Dysgraphia vs. Dyslexia: 5 Key Facts About These Learning Difficulties for Reading and Writing

Dyslexia vs Dysgraphia - Child writing with a pencil

Children are incredible things. Watching a child grow and develop and learn is one of the greatest experiences in the world. But as anyone who has been around young children can attest, they can often develop learning disorders that can seem to hold them back from developing at their true potential. One of the lesser-known disorders is Dysgraphia, a disorder that can result in an inability to write appropriately and can lead to poor learning outcomes if it is not handled appropriately.

What is Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia, from the Latin base graph for writing, is a disorder characterized by an inability to properly write. Though this is a disorder most often seen in children, if not properly treated, it can cause problems into adulthood as well. People with Dysgraphia may have issues with handwriting, spelling, or misusing words when writing a sentence.

5 Key Facts That Distinguish Dysgraphia and Dyslexia

01 – Dysgraphia is for writing; Dyslexia is for reading.

Though they sound similar and are involved in similar learning areas, Dyslexia and Dysgraphia are quite distinct. Dyslexia is a disorder that primarily affects a person’s ability to read, whereas the effects of Dysgraphia are most evident when writing.

02 – Poor handwriting doesn’t automatically mean you have Dysgraphia

Just because someone has poor handwriting, it doesn’t mean they have Dysgraphia. Poor handwriting could be caused by a number of things and is associated with a number of other disorders such as Dyslexia, ADHD, and more. It is important to understand the cause of poor handwriting in order to properly treat the condition and improve writing ability.

03 – Having Dysgraphia doesn’t mean you are more likely to have Dyslexia

Though people who live with Dyslexia may exhibit poor handwriting ability, there is little evidence that the two disorders are linked in any way. Having Dysgraphia does not mean that someone is at a higher risk of having Dyslexia.

04 – Swapping letters or flipping characters can be a sign of both

One of the most noticeable symptoms of Dysgraphia is expressed when the person writes words and swaps the placement of neighboring letters, or when the writer mistakenly writes the shape of the letter in reverse. Be careful if you see this symptom, as it can also be a sign of Dyslexia and may require additional testing to determine the exact cause of this orthographic error.

05 – Both disorders can be overcome with professional help

Like Dyslexia, Dysgraphia can lead to severe learning impediments if not treated properly. Luckily, as with Dyslexia, there is plenty of professional guidance available to help someone who exhibits symptoms of Dysgraphia. By speaking with a trained professional, you can quickly come up with an effective treatment plan which can allow the person living with this disorder to overcome their writing issues.

What are the common symptoms of Dysgraphia?

Dyslexia vs Dysgraphia - Person holding a pen  Photo by picjumbo

As a disorder affecting writing ability, symptoms of Dysgraphia revolve mainly around the ability to codify words into writing, spell correctly, and produce legible symbols and characters representing words. Symptoms of Dysgraphia include:

  • Poor spelling and capitalization
  • Poor hand coordination resulting in inappropriate size and spacing of letters
  • Holding the writing utensil too tightly (in an effort to gain more control) resulting in pain and cramps in the hands
  • Spelling mistakes
  • Inverting characters and writing letters incorrectly
  • Putting too much pressure on the paper or writing surface
  • Needing to say words out loud as they are written
  • Needing to watch one’s hand while writing

How is Dysgraphia diagnosed?

A trained professional, such as a special education instructor, school psychologist, or medical professional may be able to determine whether the symptoms are due to Dysgraphia or another condition. It is important to make sure that the root cause is identified as this can ensure the treatment is adequate and addresses the issues related to the writing condition.

During the diagnosis, the examiner may ask the person to take an IQ test, review previous school or other written work, ask for a writing sample and observe the writing process, or ask for additional input from instructors or other supervisors.

Based on the results of the tests and interviews, the examiner can help develop an effective treatment option for the individual.

What are the treatment options?

Though Dysgraphia can lead to serious deficits in learning outcomes if left untreated, treatment options are readily available and quite straightforward.

Some potentially beneficial treatments include:

  • Training and practice holding and handling a writing utensil
  • Writing and copying large letters, for example by using the finger to draw letters in shaving cream on the top of a table
  • Practice with hand motor skills by drawing lines within mazes, completing connect-the-dots puzzles, or playing similar games.
  • Using wide-ruled or graph paper


If you are someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of Dysgraphia, you needn’t worry. There are plenty of effective treatment options and it doesn’t have to lead to learning complications. Take the time to observe the person, speak with a trained professional, and discuss a treatment option that is right for the individual.

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