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Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, and Dyscalculia: What’s the Difference?

Dysgraphia, dyslexia and dyscalculia are forms of neurodivergence that are also categorized as learning disabilities. While each of these conditions give individuals a unique way of thinking and seeing the world, they can also significantly impact a person’s ability to learn in traditional classroom and workplace settings. 

Dysgraphia affects handwriting ability.

Dyslexia affects reading, writing and spelling abilities.

And as the name suggests, dyscalculia affects numeric and math skills. 

All three of these conditions manifest differently between each individual, making it difficult to diagnose or treat them. In this article, we’ll examine the causes, signs and symptoms of these three conditions, as well as the ways to manage the symptoms. 

We’ll also discuss ways these conditions show up differently in children and adults who have been diagnosed with one or more of these disabilities. By providing readers with this information, we hope to create understanding about these conditions in order to better support those who are affected by them. Let’s dive in:

What is Dysgraphia?

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder that affects an individual's writing skills and abilities. The symptoms of dysgraphia vary depending on the individual and the severity of the disorder. Some common signs include: 

  • Poor handwriting
  • Difficulty forming words correctly
  • Confusion between letters and numbers
  • Difficulty in organizing written thoughts and ideas
  • Problems with spelling
  • Inability to write neatly or quickly
  • Trouble staying within the lines on paper
  • Trouble following the rules of grammar when writing
  • Struggling to comprehend written instructions or text.

Dysgraphia sometimes happens as a result of physical impairments such as paralysis or muscle weakness, or it can be a learning disability. Dysgraphia can affect anyone, regardless of age or educational level.

Treatment is tailored to each individual and can involve a range of strategies and accommodations:

  • Using assistive technology such as spell checkers, dictation software, and graphic organizers 
  • Being provided with additional time to complete written tasks
  • Being taught strategies such as chunking information
  • Providing verbal instructions in addition to written ones
  • Occupational therapy to help improve spatial and motor skills 

Understanding and recognizing the signs of dysgraphia is important in helping individuals cope with the challenges they face. It’s also important to remember that dysgraphia can be a lifelong struggle, so patience and understanding are key. With the right support, people with dysgraphia can still achieve success in school, work, and life.

What is Dyslexia?

Similar to dysgraphia, dyslexia is a learning disability that affects an individual's ability to spell and write. However, it differs from dysgraphia in that it also relates to how a person reads. It’s characterized by difficulty decoding written words, making it difficult to comprehend text. People with dyslexia may also struggle with other language-based tasks such as writing essays, taking notes in class, or understanding instructions. 

It’s important to note that dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence or laziness; it’s a language-based learning disability that requires specialized instruction and accommodations. It’s estimated that up to 10% of the population has dyslexia and it can affect people of any age and educational level.

The symptoms of dyslexia vary depending on the individual, but can include:

  • Problems with reading comprehension
  • Difficulty remembering spellings
  • Trouble writing and organizing thoughts
  • Reversing letters or numbers when reading or writing
  • Confusion between words that sound similar

Treatment for dyslexia involves a range of strategies such as phonics instruction, use of technology and assistive devices, and specialized tutoring. Additionally, providing accommodations in the classroom can help students with dyslexia access material more easily and succeed academically. With proper assessment, support, and intervention, people with dyslexia can increase their self-confidence and improve their academic or work performance.

What is Dyscalculia?

Dyscalculia is a learning disability that affects an individual’s ability to comprehend and manipulate numerical concepts. It’s characterized by:

  • Difficulty understanding basic math concepts and symbols like + - × ÷ etc.
  • Poor memory for arithmetic facts
  • Struggling to understand abstract concepts like fractions and decimals
  • Difficulty remembering facts, formulas, or sequences of numbers/operations 
  • Trouble solving word problems
  • Difficulty counting objects or recognizing patterns
  • Difficulty understanding instructions

Similar to the above disabilities, dyscalculia is not a sign of low intelligence; rather it’s an issue with perceiving or processing mathematical information in the brain. People with dyscalculia may struggle to develop an intuitive sense of numbers and can have trouble with everyday tasks such as balancing a checkbook or calculating percentages.

Treatment for dyscalculia involves a range of strategies such as providing visual cues to help with counting or recognizing sequences, using tactical “manipulatives” such as blocks or coins to help the brain process mathematical concepts, and practicing math facts regularly. It’s also helpful to break tasks into smaller steps, provide verbal instruction in addition to written ones, and offer alternative methods of demonstrating knowledge (for example allowing students to create a poster or use manipulatives to demonstrate understanding of a concept). 

Providing these accommodations in the classroom can help students with dyscalculia access material more easily and succeed.

Next steps 

Remember: there are shifts and accommodations that can significantly improve the lives of those who struggle with dysgraphia, dyslexia, and dyscalculia! If you or someone you know struggles with these conditions, patience and compassion is key.

We’re proud to be sharing a wide range of mental health perspectives from discussing neurological disorders like these to uncovering the best sensory-friendly products for highly sensitive people (HSPs), and more. 

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