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“What Does That Say?” My Life with Dysgraphia

Illegible handwriting often comes along with ADHD. Here’s how I wrote my own ticket around poor penmanship.

My handwriting sucks. I know it. My friends know it. Now you know it.

Don’t think that it doesn’t bother me. It does. Mightily. There is something deeply embarrassing about scrawling notes that my physician husband can decipher, but I cannot. Take, for instance, my grocery list.

I learned long ago not to trust my handwritten list, so I created a fancy document on the computer that lists the most-purchased items. In a fit of efficiency, I took a field trip to Kroger’s, marching up and down the aisles, taking notes on where items are located. The list was in perfect alignment with the store.

[Self-Test: Could You Have Dysgraphia?]

Each item on the list has a clever little box beside it, so when I run low on steel-cut oatmeal, I pull out my bright blue marker and put a checkmark in the box. I’m (almost) certain to stock up the next time I head to the store. If I remember to pull the list off the refrigerator door where is it attached with magnets. By the way: The magnets are really cool. They look exactly like the dock items on my iMac: Finder, Mail, iCal, and so on.

The system works pretty well. But this week, the computer list needed updating, so I wrote out everything by hand. I had trouble reading the list. I managed to figure out I needed batteries when I saw “batt c.” I knew that “FF carl why” was “Fat-free Cool Whip.” But the “frm spiner” threw me for a loop. I sorted it out after I started making lentil soup and realized I needed “frozen spinach.”

Thank goodness the computer-generated list is now updated and printed, so I am back in business. And my husband Victor-bless him!-stopped by the store tonight so I can finish the soup.

I was surprised to learn that poor handwriting is often associated with ADHD. There are several varieties of handwriting dysfunction; mine combines spatial and motor dysgraphia. Although I was taught cursive writing in school, if I am writing a note that someone else must read, I usually print. It takes forever to get it right. I write and re-write on something as small as a Post-It before it is reasonably legible.

[How to Treat the Symptoms of Dysgraphia]

I’ve talked to friends and people with ADHD who report trouble with handwriting. The general consensus is that our processing speed is so fast that our fingers can’t keep up. We also have trouble with sequencing and organizing lots of details-forming letters is nothing but details. Find out more about dysgraphia at Brain.He. If you’d like a copy of my computer grocery list, drop me an e-mail and I’ll send it out right away.

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