What Are the Effects of Basic Writing Disabilities on Students?

Causes, Characteristics, and Testing for Writing Disabiltiies

A girl struggles with writing.
What should you know about basic writing disabilittes in students?. JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

What are Basic Writing Disabilities?

Learning disabilities in basic writing skills affect the learner's ability to write words with correct spelling, appropriate word choice and basic mechanics, such as letter formation, grammar and punctuation.

People with learning disabilities in basic writing may not understand the relationship between letters and the sounds they represent and often cannot distinguish the correct written word from the incorrect word.

Learning disabilities in basic writing are also sometimes referred to as dysgraphia. Get the facts on such disorders and how they're treated with this review of basic writing disabilities.

Causes of Basic Writing Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities in writing can have many causes. They may be hereditary, caused by differences in brain development, brain injury or stroke. They are not solely the result of problems with expressive language or receptive language, visual or hearing problems, or hand-eye coordination, but they can be complicated by these conditions.

Characteristics of Learning Disabilities in Writing

Common characteristics of people with learning disabilities in basic writing skills include difficulty completing school work, using writing in everyday situations and being at risk for school failure. They may have difficulty producing letters on paper and may not understand the relationship between letters, words and sounds.

They may also have problems in basic reading because of weaknesses in understanding letter and sound connections.

Weaknesses in fine motor skills requiring special instruction may also be present.

Treatment of Learning Disabilities in Basic Writing

Evaluation of the disability can provide information to help educators develop effective specially designed instruction (SDI).

Typical strategies focus on work with hands-on-materials to help learners develop an awareness of letter forms and their connection to sounds and words. Teachers may also work on language-based aspects of writing, recognition of letter clusters and root words. Occupational therapy can help students who have motor problems.

Misconceptions About Students With Learning Disabilities

All learning disabled students are at-risk for being underestimated by other students, adults, and teachers. People with learning disabilities in basic writing skills have general learning ability or general intelligence that is as high as, or higher than their peers. They simply have a skill deficit in this area of basic writing.

These children may become frustrated because of the effort they must put forth to get their work done. Students may withdraw, avoid writing or may develop behavior problems to elude classwork that involves writing.

These frustrations can be magnified further if adults such as parents and teachers do not understand the source of their frustration. It is very important for adults to understand both this learning disability and the frustration that can arise in order to foster the self-esteem of the child.

Testing for Learning Disabilities in Basic Writing

Diagnostic assessments and writing tests can be used to determine what specific types of problems are affecting the learner's writing skills. Through observations, analyzing student work and cognitive, language and occupational assessment, educators can make recommendations to develop individualized instructional plans.

What to Do About Disabilities in Basic Writing Skills

If you believe you or your child has a learning disability in basic writing, contact your school principal or counselor for information on how to request a referral for an assessment.

For students in college and vocational programs, their school's advising office can assist with finding resources to help ensure their success. Also, college students should ask if there's a writing center on campus that provides one-on-one instruction for students who struggle to write.

Learn more about how to advocate for your learning disability in college. From writing centers, to free tutoring, to scholarships designed only for those with learning disabilities, it is possible to succeed in college. (This is important to understand even if your child is still young and you worry about college in the future.) Don't let learning disabilities keep you out of college!

Sources:

Dohla, D., and S. Heim. Developmental Dyslexia and Dysgraphia: What Can We Learn From the One About the Other?. Frontiers in Psychology. 2016. 6:2045.

Van Hoorn, J., Maathuis, C., and M. Hadders-Algra. Neural Correlates of Paediatric Dysgraphia. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 2013. 55 Suppl 4:65-8.

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