Writing learning disabilities can generally be grouped into a learning disability in basic writing skills, also called dysgraphia, or a learning disability in expressive language.Either of these learning disabilities may be found alone or in combination with others including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), high-functioning autism spectrum disorders, or reading disorders like as dyslexia. Students with writing learning disabilities are on average neither more intelligent nor less intelligent than the general population; they simply have difficulty functioning in a particular area.
A learning disability in basic writing skills means that a person has difficulty with the mechanics of writing, such as having extremely poor handwriting, a tendency to write letters backward, or difficulty with spelling. Some students with this disability report phantom pains in tendons in the hand or arm that are not actually used when writing. In some cases, the student seems to have difficulty understanding the connection between sounds and letters. Regardless of the specific symptoms, students with this disability often have so much trouble with the mechanical aspects of writing that they find it difficult to concentrate on the content they are supposed to be writing.
A student with a disability in expressive language, on the other hand, does not necessarily have difficulties with the mechanics of forming words, but rather with expressing ideas in writing. In some people, this seems to be linked to an inability to translate sensory information into words. For instance, a student might be asked to describe a penguin in writing. He or she knows what a penguin looks like, but is unable to explain it on paper. Students with this disability may sometimes be able to write from a prompt just fine, but other times seem to freeze up and not write anything at all. He or she may or may not have any difficulty expressing ideas out loud.
Diagnostic criteria for writing learning disabilities vary from state to state within the US. Resources are often available in public schools to help students with mechanical, conceptual and verbal aspects of writing learning disabilities. Students with either type of disability may have marginally less trouble with typing or with cursive writing than with print, so they may be noted as writing earlier than their peers. For some assignments they may also be allowed to dictate their answers to a teacher or teacher's aide so that they are still generating their own content, but do not have to perform the physical tasks of writing.