Agraphia: The Writing Disability Often Called “Laziness"

By Keren Perles

People with agraphia (or dysgraphia) are often seen as lazy or unmotivated because of their awkward writing skills, but agraphia is actually a learning disability that the smartest students can have. Although agraphia is not the same as dyslexia, it does share certain characteristics.

Agraphia vs. Dyslexia

What is agraphia, and how is it different from dyslexia? Although dyslexia is a common learning disability, few people seem to have heard of agraphia. Dyslexia is a disability that affects the way a person reads, and agraphia (or dysgraphia) affects the way a person writes. Although some people have both dyslexia and agraphia, others exhibit symptoms of only one disability; they have a writing disability but read perfectly, or they have a reading disability, but can write well.

Symptoms of Agraphia

People who suffer from agraphia can have many symptoms, and not all people with agraphia have all of the symptoms. Perhaps the most common symptom is the reluctance towards writing activities, which is due to the fact that writing is so much more difficult for those with agraphia. People who are agraphic often have problems with transposing, omitting, or adding letters to words, and their spelling suffers as a result. In addition, their letters may seem to fly off the lines or be placed haphazardly, and lowercase letters might be interspersed with uppercase letters in a random fashion. People with agraphia often prefer writing in print instead of cursive, and their writing may appear illegible to anyone else.

Many agraphics experience pain in their arm or hand while writing. They may also have muscle spasms while writing, hold a writing implement strangely or in an awkward position, and write very quickly or (more rarely) very slowly.

Possible Interventions for Agraphia

People with agraphia often benefit from using a computer rather than writing by hand. In this way, they can focus on the content and grammar of their writing rather than on actual letter and word formation. Teaching them the stages of writing can also be helpful, as brainstorming or outlining can help them organize their thoughts. For other interventions for agraphia, see the applicable article in this series.