The History of Dysgraphia

You may have heard of dyslexia, but you probably don’t know about dysgraphia—a little-known writing disability. What is known about the history of dysgraphia is that this term, which goes back nearly seven decades, refers to a disorder where children and adults alike have problems writing—everything from size of letters to spacing between letters and spelling.


“Dysgraphia” comes from two Greek words. “Dys” means “difficulty with” or “poor,” while “graph” is Greek for “writing,” according to the Swindon Dyslexia Centre, a United Kingdom-based organization dedicated to helping people with dyslexia and other specific learning problems.


The name really got its start from “agraphia,” a term coined in the 1940s by Austrian doctor Josef Gerstmann. H. Joseph Horacek, in his book “Brainstorms,” describes that the condition Gerstmann named refers to a complete inability to write. He linked this inability to brain trauma, resulting from an accident or injury.


Unlike agraphia, dysgraphia sufferers can write; they just can’t do it well. Its sufferers also span the old and the young, according to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, which is a collection of mental disorders observed in children and adults, hasn’t yet recognized the term dsygraphia. Horacek says DSM lists a disorder that comes close, though, to the characteristics seen in those with dysgraphia, DSM calls it “a disorder of written expression.”


The NINDS reports that adult dysgraphia sufferers usually sustain damage to the parietal lobe of the brain and children with dysgraphia usually have other learning disabilities. Horacek says that in some children, they become so consumed about making sure they are holding the pencil steady that they forget what they are writing about in the first place. Their focus on controlling their hand consumes the details involved with properly forming letters.

You may have heard of dyslexia