Below are descriptions of reading, writing, and spelling disorders. Although these descriptions are listed separately, individuals can experience combined deficits in more than one area. For example, deficits in word recognition and reading comprehension often co-occur as readers must not only recognize words but also make inferences about implicit situations in the text (Castles et al., 2018). Spelling impairment and difficulties expressing ideas in written form can affect both reading and writing; difficulty or progress in either spelling or word reading can influence performance in the other area. The terms “poor readers” or “garden variety readers” are sometimes used to describe readers with generalized difficulties in reading comprehension. Similarly, a person can have difficulty with the writing process as well as with generating the written product.
Deficits in reading, writing, and spelling can affect one or more language domains (see below). For a detailed description of the language domains as they relate to spoken and written language, see Language In Brief.
Labels for reading disorders include dyslexia, reading disability, reading disorder, specific reading disorder, and specific reading comprehension deficit. Writing disorder labels also vary, with some being dysgraphia, writing disability, writing disorder, and specific writing disorder.
Areas to consider in assessing and treating written language disorders as well as differentially diagnosing within and across spoken and written language disorders are also included below. For more comprehensive lists, see the Assessment and Treatment sections of the Written Language Disorders Practice Portal page.
Word recognition deficit is sometimes referred to as dyslexia. It is characterized by difficulty with reading despite instruction and without coexisting intellectual, sensory, or neurological difficulties. A person with word recognition deficits typically has relatively intact language comprehension but may have difficulties with
Reading comprehension deficit is sometimes referred to as specific comprehension deficit or hyperlexia. Hyperlexia can be differentiated from precocious reading, in that individuals with hyperlexia have significant problems in listening and reading comprehension.
A person with reading comprehension deficits may have difficulties with
Dysgraphia may refer to either difficulty with language or spelling-based aspects of written expression. Dysgraphia can occur alone or can co-occur with dyslexia and/or other learning disabilities.
The cognitive–linguistic aspects of dysgraphia are involved in the writing process and the writing product.
Writing process deficits are problems with the cognitive–linguistic aspects of writing and may be described under the umbrella term dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia, as it relates to the writing process, involves difficulty
Writing product deficits are sometimes described under the umbrella term dysgraphia. For more information, please visit the International Dyslexia Association’s page on Understanding Dysgraphia.
Dysgraphia, as it relates to the writing product, involves
Deficits in spelling are sometimes called dysorthography. Such deficits involve difficulty with encoding phonological information. Spelling difficulties can affect both reading and writing and are an area of weakness for most individuals with dyslexia. Spelling deficits include
Deficits in spoken and written language can affect reading, writing, and spelling. Such deficits may be referred to as oral and written language learning disability.
These deficits involve marked difficulty with oral language and involve problems of similar severity that cross multiple systems. Deficits in spoken and writing language may result in difficulty with
Treatment should address areas of difficulty in reading, writing, and spelling as indicated. Treatment should match the degree to which sound/word structure knowledge and sentence/discourse level knowledge are impaired across spoken and written modalities—listening, speaking, reading, and writing.
|Domain||Area of Domain||Phonology||Morpho-syntax||Semantics||Pragmatics|
|Spoken and written language||X||X||X||X|
Castles, A., Rastle, K., & Nation, K. (2018). Ending the reading wars: Reading acquisition from novice to expert. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19(1), 5–51. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1529100618772271
Chung, P. J., Patel, D. R., & Nizami, I. (2020). Disorder of written expression and dysgraphia: Definition, diagnosis, and management. Translational Pediatrics, 9(Suppl 1), S46–S54. https://doi.org/10.21037/tp.2019.11.01