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Learning to Achieve Trainer Snippet #3

Written Expressions Disabilities

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Module 6:    Written Expression Disabilities

Participant Guide

·       Pages 97-108

·       Slides 1-21


A written expression disability is also known as dysgraphia.  There are two types of dysgraphia – transcription and generation.  It is important to recognize their differences and to identify appropriate accommodations for students with dysgraphia.

1.     Transcription is a writing skill that involves lower order processes.  A student with transcription dysgraphia may have significant struggles with handwriting, spelling, or a combination of the two.

·       Handwriting – The student with transcription dysgraphia struggles with the physical process of writing.  He or she may reverse letters, use uppercase letters incorrectly, and have illegible penmanship (see pg. 101, slide 8).

·       Spelling – The student with a transcription disability may have significant difficulty with a variety of spelling skills.  The student may reverse letters when writing, have difficulty recognizing letter sounds (in isolation or as he or she sounds out words), and demonstrate minimal knowledge of irregularly spelled words.

2.     Generation (also known as composition) is a writing skill that involves higher order processes.  A student with a generation dysgraphia may have difficulty generating written work. 

·       Composition – A student with a composition disability may be able to say what he or she wants to write but cannot transfer those thoughts to paper.  His or her writing may have limited idea development, poor organization, and incorrect grammar and punctuation.

A student may have a dysgraphia disability involving limitations in both transcription and composition.


1.     Probably the most commonly approved accommodation for a student with a written expression disability is extended time.  Providing the student with additional time may allow the student necessary time to generate a list of potential ideas, help the student slow down his or her writing for it to be more legible, and give the student a greater opportunity to edit the writing.

2.     Other accommodations that can be pursued to assist a student with a written response are allowing the student access to word processing or providing a scribe to write for the student.  In some situations, allowing the student to give an oral response may be an optional accommodation.

3.     For a student needing additional written expression accommodations, there are many universally designed options.  Using technology, students can access spell check, grammar check, online dictionaries and thesauruses (see pg. 105, slide 15), and word prediction (see pg. 105, slide 16).


1.     Create individual spelling lists for students who have difficulty remembering irregularly spelled words.  Using their own writing samples, have the students find commonly used, but misspelled, words.  The instructor should then go to the site Spelling City  and develop individual spelling lists with those words.  From there, the student can access the list in class or at home. 

Spelling city has multiple activities for the student to learn his or her list. The program will speak each letter of the word as it is displayed on the screen (click on the button “Teach Me”).  It also tests the student (click on the button “Test Me”) using the spelling words in the context of sentences.  For additional practice, the student can access many optional word games (click on the button “Play a Game”) that practice the student’s spelling list. 

2.     Have students use writing guide templates to practice generating a list of ideas like the five paragraph essay guide listed below under “Resources from MTLincs”.  I find this guide to be easy to replicate, meaning the student can draw up the table fairly quickly without wasting too much testing time.  As we all know, the more a student practices a particular skill, the easier that skill will be to recall when he or she needs it. 

Resources from Learning to Achieve:

Timed Essay Strategies


*What is Dysgraphia?


*A Student’s Perspective on Writing


*These two articles are informative but also have suggested strategies for working with a student with dysgraphia.  As you scroll down through the article, you will see lists of great ideas!

Resources from MTLINCS:

5 Paragraph Essay Guide

Writing with Examples

Submitted by Christine Malchuski, L2A Trainer