Selective memory loss for letters

by CEB

I am not going to ask for medical answers, but have you ever HEARD of a case where someone could not remember how to make letters, while still being able to read, and type? She also told me she forgets left and right but i have done that all my life so that concerns me less.

She does have short term memory loss very badly in other areas, (forgot a friends name she has known for ten years... knew WHO it was, just not what they were called...) and has been on antidepressants for a long time, but this one just scares me.. it seems like this would be more organic than not (tumor, stroke... something else horrible)?

Yes, she has gone to a doctor and is supposedly waiting for answers, but.. I am just wondering if you have ever heard of something like this? It seems unlikely that she has alzheimers - under fifty - no family history - other signs do not seem to match what I have seen and read about. and no, I do not think she is making it up either.

Doug's Reply: The symptoms you describe remind me of "dysgraphia", a learning disability sometimes seen together with dyslexia. Individuals with dysgraphia have trouble remembering how to write letters even though they may be able to read, type on a keyboard, etc.

An important consideration when determining the cause is whether she has had this difficulty all her life or whether it is something new. According to Wikipedia, "The cause of dysgraphia is unknown but whenever it occurs in an adult, it is usually caused by head trauma, some types of diseases, or brain damage."

If life-long, does she have a parent or close relative with the same problem (although you mentioned there is no family history)? If so, there may be a genetic component, as with Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, or variants of autism such as Asperger's Syndrome.

Here are a few more facts about dysgraphia:

- "Dysgraphia is defined as trouble automatically remembering and mastering the sequence of muscle movements needed to write letters and/or numbers...." (

- "It creates the mix up of the sizes and shapes of letters, makes one forget letters all together, and generally makes one struggle with communication through handwriting." (

- "A case of pure dysgraphia is presented in which the patient could accurately copy letters which she could not write.... The writing impairment, which was bilateral, appeared to consist of a memory difficulty for the motor movements associated with letters." (

- "Treatment for dysgraphia varies and may include treatment for motor disorders to help control writing movements. Other treatments may address impaired memory or other neurological problems. Some physicians recommend that individuals with dysgraphia use computers to avoid the problems of handwriting." (

I am not saying your friend has dysgraphia. Only a physician can make that determination. But if I were her, I would consider asking my doctor to include both dysgraphia and dyslexia in the differential diagnosis.

Best regards,

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