Children with developmental differences may experience difficulties with reading, writing, and navigating the physical world. Understanding more about these potential challenges can help caregivers to support their children and can help them to know when to seek professional assistance.  

A teacher helping her students with class work.

Dysgraphia: Challenges with Written Expression  

Dysgraphia is a neurological disorder characterized by a child's difficulty in expressing themselves through writing. Dysgraphia doesn’t indicate an unwillingness to write properly or a lack of intelligence; it indicates a disconnect between a child’s thoughts and their ability to put them onto paper.  

Signs and Symptoms:  

  1. Poor or inconsistent handwriting 

  2. Difficulty with spelling and organizing letters, numbers, and words on a line or page 

  3. Trouble thinking and writing at the same time, often leading to a slow writing speed  

Therapies and Support for Dysgraphia  

  • Occupational therapy: Focuses on improving fine motor skills and handwriting techniques 

  • Assistive technology: Tools like speech-to-text software or ergonomic writing instruments 

  • Graphic organizers: Help with structuring written work 

  • Customized learning strategies: Tailored teaching methods to suit the child's learning style 

Dyspraxia: Challenges with Navigating the Physical World  

Dyspraxia, also known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD), affects physical coordination. It can make daily activities and fine motor skills a challenge. This condition doesn't affect intelligence, but it can make routine tasks more demanding.  

Signs and Symptoms:  

  1. Difficulties with coordination and balance 

  2. Trouble with tasks requiring fine motor skills, like buttoning a shirt or using utensils 

  3. Delays in reaching motor milestones, like crawling, walking, or tying shoes  

Therapies and Support for Dyspraxia  

  • Physical therapy: Focuses on improving muscle strength, coordination, and balance 

  • Occupational therapy: Helps with daily living skills and fine motor skill development 

  • Sensory integration therapy: Assists in processing sensory information more effectively 

  • Adaptive physical education: Tailored physical education programs in schools 

Dysmetria: Challenges with Judging Distances and Scaling Movements  

Dysmetria is a condition where a child has difficulty judging distances or scaling movements. It's often associated with problems in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that affects coordination.  

Signs and Symptoms:  

  1. Overestimating or underestimating physical distances and movements 

  2. Difficulty with activities that require precise movements, like drawing or catching a ball 

  3. Awkward or uncoordinated movements  

Therapies and Support for Dysmetria:  

  • Physical therapy: Enhances coordination and balance 

  • Occupational therapy: Focuses on fine motor skills and daily activities 

  • Medical care: Addresses underlying neurological disorders 

  • Adaptive equipment: Tools to assist in everyday tasks and movements 

A young child drawing and coloring at home.

Dyslexia: Challenges with Reading and Writing 

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that primarily affects reading and writing skills. It doesn't reflect a child's intelligence or effort; rather, it indicates a specific challenge with language processing. Children with dyslexia see and interpret words and letters differently, making reading and writing more complex. For example, a child with dyslexia might read a “b” as a “d,” and vice versa.  

Signs and Symptoms: 

  1. Difficulty reading, often reading at a level lower than expected for their age 

  2. Problems processing and understanding what they hear 

  3. Difficulty forming answers to questions, even when they understand the topic 

  4. Challenges in spelling and organizing their ideas in writing 

  5. Avoiding activities that involve reading 

Therapies and Support for Dyslexia 

  • Structured literacy programs: Teach phonetics and the connection between sounds and letters 

  • Multisensory teaching techniques: Involve sight, hearing, and touch to enhance learning 

  • Speech therapy: Focuses on phonological awareness and processing 

  • Reading interventions: Tailored programs to improve reading skills 

  • Technology aids: Text-to-speech software and audiobooks