What is Agraphia?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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Though able to read, some people cannot write due to a condition known as agraphia. Also known as dysgraphia, the writing deficiency is not an intellectual disability. It is instead a condition often based on lack of certain fine motor skills, usually due to congenital factors or neurological trauma.

A writing disorder, dysgraphia is not simply messy handwriting or sloppy spelling. It is, rather, a medical disorder in which a person's writing skills are below their age level despite receiving an age-appropriate education. A person with dysgraphia has writing abilities well below his or her own measured intelligence level.

Dysgraphia usually becomes evident during early childhood when children are learning to write. While writing, children with dysgraphia may write with varied sizes, abnormal spacing between letters, or incorrect words. Though other learning disabilities can be present in a child with agraphia, social disorders and other academic issues are usually not a concern with these children. Children born with the disorder typically have many other dysgraphics in their families, usually including a close relative or parent.

Adults who suffer from dysgraphia who were not born with the disorder typically do so following a head injury. Brain disease or brain damage can also result in the condition. People with autism, Tourette syndrome, or Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may also have agraphia.


People with agraphia can typically write on some level. Few agraphia victims cannot write at all. Many people with the disorder lack other fine motor abilities as well, such as tying shoes. Agraphia does not, however, usually affect all fine motor skills, and some victims may actually have reduced or no difficulty when typing on a computer.

Three main types of dysgraphia exist. Dyslexic dysgraphia is present in people who can copy words legibly, but write and spell poorly on their own. People with motor dysgraphia may have a larger problem at the root of their illegible writing, which is often due to poor muscle tone, deficient fine motor skills, or poor dexterity. Spatial dysgraphia occurs in people who do not have the ability to understand letter spacing, and does not usually affect spelling abilities.

Basic spelling and grammar skills, particularly with certain letters, is also common in cases of dysgraphia. Many people with the disorder write out words other than the ones they intend to write on paper. People with dysgraphia also suffer from high levels of stress due to frustration with their writing skills. Agraphia treatment generally includes memory exercises, occupational therapy, neurological therapy, motor disorder exercises, and use of computers to avoid handwriting.


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