The essential feature of Disorder of Written Expression is writing skills (as measured by an individually administered standardized test or functional assessment of writing skills) that fall substantially below those expected given the individual’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education.
The disturbance in written expression significantly interferes with academic achievement or with activities of daily living that require writing skills.
There is generally a combination of difficulties in the individual’s ability to compose written texts evidenced by grammatical or punctuation errors within sentences, poor paragraph organization, multiple spelling errors, and excessively poor handwriting.
This diagnosis is generally not given if there are only spelling errors or poor handwriting in the absence of other impairment in written expression. Compared with other Learning Disorders, relatively less is known about Disorders of Written Expression and their remediation, particularly when they occur in the absence of Reading Disorder. Except for spelling, standardized tests in this area are less well developed than tests of reading or mathematical ability, and the evaluation of impairment in written skills may require a comparison between extensive samples of the individual’s written schoolwork and expected performance for age and IQ. This is especially the case for young children in the early elementary grades. Tasks in which the child is asked to copy, write to dictation, and write spontaneously may all be necessary to establish the presence and extent of this disorder.
Specific Symptoms of Disorder of Written Expression
- Writing skills, as measured by individually administered standardized tests (or functional assessments of writing skills), are substantially below those expected given the person’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education.
- The disturbance in the first category significantly interferes with academic achievement or activities of daily living that require the composition of written texts (e.g., writing grammatically correct sentences and organized paragraphs).
- If a sensory deficit is present, the difficulties in writing skills are in excess of those usually associated with it.
This disorder has been reclassified and altered in the updated 2013 DSM-5 (e.g., now combined with other disorders associated with academic deficits); the old DSM-IV criteria above remain here for historical/informational purposes only. See updated DSM-5 Specific Learning Disorder criteria here.
Psych Central. (2014). Disorder of Written Expression Symptoms. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 1, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/disorder-of-written-expression-symptoms/
Symptom criteria summarized from:
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fifth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 May 2014
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