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Specific Learning Disorder in Written Expression/Dysgraphia

Updated: Apr 16

A specific learning disorder in written expression impacts a student's ability to communicate through writing

A specific learning disorder in written expression impacts an individual’s ability to share information through writing. These difficulties can be related to differences in how an individual organizes their thoughts and/or shares their thoughts through writing. Differences can be seen as difficulties consistently spelling words correctly, using consistent capitalization and/or punctuation, and/or sharing information in a clear and organized manner. Like other specific learning disorders (like dyslexia), differences in written expression are often first noticed when an individual begins to complete writing and/or spelling tasks. However, writing differences may not be recognized or diagnosed until later as an individual continues to develop their writing skills.

Dysgraphia was a term historically used to describe a specific pattern of writing weaknesses oftentimes related to under-developed fine motor skills. Currently, this pattern of motor-related differences falls under the description of developmental coordination disorder. Developmental coordination disorder impacts an individual’s motor and coordination skills. Motor skills include an individual’s gross motor skills (e.g., ability to ride a bike or kick a ball) and fine motor skills (e.g., ability to button buttons and complete handwriting tasks). Coordination skills include motor planning (e.g., the ability to remember and perform motor-related tasks). Someone is using motor planning skills when they put together different motor movements in order to brush their teeth. Weaknesses in motor planning can result in an individual who appears clumsy. Coordination skills can also refer to things like balance.

An individual may have a specific learning disorder in written expression/dysgraphia if they:

  • Display an awkward pencil grip

  • Include oddly formed letters in their written work

  • Write letters and/or words that are clustered together, too far apart, or not in a straight line

  • Have a difficult time (or others have a difficult time) reading their written work

  • Struggle to consistently spell words correctly

  • Spell words as they sound and have a difficult time memorizing “sight words”

  • Become easily fatigued while writing

  • Have creative ideas for writing and struggle to share these ideas on paper

  • Experience difficulty organizing their written work (e.g., all of the main ideas are included, but the order can make it confusing for the reader)

If your child is struggling with any of these tasks, there are things you can do to help!

  • Have your child complete a psychoeducational evaluation to gain more information about their written expression skills (e.g., this helps to pinpoint areas of strength and difficulty)

  • Consider sharing a copy of this evaluation with your child’s school. Your child may qualify for extra support

  • Additional supports at school may include:

  • Meeting with a writing specialist and/or occupational therapist

  • A quiet room for testing

  • Extra time to complete tests and/or writing assignments

  • In addition to possible support at school, other tools will be helpful

  • Recording lectures

  • Getting notes from the teacher and/or another student

  • Having the option to use a keyboard to type

  • The ability to use speech-to-text options to complete written assignments

  • Having the option to dictate (e.g., verbally say responses) to an adult

  • Consider having your child meet with a tutor

According to Guiding Bright Minds, an advocate for neurodiverse individuals, there are a number of strengths that tend to go hand-in-hand with written expression differences.

  • Strong listening skills

  • Excellent recall of information

  • Great problem solving skills (the ability to figure things out)

  • Superb storytelling skills

Contact us with questions or to schedule an evaluation to help identify written expression differences.

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