Module: Learning Disability - Written Expression Disorder (Page 1 of 10)


  1. Definition
  2. Manifestation
  3. Institutional Accommodations
  4. Assistive Technology Accommodations
  5. Teaching Strategies—
    What Can Faculty Do?
    1. Specific Strategies per Disability
    2. General Strategies
    3. Shaping the Environment
  6. Learning Strategies—
    What Can Students do?
  7. Resources
  8. Feedback


A learning disability in which a person’s ability to communicate in writing is substantially below the level normally expected based on the individual’s chronological age, measured intelligence, and age appropriate education.


Difficulty with written forms of communication exhibited by:

  • Inability or low level of ability to organize words into meaningful thoughts, resulting in sentences that lack cohesion.
  • Inability to write spontaneously.
  • Poor grammar, spelling and punctuation errors.
  • Poor handwriting including poorly formed letters and numbers.
  • Inability to remember letter sequences in common words.

Institutional Accommodations

  • Alternative testing arrangements such as extra time; a less distracting environment; provision of a reader/scribe; and, use of a computer, including adaptive software and hardware.
  • Note taking support.
  • Priority registration.
  • Alternative demonstrations of learning, such as oral (as opposed to written) completion of assignments and exams.

Teaching Strategies—What Can Faculty do?

Specific Strategies - Written Expression Disorder

  • Allow student to use a word processor (with spell checker and word completion) for written assignments, including note taking and classroom assignments.
  • Allow student to take test(s) in an alternative location with few distractions. The disability service office will assist students in making arrangements.
  • Allow students to record lectures.
  • Allow for oral, as opposed to written, completion of assignments and exams.

General Strategies

Provide Accessible Course Materials
Ensure that all curriculum materials (syllabus, notes, presentations, assignments, etc.) are available in an accessible format that can be used and manipulated by a computer (Word, HTML, RTF, PDF, etc.). To learn how to create accessible materials, see Training Modules and Tutorials on this website.
Plan Ahead
Select textbooks and materials needed for the semester as early as possible.  Students with disabilities will need time to take class materials to the Disability Service Office for conversion to an alternative format.
Provide Structure
Provide a syllabus and class assignments with clearly delineated expectations and due dates.
Provide Guided Notes on the Web
Prior to lectures, provide students with consistent, structured notes that are in an accessible format. Since students with disabilities sometimes have more difficulty than others in processing new information (especially while simultaneously trying to take notes), having notes ahead of time will increase students’ ability to follow along during class and more effectively process course content. If it is not acceptable for all students to have lecture notes ahead of time, make alternative arrangements for students with disabilities such as emailing lecture notes to the student(s) or setting up an office mailbox where the student(s) can receive notes ahead of time.
Provide Multiple Methods of Presentation
Present information and ideas in multiple ways in order to address different learning styles.
Engage students in multiple ways of learning
Incorporate active teaching/learning methods where possible. For example, problem-based learning activities, community projects, in-class activities and discussions, etc.
Encourage Multiple Methods of Expression
Offer more than one way for students to demonstrate what they have learned in class. For example, students can be given a choice between taking a test, writing a paper, giving an oral presentation, producing a video, etc. Additionally, keep in mind that some students may have difficulty working in a group. Alternative ways of completing a group assignment may need to be considered.
Repeat or paraphrase questions and responses so that the whole class can hear.
This is especially important in large classrooms and when a microphone is used during live and taped presentations.
Highlight Key Points
Provide an overview when introducing a new topic, and highlight key points in a variety of ways throughout class lessons and in written materials. Use visual, verbal and interactive cues for added emphasis. This helps students know what to expect and what is most important, thus improving their ability to achieve the learning objectives.
Summarize Key Points
Summarizing key points at the end of each class will increase the student’s ability to process and integrate new information.
Chunk Information
Break large amounts of information or instructions into smaller segments (“chunking”).
Provide Study Aids
Provide study questions, study guides, and opportunities for questions and answers to help students review and clarify essential course content.
Allow the use of digital recorders
Provide students the opportunity to process and review class material at their own pace, both after class and later during the semester. Review of material in this manner is especially helpful in preparation for mid-term and final exams.
Engage with Students who Self Advocate
Team up with students with disabilities (who disclose their accommodation needs) to determine a plan that is effective for all involved.

Shaping the Environment

Seating and Positioning
Encourage the student to sit near the front of the classroom, away from doors, air conditioning units, windows, or any other possible sources of distraction.

Learning Strategies—What Can the Student do?

Advocate for self
Connect with the disability service office to learn about available services and supports. Communicate with instructors about personal learning style and any individual accommodations that are being requested. Students should also be encouraged to read the ACCESS Self-Advocacy Handbook for College Students with Disabilities, available on this website.
Record the class lecture
Ask professor for permission to record lectures.
Peer support
  1. Seek the peer support of other students with disabilities. Refer to the disability service office for information about peer support groups.
  2. Form or join a study group with classmates who are considerate of diverse learning needs.
Borrow notes
Ask your teacher or a classmate to share their notes.

Resources — Learning Disabilities

Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)
LDA is a nonprofit grassroots organization providing support to individuals with learning disabilities, their parents, and professional service providers. LDA provides cutting edge information on learning disabilities, practical solutions, and a comprehensive network of resources.
Learning Disabilities Association of Colorado
55 Madison Street
Suite 750 
Denver, Colorado  80206
(303) 539-9832
Learning Disabilities Discussion List
National Institute for Literacy's Discussion List is designed to bring together literacy stakeholders - researchers, policymakers, administrators, practitioners, and students - to discuss critical issues on the latest research, promising policies and practices, as well as, to provide a forum for sharing resources and experience. The discussion lists also offer the opportunity to ask questions of subject experts and to keep up-to-date on literacy issues across the lifespan. Additionally, the site has links that offer a wealth of LD information and resources.
LDOnline is a comprehensive website that provides parents, teachers and other professionals information about learning disabilities.
LD Pride Live Chat
LD Pride’s “Live Chat Support Group” offers people with LD/ADD or Deaf-LD an opportunity to give and receive online support.
LD Resources
LD Resources provides an archive of colleges and universities that offer programs for students with Learning Disabilities.
Learning Disabilities Resource Community (LDRC)
Provides knowledge-building and communication tools for individuals and groups involved in the education of those with learning disabilities and supports research and development in associated fields. The LDRC-List is a mailing list of on going discussions related to learning disabilities that are delivered via email to all those subscribed.
Schwab Foundation for Learning
Schwab Foundation for Learning seeks to raise awareness about learning differences and equips parents, teachers, and other professionals with the resources they need to improve the lives of students with learning differences. Its mission grew out of Charles Schwab's life long struggle with dyslexia and the frustration he and his wife, Helen, faced in trying to find help for their son who inherited the reading difficulty.
1650 South Amphlett Boulevard, Suite 300
San Mateo, CA 94402
800-230-0988 (toll-free)

Please give us your feedback!

Learning Disability - Written Expression Disorder
Was the information in this module helpful?