Children, Handwriting Problems and Dysgraphia in Children, Math Problems in Children, Giftedness and Learning Challenges in Children

One in five American children has trouble reading.  But they are not stupid or lazy.  In Overcoming Dyslexia, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention and a leader in the new research into how the brain works, offers the latest information about reading problems and proven, practical techniques that, along with hard work and the right help, can enable anyone to overcome them.  Here are the tools that parents and teachers need to help the dyslexic child, age by age, grade by grade, step by step.


In their book The Dyslexic Advantage, Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide talk about the MIND strengths of people with dyslexia: advanced abilities in Material reasoning, Interconnected reasoning, Narrative or Story-Based Reasoning, and Dynamic Reasoning, a type of reasoning associated with creative prediction.

Books about working with the schools.  These two books are the best I’ve read and written by attorneys with a child with learning challenges.  Learn about IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and 504 plans.

In this comprehensive, easy-to-read book, you will find clear, concise answers to frequently asked questions about IEPs. Learn what the law says about:

  • IEP Teams and IEP Meetings
  • Parental Rights & Consent
  • Steps in Developing the IEP
  • Placement, Transition, Assistive Technology
  • Strategies to Resolve Disagreements

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy, 2nd Edition – The Special Education Guide includes tips, strategies, references, and Internet resources.




The Dyslexia Empowerment Plan: A Blueprint for Renewing Your Child’s
Confidence and Love of Learning, by Ben Foss.

Finally, a groundbreaking book that reveals what your dyslexic child is experiencing and what you can do so that he or she will thrive.

More than thirty million people in the United States are dyslexic, a brain-based genetic trait, often labeled as a learning disability or learning difference, that makes interpreting text and reading difficult. Yet even though children with dyslexia may have trouble reading, they don’t have any problems learning; dyslexia has nothing to do with a lack of intellect.


Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties, by David Kilpatrick
Practical, effective, evidence-based reading interventions that change students’ lives Essentials of Understanding and Assessing Reading Difficulties is a practical, accessible, in-depth guide to reading assessment and intervention. It provides a detailed discussion of the nature and causes of reading difficulties, which will help develop the knowledge and confidence needed to accurately assess why a student is struggling. Readers will learn a framework for organizing testing results from current assessment batteries such as the WJ-IV, KTEA-3, and CTOPP-2. Case studies illustrate each of the concepts covered. A thorough discussion is provided on the assessment of phonics skills, phonological awareness, word recognition, reading fluency, and reading comprehension. Formatted for easy reading as well as quick reference, the text includes bullet points, icons, callout boxes, and other design elements to call attention to important information.

Language at the Speed of SIght: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It by Mark Seidenberg

According to a leading cognitive scientist, we’ve been teaching reading wrong.  The latest science reveals how we can do it right.
….In Language at the Speed of Sight, internationally renowned cognitive scientist Mark Seidenberg reveals the underexplored science of reading, which spans cognitive science, neurobiology, and linguistics. As Seidenberg shows, the disconnect between science and education is a major factor in America’s chronic underachievement. How we teach reading places many children at risk of failure, discriminates against poorer kids, and discourages even those who could have become more successful readers. Children aren’t taught basic print skills because educators cling to the disproved theory that good readers guess the words in texts, a strategy that encourages skimming instead of close reading. Interventions for children with reading disabilities are delayed because parents are mistakenly told their kids will catch up if they work harder. Learning to read is more difficult for children who speak a minority dialect in the home, but that is not reflected in classroom practices. By building on science’s insights, we can improve how our children read, and take real steps toward solving the inequality that illiteracy breeds……..

Reading in the Brain: The New Science of How We Read, by Stanislas Dehaene.
A little heavier book.

The act of reading is so easily taken for granted that we forget what an astounding feat it is. How can a few black marks on white paper evoke an entire universe of meanings? It’s even more amazing when we consider that we read using a primate brain that evolved to serve an entirely different purpose. In this riveting investigation, Stanislas Dehaene explores every aspect of this human invention, from its origins to its neural underpinnings. A world authority on the subject, Dehaene reveals the hidden logic of spelling, describes pioneering research on how we process languages and takes us into a new appreciation of the brain and its wondrous capacity to adapt.

Information on 504 from US Department of Education