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Acquired Dysgraphia: Causes, Diagnosis and Symptoms

written by: Keren Perles•edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas•updated: 12/11/2012

People who have sustained brain damage can often find that they suddenly have difficulty writing well. This problem, called acquired dysgraphia, can be treated – but it is important to recognize the symptoms.

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    Many people have heard of dyslexia, or a learning disability that causes people to have difficulty reading, but few have heard of a similar disability called dysgraphia. Dysgraphia causes people to have difficulty writing, and it can manifest itself in many ways.

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    Developmental dysgraphia – or dysgraphia that occurs in a young child because of no obvious cause or has been present since birth – is discussed much more commonly than acquired dysgraphia. Acquired dysgraphia usually results from brain damage, either from an accident, a severe stroke, or the existence of Alzheimer’s disease.

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    As opposed to developmental dysgraphia, which often goes diagnosed for long periods of time, acquired dysgraphia is often diagnosed relatively easily. Those who have developmental dysgraphia may be seen as lazy or sloppy, whereas the impairments of those who become dysgraphic due to an accident or medical occurrence seem more obvious to those who know them. After all, before the incident they were writing perfectly well, and it is only after the incident that their ability to write has declined. If you suspect acquired dysgaphia in a loved one, seek help immediately.

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    You might suspect that someone you know has dysgraphia if that person shows several of the following symptoms. She may have difficult turning her thoughts into coherent writing, even if she can express them verbally. Her handwriting may seem completely illegible, and the letters may seem disproportionate to each other and may not seem to be in any sort of straight line.

    Difficulty with spelling is another symptom of dysgraphia, and the spelling of people with dysgraphia may seem similar to “invented spelling" that is familiar in kindergarten-level writing. In addition, a person with dysgraphia may tire easily while writing, complaining of hand, arm, or finger pain often. Although one of these symptoms alone may point to another problem, possibly also related to the brain damage, several of these symptoms combined may point to acquired dysgraphia.

What is Dysgraphia?

What is dysgraphia? These series of articles will examine different aspects of dysgraphia, including the differences between developmental and acquired dysgraphia, the connection between dysgraphia and ADHD, and possible interventions for dysgraphia.
  1. Acquired Dysgraphia: Causes, Diagnosis and Symptoms
  2. Agraphia: The Writing Disability Often Called “Laziness"
  3. Dysgraphia: Effective Interventions for Teachers