Written expression disorder in grade school: 5 self-advocacy scripts

By Amanda Morin

Speaking up for yourself can be hard when you’re in grade school. But self-advocacy is an important skill for kids with written expression disorder. You can help by practicing these sentence starters.

1. “Can I use another way to show what I know?”

The situation: Your child’s book report sounds vague and confused, even though your child read — and loved — the book.

Before the due date, your child can say to the teacher: “I read the book, and I know what happened. I’m having trouble getting my thoughts onto the paper. Is there another way I can tell you about the book?”

Your child can say to you or the team: “I need help writing the important parts of a book report. Can my teacher show me how to do that?”

2. “Can I have a little extra time?”

The situation: The whole class is ready to go to gym. But your child isn’t done with the morning journal because it took so much time just to come up with an idea.

Your child can say to the teacher: “I’m going as fast as I can, but it takes time for me to get from an idea to actually writing it. Can you give me some ideas to choose from?”

Your child can say to you or the IEP team: “I don’t like having to keep asking for extra time to write. Can we ask the teacher to give me the journal prompt ahead of time?

3. “Can I have help remembering the right words to use?”

The situation: Your child’s math is all wrong because of misusing words like less and more in the word problems the teacher asked the students to write.

Your child can say to the teacher after class: “It’s hard for me to make up word problems because I get mixed up about which words to use. Can I have a “cheat sheet” that shows them next to the right math symbol?”

4. “Can I be graded on the idea and not the grammar?”

The situation: Your child gets a bad grade on a science project because there were so many grammar mistakes in the write-up.

Your child can say to the teacher: “I had trouble putting the sentences together, but I know I did the experiment right. Can you grade me on what I did right or let me audio record my report?“

5. “Can you help me with a problem?”

The situation: A classmate says to your child, “Why do you go with Mrs. Smith during writing time?”

Your child can say to the teacher after class: “Kids are asking why I leave with Mrs. Smith for writing. I don’t know what to say. Can you help me?”


What’s it like to have written expression disorder? Explore a day in the life of a child with written expression disorder.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Jim Rein, MA has lectured on postsecondary options and summer programs for kids and young adults with learning and thinking differences.