Texas state law requires districts and charter schools to identify students who have dyslexia and related disorders. Texas Education Code 38.003 identifies the following examples of related disorders: developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dyslexia , developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability. Recent research in the field of dysgraphia has prompted the addition of the following guidance regarding the evaluation, identification, and provision of services for students with dysgraphia.
Definition of Dysgraphia
Dysgraphia is related to dyslexia as both are language-based disorders. In dyslexia, the impairment is with word-level skills (decoding, word identification, spelling). Dysgraphia is a written language disorder in serial production of strokes to form a handwritten letter. This involves not only motor skills but also language skills--finding, retrieving and producing letters, which is a subword-level language skill. Impaired handwriting may interfere with spelling and/or composing, but individuals with only dysgraphia do not have difficulty with reading (Berninger, Richards, & Abbott, 2015).
Characteristics of Dysgraphia
- Variably shaped and poorly formed letters
- Excessive erasures and cross-outs
- Poor spacing between letters and words
- Letter and number reversals beyond early stages of writing
- Awkward, inconsistent pencil grip
- Heavy pressure and hand fatigue
- Slow writing and copying with legible or illegible handwriting (Andrews & Lombardino, 2014).
Additional consequences of dysgraphia may also include:
- Difficulty with unedited written spelling
- Low volume of written output as well as problems with other aspects of written expression
Procedures for Identification
The process of identifying dysgraphia will follow Child Find procedures for conducting a full individual and initial evaluation (FIIE) under the IDEA.
Schools shall recommend evaluation for dysgraphia if the student demonstrates the following:
- Impaired or illegible handwriting that is unexpected for the student's age/grade
- Impaired handwriting that interferes with spelling, written expression, or both that is unexpected for the student's age/grade
Any time from kindergarten through grade 12 a student continues to struggle with one or more components of writing, schools must collect additional information about the student. Schools should use previously collected as well as current information to evaluate the student's academic progress and determine what actions are needed to ensure the student's improved academic performance. *See Figure 5.1, page 63 Sources and Examples of Cumulative Data
A request for a dysgraphia evaluation may be made at any time.
After data gathering, the next step is formal evaluation. This includes both formal and informal data. See Figure 5.2, page 65 Areas for Evaluation of Dysgraphia.
To appropriately understand evaluation data, the ARD committee must interpret tests results in light of the student's educational history, linguistic background, environmental or socioeconomic factors, and any other pertinent factors that affect learning.
A determination must first be made regarding whether a student's difficulties in the areas of writing and spelling reflect a pattern of evidence for the primary characteristics of dysgraphia with unexpectedly low performance for the student's age and educational level in some or all of the following areas:
- Writing fluency (accuracy and rate)
- Written Expression
See Figure 5.3 page 66 for Questions to Determine the Identification of Dysgraphia
Instruction for Students with Dysgraphia
Once dysgraphia has been identified, a determination must be made regarding the most appropriate way to serve the student.
"......Done right, early handwriting instruction improves students' writing. Not just its legibility, but its quantity." (p,49)
-S. Graham,Want to Improve Children's Writing? Don't Neglect Their Handwriting, American Educator, 2010
Dysgraphia may occur alone, or with dyslexia. An assessment for dysgraphia, as it relates to dyslexia, is important in order to determine whether children need additional explicit, systematic instruction in handwriting alone; handwriting and spelling; or handwriting, spelling, and written expression, along with word reading and decoding (IDA, 2012).
While it is important for students with dysgraphia to receive the research-based elements of handwriting, spelling, and written language instruction as part of the core curriculum, for those students who require additional supports and services for dysgraphia, instructional decisions must be made by a committee (either ARD or Section 504) that is knowledgeable able the instructional elements and delivery of instruction that is consistent with reserach-based practice.
Delivery of Instruction
The way the content is delivered should be consistent with the principles of effective intervention for students with dysgraphia, including the following:
- Simultaneous, multisensory (VAKT)
- Systematic and cumulative
- Explicit instruction
- Diagnostic teaching to automaticity