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Basic Writing Disabilities and Learning Disabilities

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Updated June 19, 2014

A Student Taking a Test

Writing Learning Disabilities

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Learning Disabilities in Basic Writing Skills:

Disabilities in basic writing 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 LDs 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.

Causes of Basic Writing Learning Disabilities:

Learning Disabilities in writing may be hereditary, caused by differences in brain development, brain injury, or stroke. They are not solely the result of problems with expressive 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 are 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 basic reading because of weaknesses in understanding letter/sound connections.

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

Treatment of Learning Disabilities in Basic Writing:

Evaluation can provide information to help educators develop effective specially designed instruction. 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 LDs in basic writing skills have general learning ability that is as high as, or higher than their peers. They simply have a skill deficit in this area. They 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.

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.

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