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What Is the Difference between Dyslexia and Dysgraphia?

By Alicia Sparks
Updated May 17, 2024
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Dyslexia and dysgraphia are neurological-based disorders, but dyslexia is considered a reading and comprehension disability while dysgraphia is considered a writing disability. Both disorders tend to appear during childhood, though certain circumstances can delay a diagnosis or even cause the disorder to develop later in life. Physicians use a variety of means to diagnose these disorders, and typically treatment is based on each individual’s circumstances. Although treatment can help manage and prevent the worsening of the disorders, the effects of the disorders can persist through life for some people.

Although dyslexia and dysgraphia are both neurological-related disorders, they are characterized by different symptoms and challenges. Dyslexia is categorized by the reading disabilities it introduces, and usually causes the patient to have difficulties understanding sentence content, recognizing written words, and even rhyming. Dysgraphia, on the other hand, can affect the patient’s fine motor skills, causing his handwriting to be “sloppy” or even unintelligible. Both dysgraphia and dyslexia are considered learning disorders, but neither is considered an intellectual disorder.

While dyslexia and dysgraphia tend to show up during childhood, there are individual circumstances and exceptions. For example, many children with dyslexia go undiagnosed for years, often because they’ve been misdiagnosed with other kinds of learning disabilities or even behavioral problems. This means a child could grow into a teen or even adult before receiving an accurate diagnosis. At the same time, adults can develop dysgraphia after experiencing some sort of trauma in their lives. When this happens, the disorder is often referred to as agraphia.

Generally, to diagnose either one of these conditions, physicians use a combination of medical and neurological exams and questions about social, school, and developmental performances. Since the disorders, especially dyslexia, can run in families, physicians typically ask about any family history, too. Furthermore, research-supported assessment tools exist to diagnose dyslexia and dysgraphia. Even so, diagnosing the disorders can be difficult and requires an experienced physician and patience. Since both conditions can be present with other related disorders, and sometimes together, the physician might perform additional tests.

Similar to other learning disorders, treatment for dyslexia and dysgraphia depends on the individual. Generally, people with dyslexia enroll in special classes and receive remedial instruction. Since the teachers specialize in the kinds of challenges reading disabilities present, such classes can be extremely beneficial. Too, these teachers typically have more time than regular classroom teachers to devote to the special needs of students with dyslexia. Although the reading and comprehension problems associated with dyslexia can persist for life, the kinds of remedial instruction affected students receive can help them better cope with and manage the disorder.

People with dysgraphia, however, tend to receive treatment designed for neurological problems such as impaired memory or motor disorders. They might also receive occupational therapy to help strengthen muscles, improve dexterity, and develop hand-eye coordination. For some, treatment helps improve their handwriting, or at least prevents it from worsening. For others, dysgraphia persists. Depending on the patient’s severity and receptiveness to treatment, his physician might recommend he replace writing with typing when possible.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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