Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Dysgraphia as Isolated Spelling Disorder

Spelling-based dysgraphia may be one of the most commonly missed disabilities. Students with poor spelling are written off as ignorant or slow, though they may be quite bright. Prejudice about spelling as a disability has caused some gifted students to be excluded from gifted classes, others to be held back a grades, or worse, denied opportunities to graduate. Standardized tests rarely specifically accommodate for spelling and the additional writing components to state required tests or college entrance exams will only make matters worse.

Because the situation regarding spelling disabilities is the way it is, occasional reports like the one below are valuable. It's reports the case of a woman who developed spelling problems after a heart attack. The importance for us is that is shows that focal brain injury can result in a focal spelling disability. This former secretary had excellent sentence copy, comprehension, working memory, spontaneous speech, and reading, but she couldn't write well to dictation. She probably would have problems with spontaneous writing as well.

Surprisingly, even school professionals have been confused about whether dysgraphia exists if a student can copies sentences well. For some reason, dysgraphia hasn't gotten as much attention as other learning disabilities.

Spelling difficulties may be due to problems with phonology (the sounds that make up words), weakness of visual word form (visual memory for words), or general weaknesses in working memory. Most often spelling disabilities are seen in association with dyslexia, but they can also be seen in the setting of focal brain injury, premature birth, or head trauma.

Isolated Spelling Disability from Brain Injury

16 comments:

  1. i cannot find any information that would support the fact that my profoundly dyslexic son can now read at grade level but his extremely bad dysgraphia and horrible spelling have not improved at all. is is possible that his spelling might never improve?

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    1. hay do not worry, I have problem with dysgraphia to. with out help of spell check i cannot write properly. It will improve by age. It was much worse in my child hood now its much better.
      I have engineering degree in IT, have two masters (MS MBA). just support u r kid and help him not to loose confidence.

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    2. I have to disagree with bharath. I believe that it takes more then just support. I'm 16 I have dysgraphia as well though it's mainly with spelling now. Chances are he will always have a bit of trouble with it but with work it will definitely improve. Depending on how old he is different tactics will work. If he is old enough I would recommend getting him to start typing anything that he can. Turn on a spell checker so that he realizes when he spells a word wrong, but have him finish writing before he goes back and edits the words. See if there are any words that are constantly misspelled.
      Another thing that really helped me was writing aloud. If his teacher will let him try getting him to either say the words he's writing or how to spell each word out loud. This helped to me catch when I was missing letters or entire words.
      As a final note, I think the most important is constant writing, reading and editing. I used to avoid writing because not only was I embarrassed because of my spelling, but also because of the dysgraphia I would get painful hand cramps really quickly. But once I started writing more, both long hand and on the computer, my spelling quickly began to improve. Reading can sometimes help, though not always. And if he has to edit an assignment, doing it together or having him look through it fist really helps. Maybe instead of editing the paper and giving him the correct spelling (if you do) try just underlining the misspelled words and having him look them up in a dictionary. Overall, like bharath said, give him support. Don't ever let him think that because he can't spell out his ideas, they aren't worthy of being written down.
      I hope I helped!
      Olivia

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    3. This is amazingly helpful and encouraging. Thank you for specific intervention ideas!

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    4. This is amazingly helpful and encouraging. Thank you for specific intervention ideas!

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    5. I am 47 and have had dysgraphia all my life. I still have problems but have managed to improve greatly. It is important to get focused help early and learn to work on self-esteem. I grew up thinking I was stupid and learned at the age of 24 that I was actually pretty bright. At 25 I started college and made straight As, then went on to law school. I am a practicing attorney now and very happy. I still can not spell as well as I would like, but thank god for spell check.

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  2. i cannot find any information that would support the fact that my profoundly dyslexic son can now read at grade level but his extremely bad dysgraphia and horrible spelling have not improved at all. is is possible that his spelling might never improve?

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  3. Look at our chapter on Dyslexia in our book The Mislabeled Child. Look at the table in that chapter as well as the sections on Spelling.

    Spelling can be helped tremendously, but first it's best if you, a teacher, or other professional can help identify the specific issues that are contributing to the spelling difficulties. For instance, is he not hearing all the sounds within words? Or does he have trouble seeing or remembering all the letters that make up the words?

    Pinpointing the exact problem will avoid much wasted time and labor.

    Spelling improvement often requires a significant amount of work on the part of the student, but adopting a specific strategy results in much quicker improvement.

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  4. Anonymous2:40 PM

    I am a teacher who needs to help a student who has been diagnosed with "focal dysgraphia." I am having a difficult time finding what kinds of interventions I should use for this student as well as exactly what this is. Can you lead me to some resources that can help me to effectively work with this 15 year old student?

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  5. The Writing chapter in our book The Mislabeled Child might point you in the right direction. The first step is figuring out why he / she is dysgraphic.

    By the time a student is 16, usually accommodations and keyboarding / software programs are needed.

    For dyslexic students, word prediction software like WriteOutloud (from donjohnston.com) can be essential.

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  6. Anonymous9:20 PM

    i am 40 can have a very hard time reading writing and spelling not sure why i am also very accomplished and have a way above average IQ.

    i can read complex material but have a hard time reading out loud.

    i use to study and study and could memorize how to spell words for a very short period of time but would forget them very quickly.

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    1. I am the same as you. I am 31, accomplished with a higher than average IQ, but I am a very poor speller, and I am very poor at grammar. I also, fumble over my words if I try to read aloud. I use to study so hard for spelling tests in grade school and still always fall them. I was so bad at spelling that they almost put me in special ed classes, and I didn't find out I had a learning disability until middle school. Luckily my parents were able to hire a private tutor, who helped me catch back up with the other students, and I was able to graduate top of my class. (But my spelling is still awful).

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    2. I am the same as you. I am 31, accomplished with a higher than average IQ, but I am a very poor speller, and I am very poor at grammar. I also, fumble over my words if I try to read aloud. I use to study so hard for spelling tests in grade school and still always fall them. I was so bad at spelling that they almost put me in special ed classes, and I didn't find out I had a learning disability until middle school. Luckily my parents were able to hire a private tutor, who helped me catch back up with the other students, and I was able to graduate top of my class. (But my spelling is still awful).

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  7. You might want to look into the possibility of "stealth dyslexia" - among high IQ people, dyslexia often presents with slow read aloud and spelling problems.

    You may find the community at Dyslexic Advantage interesting and helpful. It is free, but you need to sign in (takes seconds).

    Best wishes.

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  8. My son was slow to learn to read but after interventions is now reading at a 10th grade level in 4th grade. He cannot spell. I keep waiting for him to start spelling well, but have recently become alarmed as I watch his 6yr old brother learn to read and spell concurrently. He recently tested at the 99th percentile on standardized tests, yet he cannot spell simple words he's read thousands of times. Any ideas?

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  9. im 18 and all my life I have had problems in wrighting through my life I have always struggled although I have come very far. my school tried to keep me out of honers classes I have had schools try to deny me rights and even disregared my IEP because they couldn't see a specific disorder or said I was to high functioning to have a learning disability. I have aways had a processing disorder but very few people have been able to understand my problems with wrighting machanics. for the past 12 years I have fought people to try to recognize my learning disability and it wasn't until now that I am able to put a definitan to what I suffer from. I have an IEP meeting coming up and this will really help me to get people to understand that I do have a disability and need help. its funny because all my life I have had to prove im not stupid and the past four years I have had to prove that im not to smart to suffer from a learning disability in wirghting. this really does help a lot you have no idea how thankful I am.

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