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What is Written Expression Disorder? Recognizing This Issue and Getting the Support Your Child Needs

Updated: Sep 30, 2022

Our ability to express ourselves in writing is one of the most valuable skills we possess as humans.

It’s how we catalog and pass down our history; share our unique take on the human experience in songs, poems, and scripts; and a major way we communicate with others.

When your child learns to read and write, it can be a time full of joy and discovery. But, it can also be marked with frustration and concern.

What if your child struggles with mastering these crucial life skills? How will it impact their school experience? What about their life as a whole?

As a modern parent, there’s so much you already worry about.

From whether you’re packing your child the right kind of snacks, to who they play with, and how much screen time is too much—it feels like questioning your parenting choices is a constant battle you wage upon yourself.

Sometimes, your worries are unfounded.

Other times, your insight and expertise as their parent offers you a glimpse into your child’s inner life that can pinpoint areas of struggle long before anyone else would catch on.

If your child experiences difficulties learning to write, you may be the first to notice.

Many parents sense their child may be struggling with writing long before these issues are readily apparent to anybody else.

But where can you turn if your parental perception meter is telling you there’s something amiss with your child’s writing skills and you want to ensure any issues are addressed as quickly and thoroughly as possible?

Thankfully, when it comes to making sure your child’s developmental and learning skills are progressing on track—you are not alone.

If needed, there’s a team of educational professionals standing by to support both you and your child, throughout their educational journey.

Let’s start by learning more about written expression disorder, and how it shows up. Then, we’ll take a look at the professionals who will join your team if your child can benefit from some extra assistance and support in this area.

What is written expression disorder?

If you’ve been following along with our blog lately (and, if you haven’t—it’s not too late to get on the train!)—you’ve been learning a lot about the many different types of learning differences and disabilities.

But, we've also spent some time doing deep dives into many different types of learning disabilities, including—

We also took a close look at executive functioning skills—and how they factor into learning differences and disabilities when they occur.

To round out this comprehensive examination of learning disabilities—we wanted to devote our energy to familizairing you with written expression disorder.

Written expression disorder is a learning disability that impacts the writing skills of those affected.

Like its counterparts, those who experience written expression disorder may excel in other areas of learning—but they struggle specifically with their awareness and mastery of written expression.

One common misconception about written expression disorder is that it affects the technical skills of writing in those who have it—things like handwriting, typing, and spelling.

While these skills are closely related to our writing abilities, difficulties with these specific skills fall under the umbrella of a different and distinct issue, known as dysgraphia.

While dysgraphia is typically an issue with the motor skills used in writing—written expression disorder involves the ability to express ourselves effectively using writing.

Believed to impact up to 15 percent of people, written expression disorder is the result of biological differences in the brain that impact the ability to organize thoughts into words.

Like many other learning disabilities—written expression disorder has a genetic component and tends to run in families.

But how does written expression disorder show up in the real world? Let’s take a look at some commonly-seen outward signs and symptoms of this issue.

What are the symptoms of written expression disorder in children?

Writing is a hard skill to master. That’s why humans stand alone in our creation and mastery of written language.

If you’ve noticed your child struggles with acquiring written language skills, you may adopt a “wait-and-see” approach—keeping a close eye on their progress, hoping they’ll simply grow out of their issues and become a proficient writer.

But, what if your child’s issues don’t seem to be improving with time? Or, what if they seem to be getting even worse—exacerbated by the frustration they feel at not being able to effectively express their imagination and thoughts in writing?

Written expression disorder can be difficult for parents to spot as a learning disability. That’s because the children who experience it often express themselves very well when using their verbal language skills.

Your child may be able to tell you a wonderful story—full of imagination, plot, and details. But, when it comes to transferring this information and structure into writing—they fall apart.

How can this be?

In this case—written expression disorder could be the culprit.

Here are some other common ways written expression disorder may show up in your child’s writing skills—

  • They make grammar mistakes—like leaving out verbs, or incorrect noun-verb agreement

  • They craft sentences that don’t make sense

  • They rely on using the same words, again and again

  • They misuse words

  • They use words with the incorrect meaning

  • Their written work misses key facts and details

  • Their writing lacks organization, structure, and narrative flow

  • They may take extensive time when writing

  • They may complete writing tasks with little thought or necessary review

  • As they age, their writing may lack complexity and demonstrate growth

In addition to these noticeable issues with their writing, your child may (understandably) seek to avoid any writing assignments. They may recognize their issues with organizing their thoughts into writing, and complain that this is very difficult for them.

If you’ve noticed any of these struggles with your child’s writing abilities, assistance and support are available to help you diagnose, understand, and address this issue.

Let’s review the steps you can take to get your child with written expression difficulties the help they need to succeed and thrive.

How is written expression disorder diagnosed and treated?

If you have questions about anything involving your child’s health and development, discussing your concerns with their healthcare proivider is always a good place to start.

Your child’s pediatrician may be able to offer you insight into any possible causes of their issues, as well as get you started with making necessary referrals to specialists if warranted.

In some cases, your child’s teacher or other educational professionals in their school may be first to notice their difficulties with written expression as an issue that could benefit from additional support and assistance.

No matter the initial referral source, The Loop team has several highly qualified professionals who are skilled at identifying and treating disorders in written expression when they occur.

Our stellar speech and language pathologists and learning specialists will begin by communicating directly with you to hear your concerns and insights about your child.

If an evaluation is warranted and agreed upon, we’ll work with your child’s teacher to find time to conduct a thorough assessment of your child’s writing skills—right in their school.

Once completed, we’ll review our results and take the time to fully communicate with you about what our assessments revealed, as well as how we recommend moving forward with treatment.

We’ll draw from our evaluation data, as well as your child’s unique personality and preferences—to craft an individualized treatment plan, designed to meet your child’s needs and play to their strengths.

Because your child is one-of-a-kind, our treatments are never one-size-fits-all.

But, you may find it helpful to learn some common themes that occur in written expression disorder therapy, to help you plan ahead.

Some ways we address and treat written expression disorder in school-aged children includes—

  • Working with their teacher to implement necessary accommodations to the classroom, which may involve—

    • Modifying your child’s assignments and expectations for how they’re delivered

    • Allowing your child extra time to complete written assignments

    • Training your child in talk-to-text devices and other speec-to-text technology

    • Setting up your child’s learning environments for success

  • Providing structured training to your child in written skills

  • Assisting your child with their editing, reviewing, and comprehension skills in writing

  • Training your child in strategies to help them overcome their issues with writing

  • Teaching your child to use graphic organizers to visualize their written content generation, its organization and planning

In short—there are many avenues we can explore to best help and support your child with their written expression skills. The exact methods we choose will depend upon your child, and their unique needs.

We’ll be sure to involve you closely in the process, because you’re a vital member of your child’s educational team.

We’ll offer you all the training and support you need to provide your child with carryover in your home setting—ensuring their therapy occurs across all environments for the maximum impact.

When you work with us, we’ll always keep you in the loop of your child’s success. Because we know—when we come together as a team, your child will reap the benefits.

How can The Loop help you? We’re proud to provide Chicago-area families with the top-quality speech, language, and occupational therapy you need. We’re also honored to offer you a variety of learning support serviceas, including—educational advocacy and consultancy, learning remediation, and executive function coaching.

Keep your eyes on our blog and website for informative, free content about topics of interest to you. Got a question? Reach out directly at And be sure to follow along on all your favorite social platforms @theloopSLL.

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