I often have parents discuss with me the confusion they feel regarding the diagnosis of a Specific Learning Disorder that their child may have and its impact on learning. One issue of potential misunderstanding is that Reading Disorder, Math’s Disorder and Written Expression Disorder are often referred to by alternative terms.
It is often acknowledged that the Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in written expression), also referred to as dysgraphia, can often be interpreted in a number of different ways. In clinical practice, dysgraphia can often either be motor-based (difficulties with fine motor skills which is treated by occupational therapists) or language-based. This section will be focusing on the latter.
A key component of the Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in written expression) is that the learning difficulties are unexpected since other aspects of your child’s development may appear within normal range.
For a diagnosis of the disorder, a child’s written expression and/or spelling accuracy must be substantially lower than their same-age peers. Furthermore, this must be specific and is not the consequence of an intellectual disability, hearing or visual impairment or other neurological or motor disorders.
If your child suffers from this disorder, they are likely to have significant difficulty with the process of writing and often finds it effortful and tiring. They may demonstrate poor sentence and paragraph structure. Moreover, they may have difficulty choosing the correct spelling alternatives or demonstrate difficulties spelling in context. Furthermore, it is likely that your child will demonstrate a significantly better verbal ability than written ability. It is also likely that your child’s difficulties become more apparent as the demands on writing ability increase through middle and upper primary school.
There are a number of ways we can assist a child with a Specific Learning Disorder (with impairment in written expression) depending on their age and writing ability. For instance, if your child has difficulties with written expression, providing extra writing time and allowing rests when extended writing is required can be useful. It can also be useful to allow work to be produced on a word processor, with spell-checker and grammar checker available.
Furthermore, as your child becomes older using a suitable software program to organise ideas for written work can be beneficial. Your child may also be assisted by providing them with writing guidelines and paragraph headings to support extended structured writing. Proving a template of a story can assist your child become familiar with story construction.
Lastly, if you believe that your child has significant difficulties with their written expression, a learning difficulties assessment administered in an educational psychology clinic can assist you in understanding your child’s ability. A psychologist can also provide recommendations to assist your child in fulfil their written expression potential.