A specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression often remains undiagnosed. It is a persistent difficulty with written expression and/or spelling that may occur in isolation but, more often, occurs in conjunction with a specific learning disorder in reading (dyslexia).
A specific learning disorder in written expression can be defined as:
… a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent written expression and by poor spelling skills. These ongoing delays in activities involving writing are often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.
Students who have a specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression often have to work much harder and longer to produce written work to the same standard as an individual with typically developing writing skills.
In the past, a specific learning disability with impairment in written expression was identified as either a language-based dysgraphia or a motor-based dysgraphia. The term specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression is now the preferred descriptor for language-based difficulties, whereas the term dysgraphia is reserved for motor-based difficulties. In some cases, students present with mechanical handwriting difficulties that may be consistent with motor dysgraphia, or that may be part of a larger pattern of difficulties that meet criteria for developmental coordination disorder (DCD). For further information on the defining features and functional impact of developmental coordination disorder and motor dysgraphia, please see page.
When looking at identifying a specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression, deficits in one or both of the following key academic areas are usually present:
- Difficulties with spelling (e.g. may add, omit or substitute vowels or consonants).
- Difficulties with written expression (e.g. makes multiple grammatical or punctuation errors within sentences; employs poor paragraph organisation; written expression of ideas lacks clarity).
Specific learning disorder in written expression across the school years
Children who have a specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression will show some or many of the difficulties listed below. They may not display all of these characteristics.