Learning Disability with Impairment in Written Expression

Last Updated: 28/10/2013

A learning disability with impairment in written expression (formerly known as Dysgraphia) is the inability to write primarily referring to handwriting, but also in terms of coherence. Dysgraphia represents with impaired handwriting, may impact orthographic encoding, and other fine motor skills which may be similar to writing in spite of average to above-average intelligence. This "writing disability" in no way impairs the logical thought process. 

A learning disability with impairment in written expression occurs when there is an issue in the areas of the brain that manage orthographic encoding and is not, in fact, caused by visual impairments. While a disorder which affects the ability to write, Dysgraphia in no way impairs the ability to think or understand complex ideas.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of a learning disability with impairment in written expression do not show significant change as the individual ages. According to the DSM-V, young children, elementary-age children, adolescents, and adults tend to exhibit similar difficulties, including:

  • Spelling accuracy
  • Grammar and punctuation accuracy
  • Clarity or organization of written expression

A learning disability with impairment in written expression, like all Learning Disabilities, impacts upon all aspects of an individual's life. Learning Disabilities are present in all ethnic and language groups, and may disrupt a child’s home life, education, behavior, and social life. At home, children with a learning disability with impairment in written expression face many of the same difficulties they do in school. Avoidance of written tasks may result in missed phone messages, frustration may arise from inability to complete homework, and physical pain related to motor function may impact negatively upon home life. At school, they have trouble completing written class work and assignments, often become frustrated with art tasks, and may miss valuable information due to inability to keep pace when taking notes. 

An assessment is a necessary step before decisions can be made about accommodation and eligibility for services. The diagnosis of a learning disability with impairment in written expression, as with most Learning Disabilities, is usually based on the observation of behaviors. The criteria for these behaviors are described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition Revised (DSM-V-TR) (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

1. New Brunswick Department of Education, "Resource for the Identification and Teaching of Students with Specific Learning Disability" 1999.

2. American Psychiatric Association, "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition (Arlington, VA, 2013), 67.



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