Saturday, May 30, 2009

Written Language Disorder

Pediatric occupational therapists have vast experience of working with children who have written language disorders. Symptoms of written language disorder can include problems with grammar, spelling, organization and handwriting. School based therapists see how far reaching this problem can be. In many school districts, teachers and administrators primary focus is how to improve reading skills. Why is it that reading is the focus? Perhaps because previously there were no epidemiology studies on written language disorders. In the May 2009 issue of Pediatrics, researchers report on the "forgotten learning disability...written language disorder".

The researchers found that written language disorder was present in 6.9% to 14.7% of the 5718 children followed depending upon the formula used. Boys had written language disorder 2-3 times more often than girls. Of the children identified with written language disorder, 25% did not have a reading disability.

This study reveals that a large amount of children are affected by this disorder. Although there are some limitations - the children had similar demographics (white, middle class Minnesota children. Regardless, this indicates that written language disorder is more common that society perceives it to be.

Pediatric occupational therapists can help to spread the word about written language disorder by:
1. Educating school staff on the signs of written language disorder.
2. Teaching staff how to prevent some of these problems early on through different handwriting instruction methods.
3. Encouraging school staff and parents to address written language disorders along with reading and math disabilities.
4. Introducing assistive technology at an early age to help students with severe written language disorder.

References: Katusic, Slavica K., Colligan, Robert C., Weaver, Amy L., Barbaresi, William J. The Forgotten Learning Disability: Epidemiology of Written-Language Disorder in a Population-Based Birth Cohort (1976-1982), Rochester, Minnesota
Pediatrics 2009 123: 1306-1313

Looking for handwriting activities? Check out our electronic books for fine motor, visual motor and handwriting activities at

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