Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Written Expression - Dysgraphia

Producing written text is a complex process requiring the carefully coordinated interaction between motor processes (such as handwriting) and many language and literacy processes. 

Difficulties in written expression can be linked to a range of factors.  These can include:

·         Motor coordination issues that make the process of handwriting more challenging – Dysgraphia addressed by an Occupational Therapist

·         Language processing issues that make it harder for students to organise their thoughts whilst writing - Specific Learning Disorder with an impairment in written expression

·         A combination of motor coordination and language processing issues. 

When students experience ongoing struggles with spelling and expressing themselves through writing, despite additional support and intervention, it is possible that these students have a specific learning disorder with impairment in written expression. This has been commonly referred to as Dysgraphia however the terminology used within the DSM-5 is referred to by our psychologists in their reports i.e. Specific Learning Disorder with Impairment in Written Expression.

What you might see in the classroom.

Pre/Lower Primary School Mid/Upper Primary School Secondary School
  • Reading appears adequate but difficulties with writing are apparent
  • Avoids writing tasks
  • Poor spelling
  • Difficulties learning basic sentence structure and grammar
  • Writing is slow and laborious
  • Difficulties are more apparent as demands on writing ability increase through middle and upper primary school
  • Process of writing is effortful and tiring
  • Poor knowledge of writing conventions, such as punctuation, as well as lack of automaticity in spelling
  • Difficulty choosing correct spelling alternatives
  • Sentence and paragraph structure is poor
  • Inconsistency between verbal ability and written skills
  • Difficulties writing at the same speed as their peers
  • Great difficulties noted in transferring thoughts into written words
  • Apparent gap between oral and written language skills
  • Knowledge and application of essay structure is underdeveloped
  • Lack of detail in written expression
  • Written output is limited with far less work being produced in allocated writing time
  • Writing and spelling skills do not appear automatic
  • Poor spelling, including lack of knowledge of patterns in words and morphological knowledge (affixes and base words)



Information reproduced from AUSPELD Understanding Learning Difficulties: A practical guide (Revised edition).