A child with a learning disability in writing may have difficulty in the physical act of writing or the mental activity of comprehending and synthesizing information. Children with a basic writing disorder, physically have a difficult time forming words and letters. Children with an expressive writing disability, struggle to organize their thoughts on paper. Symptoms of a written language learning disability often include (a) neatness and consistency of writing, (b) accurately copying letters and words, (c) spelling consistency, and (d) writing organization and coherence.

How SLD Manifests in Writing

An individual that possesses skills that are below those writing skills of their peers, based on the individual’s birth age, cognitive ability, and age-appropriate education may suffer from a learning disability  According to IDEA, the disorder must interfere with academic achievement or activities of daily living that require writing notably.  Written expression is an identified area for eligibility for special education services found under the category of SLD. 


Subtype 1

A disorder that affects graphomotor skills (movements made during writing) and the development of written work. 


Handwriting and spelling are affected to a marked degree
The student may have problems with motor control and  executing specific motor movements. 
Skills that may be affected are letter-writing skills, difficulty with legibility, and delayed automaticity or speed 
Students with dysgraphia may not have reading difficulties.
Student with dysgraphia may do adequately in math but have problems in writing numbers. 
Student may grip the pencil awkwardly
Writing can be illegible
May say words aloud while writing them
Most of the time avoids writing
Becomes fatigued quickly during writing
Slower rates of handwriting speed


Primary Grades:
Have students spend more time writing
Have students spend more time in writing expository text
Teach skills and writing strategies
Encourage students' interests and motivation for writing
Encourage writing between home and school
Use computers as an important part of a writing program and teach keyboarding skills
Use voice recognition software
Teach organization skills
Encourage professional development for teachers -Cutler & Graham (2008).

Middle and High School:
Teach students Self-Regulated Strategy Development
Instruct students in summarizing text
Have students work together to plan, draft, revise, and edit written work
Teach students to set realistic goals for writing
Use computers for writing assignments
Instruct students in the use of sentence-combining activities
Teach prewriting skills
Teach students to analyze concrete information and data for writing activities
Use process writing approaches to combine a number of instructional writing activities
Provide good models  of writing
Use writing as a tool to help in learning content material- Graham and Penn (2007). 

Handwriting Instruction
Provide age-appropriate opportunities to practice handwriting
Use teacher modeling to demonstrate correct letter formation
Use tracing over models to practice letter formation
Provide primary paper with a middle line for younger students' writing activities
Teach D'Nealian style handwriting

Subtype 2

A disorder that affects both reading and spelling. 


May have problems with decoding (word reading)
May have problems with encoding (word spelling)


Spelling words should be presented in lists, not sentences
As students attempt to spell words, they should be encouraged to sound them out slowly
Spelling words should be reviewed frequently and systematically
Analyze students present levels to determine appropriate spelling words
Have students practice writing spelling words from memory rather than writing the words several times
Give special instruction to spelling words that are irregular
When analyzing a student's spelling development, consider his/her primary language.

Subtype 3
Oral Language Impairments

A disorder that affects information expressed through oral language and can also affect written work.


Difficulty expressing thoughts in writing
Difficulty with handwriting/spelling
Due to limited language, may have difficulty in both oral and written expression
If language is not the primary problem, the student will be more capable in oral expression than in written expression.


Introduce activities and tasks by explicitly stating the focus and purpose, what the student is supposed to learn and why.
Provide ample examples of a new concept or skill and relate the new information to what is already known.
When teaching any new process or skill, provide systematic, sequential instruction, ensuring mastery of each skill before moving to a more complex level or a new skill.
When introducing new concepts or information use simple sentence structures and familiar vocabulary as much as possible so that the student can focus attention on the new content.
Draw the student's attention to new concepts, present the information more slowly than you would when speaking about familiar concepts.
When initially presenting new concepts, present the information more slowly than you would when speaking about familiar concepts.
Provide redundancy and repetition in teaching the student any new concept.  Repeat important statements verbatim and explain the concept in a variety of ways.
As much as is feasible, teach new concepts and vocabulary within thematic units so that new learning is interrelated conceptually
The thematic unit provides a consistent framework and familiar context to introduce new concepts and vocabulary.

Woodcock-Johnson III Reports, Recommendations, and Strategies (Jaffe, Mather 2002). 


Flanagan and Alfonso (Eds.) (November, 2011).  Essentials of Specific Learning Disability Identification. Wiley.