Written expression disorder in middle school: 4 self-advocacy scripts

By Amanda Morin

Self-advocacy is important for kids in middle school. That’s especially true for kids with learning and thinking differences like written expression disorder. But kids this age can sometimes feel embarrassed about speaking up. You can help by rehearsing some common scenarios and responses.

1. “Can I use assistive technology?”

The situation: Your child’s language arts teacher says, “I can’t accept this draft. It’s a mess and practically illegible.”

Your child can say to the teacher: “I know how to write the essay. But I’m having a hard time getting the ideas from my head onto paper and writing them neatly. Are there other ways I can show you what I know? For example, could I use speech-to-text?”

Your child can say to you or the IEP team: “Can we talk about or that I can use to express my ideas more easily?”

2. “Can I get a copy of the teacher’s notes?”

The situation: Your child couldn’t process information and write fast enough to keep up with the teacher’s lecture.

Your child can say to the teacher: “It takes me a long time to write neatly, so it’s hard to take good notes. I also don’t want to miss important things you say. Is it possible to make a copy of your notes?”

Your child can say to you or the IEP team: “Can we add something to my learning plan that says I can have a copy of the teacher’s notes? Or that it’s OK to audio record the class just for notes?”

3. “Can I have extra time?”

The situation: Your child struggled to get thoughts organized and written on the essay test.

Your child can say to the teacher: “I studied and know it, but it’s hard for me to get the information down during the test time. Could I have extra time on essay tests?””

Your child can say to the IEP team: “Writing by hand and figuring out my thoughts is hard. Is there a way to organize my ideas in the moment?”

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

The situation: Your child gets a bad grade on a science project because so many words on the poster were misspelled.

Your child can say to the teacher after class: “I know I have trouble with spelling. But I understand the scientific method and think I used it correctly. Can I be graded on that and not the writing part? Or would you give me a chance to do it again with a dictionary or spelling list?”


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.