Kelli Fetter, M.S., OTR/L

Dysgraphia: An Occupational Therapy Consideration in Handwriting

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Welcome to guest blogger!

Kelli Fetter, M.S., OTR/L

Aspire OT is always excited to celebrate OTs, OTAs, and students who make an impact. Kelli Fetter is an occupational therapist, entrepreneur, Certified Handwriting Specialist and Aspire OT Instructor.   In this blog, Kelli discusses specific learning disorders, explains what dysgraphia is and  the signs of dysgraphia. 

Most people at this point have heard of dyslexia, and many know that dyslexia is not “seeing words backward.” Dyslexia is officially defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual as “a specific learning disorder in reading.” As you know, it is much more than “reading backwards” (though visual and oculomotor skills should be assessed) as it involves the phonemic awareness and phonological processing required for learning to break down words sounds to read. 

You also may know that there are two other counterparts to Specific Learning Disorders: Dysgraphia and Dyscalculia. The first, dysgraphia, is described as “a specific learning disorder in written expression” and the latter, dyscalculia, is “a specific learning disorder in arithmetic.” To put it in simple terms, learning disorders can be subdivided into 3 categories: reading, writing, and math. 

For now, let’s focus on the learning disorder in written expression. Dysgraphia (or disorder of written expression) impacts both the ability to physically write as well as the thought processes that go into writing. Basically, our brain generates the ideas and thoughts for writing, then directs the hand to produce the written output. When someone has dysgraphia, the neural connections (within the brain and body) for this process may be slower or disrupted as various areas of the brain are being recruited ineffectively or inefficiently. Dysgraphia can impact the physical act of holding a pencil and forming letters as well as the process of organizing our plethora of thoughts in our brain to form sentences and write these thoughts onto paper. As OT practitioners we ALL know SO much goes into the act of writing! 

If you have a student experiencing some of these symptoms, a dysgraphia diagnosis will need to be ruled out: 
-fatigue when writing,  
-poor handwriting legibility,  
-difficulty with initiation of writing,  
-incorrect spelling or sentence skills,  
-slow labored writing,  
-awkward hand positions when writing,  
-omitting letters/words in sentences,  
-frustration with writing tasks. 
This is just a brief list of the signs and symptoms of dysgraphia as it can present differently in each individual. A neuropsychologist or educational psychologist can provide a diagnosis, ideally seeking input from OT practitioners as we are the handwriting experts and can dig deeper into the child’s fine motor skills, visual perception and oculomotor skills, gross motor skills, overall motor planning and organization, cognition, and other aspects that impact writing. 
Instructor bio
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Kelli L. Fetter, M.S., OTR/L
Aspire OT Instructor

Kelli Fetter is an Occupational Therapist and Certified Handwriting Specialist. She formerly practiced OT for 10+ years and has extensive experience in pediatrics and more recently learning differences, including dysgraphia. She is trained in Handwriting Without Tears curriculum, Size Matters Program, and Because Neatness Matters Handwriting Programs and has specialized knowledge with Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, ADHD, Autism, Developmental Disabilities, and more. She also has personal experience as a parent of a child with dyslexia and dysgraphia, which has led to her passion in helping children who are struggling with academics. Kelli has experience as an adjunct professor teaching pediatric and kinesiology courses in an occupational therapy assistant program. Kelli is the owner of Handwriting Solutions, which is a resource for families who need handwriting support.
Financial: Kelli is compensated as an Aspire OT instructor. Kelli is the owner/operator of Handwriting Solutions
Non Financial: There are no disclosures.
check out Kelli's self paced course

OT's Role in Dysgraphia & Specific Learning Disabilities in Handwriting

2.0 Contact hours, 0.20 CEU 
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