Learning Difficulties: Dyslexia and Dysgraphia

A few weeks ago, some of my colleagues at the university had a presentation about learning difficulties, which was really useful and informative. That is the reason I decided to write a post about the two most common learning difficulties - dyslexia and dysgraphia. There are a lot of great resources where you can read about these conditions, so I'll just give you some guidelines which will hopefully help you recognize these difficulties if a student of yours has them. 

This is what a simple text looks like to a person who has dyslexia.

 Dyslexia is is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols. Some of the symptoms (according to Dyslexia.com) are:
  • Appears bright, highly intelligent, and articulate but unable to read, write, or spell at grade level.
  • Labelled lazy, dumb, careless, immature, "not trying hard enough," or "behavior problem."
  • Isn't "behind enough" or "bad enough" to be helped in the school setting.
  • High in IQ, yet may not test well academically; tests well orally, but not written.
  • Feels dumb; has poor self-esteem; hides or covers up weaknesses with ingenious compensatory strategies; easily frustrated and emotional about school reading or testing.
  • Talented in art, drama, music, sports, mechanics, story-telling, sales, business, designing, building, or engineering.
  • Seems to "Zone out" or daydream often; gets lost easily or loses track of time.
  • Difficulty sustaining attention; seems "hyper" or "daydreamer."
  • Learns best through hands-on experience, demonstrations, experimentation, observation, and visual aids. 
This is what a handwriting of a person with dysgraphia can look like.
 Dyslexia can, but doesn't have to be connected to dysgraphia, which is a deficiency in the ability to write, regardless of the ability to read, not due to intellectual impairment. Most common symptoms of dysgraphia (taken from here) are:
  • A mixture of upper case/lower case letters
  • Irregular letter sizes and shapes
  • Unfinished letters
  • Struggle to use writing as a communications tool
  • Odd writing grip
  • Many spelling mistakes (Sometimes)
  • Decreased or increased speed of writing and copying
  • Talks to self while writing
  • General illegibility
  • Reluctance or refusal to complete writing tasks
  • Crying and stress (which can be created by the frustration with the task of writing and/or spelling. This can also be brought on in dysgraphic students by common environmental sources such as high levels of environmental noise and/or over-illumination).
  • Experiencing physical pain in the hand and/or arm when writing
  • Poor use of lines and spaces
There are many different types of dyslexia and dysgraphia. If any of your students shows more than a half of the symptoms I have listed here - they might have one or another and it is up to the experts to determine how serious their difficulties are. However, the first step towards help is in your hands. Both of these conditions can bring a lot of frustration and unnecessary stress to the students and their families, but if you act on time - a lot of it can be prevented.
To read more about dyslexia and dysgraphia and how to deal with them in class, you can visit the following sites:


  1. As the parent of two boys that are in college that have been diagnosed with both dyslexia and dysgraphia, I would add that all of these children are different. (I also tutor dyslexic/dysgraphic students.) What one student needs is different from what another needs. Value a child's oral participation in your classrooms, for many this is the way they can show you what they know best. For others any pressure to perform in a classroom is overwhelming. If their assessments/test are significantly different from what you think they are capable of doing ask them the questions in private and give them plenty of time to process your question and their response. The reality is that for a dysgraphia/dyslexic child there is usually a significant difference in what they produce on a classroom test and what they can give you orally. While for a non-dyslexic/dysgraphic student the results don't change significantly.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! It's really great to hear a first-hand experience. I hope your boys are doing well and thanks for sharing! :)


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