Dysgraphia examples in kids, don’t always look the way you would expect them to in real life. A quick look into dygraphia will tell you it’s “messy handwriting” or difficulty with the handwriting process, but the way it actually presents is so much more broad and complicated. Messy handwriting is only one very small and tiny piece of this puzzle. In fact I don’t think a puzzle is the right reference. The messy handwriting is like the center cog of a wheel and from it, issues grow and spread, often masking the source around which it all spins.
One of the most common dysgraphia examples from the classroom setting, the one I hear over and over again from children and adults, is that they were labeled as lazy, lacking motivation and accused of not trying hard enough. The thing is, in order to do even brief handwriting assignments these children are working so much harder than their peers. It’s an extremely unfair and inaccurate accusation against those with dysgraphia. Can you imagine trying so hard, every day, and having the people you trust and admire criticize you and accuse you? It would be heartbreaking.
Despite working extra hard on assignments, these children struggle to complete their assignments. They simply can’t keep up if they need to complete worksheets and hand written assignments. Despite knowing the material, they fall behind. This is when the accusations often start about laziness or not working hard enough. In grade 2 my son’s teacher gave me a folder filled with blank worksheets at the end of the school year. When I asked what it was for, he said, “that’s all the worksheets he didn’t complete this year.” It was the first time this issue was being brought to our attention.
From here we often see children start to become frustrated and anxious in the school environment. My oldest son developed such a severe anxiety disorder in the classroom that he started having ticks. He lost a ton of weight and no matter how much we fed him, struggled to keep him at a healthy weight. He became irritable and frustrated.
He knew the material, he just couldn’t convey it in the way required by the classroom… written.
Due to his young age he wasn’t able to tell us how hard writing was for him. He was too young to have that level of self-awareness and insight. He relied on the adults around him to identify his struggles. Instead he was labeled as disruptive, lacking focus and unmotivated. One teacher even tried to say he had ADHD even though his psychologist had already ruled out ADHD. The teacher just could not understand how all the behaviours linked together in our dysgraphia wheel.
My husband tells stories about how he became the class clown. Basically anything to avoid writing and doing assignments. To this day he hates to fill out written forms, preferring to do all of his work on the computer.
Due to the various struggles, accusations and judgments based on their handwriting, people with dysgraphia often feel stupid even though they are often quite bright. In fact, there seems to be a large number of high IQ people that struggle with dysgraphia. It’s as if their brains work much too fast and their hands can’t keep up. These bright students are being judged in a way that is unfair. After trying so hard they are told repeatedly that they simply aren’t trying hard enough. It undermines their entire sense of self and self-belief. Eventually these people can start to develop issues with depression and other forms of mental illness.
No one wants to be accused of being stupid or lazy, those are horrible adjectives to place on anyone. So many of these children start acting out, avoiding written assignments and crafts, and generally behaving badly. They are getting into trouble already when they try their hardest, so why would they keep trying?
Other dysgraphia examples can be found by looking at a child’s ability to do crafts. Many elementary schools rely heavily on crafts which they then put up on the walls for everyone to see. This leads to many of these children facing ridicule and bullying from peers who see their messy writing and poorly constructed crafts. My son faced intense bullying and mocking due to this exact situation. So he stopped doing crafts. He discovered the teacher didn’t have time to monitor the whole class, so if he didn’t complete the craft the teacher rarely did anything about it. This allowed him to avoid ridicule.
My son may have avoided the bullying and ridicule, but not doing the projects and participating in class, made him feel like a failure and a horrible student. He felt stupid and useless. I hated hearing him utter those words.
Many children with dysgraphia struggle with other fine motor skills as well, such as shoelace tying, opening containers and even building Legos. My son loves building with Lego, but he builds his own designs because the kits often require assembly that is a real struggle for him. When he can do his own thing, he can work around his limitations and still create something special.
Dysgraphia examples in kids are something I find fascinating. They are richly layered and complicated. If you suspect a child is struggling with dysgraphia, remove all writing and fine motor work from an activity. How does the child do? Are they suddenly engaged, animated and articulate on the subject? Does a child that is constantly moving and lacking focus, suddenly become keenly involved and dedicated to their work with a laser focus? If all the struggles suddenly fade away and you start to see a child shine again once handwriting is removed from the picture, then you might have some real life dysgraphia examples right in front of you.
Learn more about dysgraphia in the series What is Dysgraphia?