Writing Disabilities and Ways to Help

A writing disability is having trouble with written expression and can range anywhere from problems with spelling to holding a pen. Writing is crucial to a child’s academic success, and knowing how to identify a writing disorder and ways to intervene can make a huge difference! Writing disabilities are often associated with other learning disorders.

Below are a few of the most common writing disabilities, according to LDOnline.org, and a list of signs to look for when it comes to these disorders.

  • Visual Perceptual Disabilities– Difficulty in organizing the position and shape of what one sees. This often results in the rotation or reversal of letters. Visual ‘figure ground’ problems, difficulty in focusing on significant figures amongst a backdrop of other visual inputs, and ‘depth perception’ problems, difficulty in judging and organizing figures in space, are also related to visual input disabilities.
  • Auditory Perceptual Disabilities– Difficulty in distinguishing subtle differences in sound. Auditory ‘figure ground’ problems can create difficulty in paying attention, focusing, or attending to relevant information necessary to complete a writing task. Also, ‘auditory lag,’ which refers to the inability to process sound input as quickly as it is delivered, can result in a confusion of completing tasks or missing steps in a sequence of tasks.
  • Integration Disabilities– Refers to the misprocessing or misunderstanding of information that is delivered to the brain. This usually refers to one’s ability for sequencing and abstraction. Difficulty in sequencing information can result in spelling problems or in organizing one’s thoughts to tell or write down information in a coherent, logical manner. Difficulties in abstraction can result in problems of drawing generalizations from particular examples or in short-term memory disabilities that affect recall of information.
  • Fine Motor Disability– refers to difficulty in performing tasks that require many muscles to work together in an integrated way (i.e., handwriting).

Signs of a possible writing disability

Labored handwriting, poor spelling, or difficulties with punctuation and sentence structure are just a few of the many signs of a writing disability. Signs vary depending on the disorder, but overall, many of the signs listed below point to some form of a writing disability and/or learning disability.

  • Illegible handwriting
  • Tight, awkward pencil group and body position
  • Tiring quickly while writing
  • Difficulty in organizing thoughts on paper
  • Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar
  • Difficulty with sequencing of words or letters (i.e., spelling problems), including letter/word rotations or reversals
  • Low level of motivation
  • Avoiding writing or extreme reluctance to writing
  • Saying words out loud while writing
  • Large gap between ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech
  • Easily frustrated while writing
  • Inability to develop and master mechanical skills and rules of written language
  • Problems with revising (only correcting mechanical errors)

Disabilities come in many forms, and its an educator’s job to know how to identify these disabilities. Special education teachers and administrators do a tremendous job of working with students with special needs and can help general education teachers with students who need help with writing.