The Difference Between Dysgraphia and Expressive Language Issues
both affect language use and learning. Dysgraphia can make it hard to express thoughts in writing. (You may hear it called “a disorder of written expression.”)
Expressive language issues make it hard to express thoughts and ideas when speaking and writing. (You may hear it called a “language disorder” or a “communication disorder.”)
These two learning differences are easy to confuse. They share symptoms and commonly co-occur. In fact, expressive language issues can often lead to problems with writing. This table shows the differences and similarities between these two learning differences.
An issue that makes it hard to express thoughts and ideas through spoken language. Kids with this issue typically understand what they hear, but they can have trouble forming and producing a spoken response.
Signs you may notice
Has trouble organizing ideas and information in writing.
Has trouble expressing thoughts in writing.
Uses simpler sentences when writing than when speaking.
Uses poor spelling and incorrect grammar/punctuation.
Writes run-on sentences and doesn’t use paragraph breaks.
Seems frustrated by his inability to get thoughts down on paper.
Has trouble holding a pencil.
Has trouble forming letters and words or spaces them oddly.
Mixes capital and lowercase letters or print and cursive letters.
Has slow, labored and sloppy writing.
Is late to start talking.
Uses short phrases or sentences.
Has a limited vocabulary compared to kids the same age.
May talk very little, but understands what is said.
Uses unspecific words like “thing” or “stuff.”
Has trouble finding words.
Has trouble using complex sentences. Uses certain phrases over and over again.
Leaves out words, and confuses verb tenses.
Pronounces words well, but what he says doesn’t always make sense.
Finds it hard to learn new vocabulary words.
Appears frustrated by inability to say what he’s thinking.
Has trouble telling about experiences in a way that makes sense to others. Stories can lack detail or be told in the wrong order.
Uses poor grammar and run-on sentences when writing because so much effort is going into simply coming up with sentences. This happens mostly with younger writers.
Possible emotional and social impact
Kids with dysgraphia may freeze up when they try to put thoughts on paper. This can cause them to be frustrated and anxious and to avoid taking risks.
They may worry about being seen as “sloppy” or not trying hard enough. This can lead to low self-esteem.
Kids with expressive language issues might not be able to communicate what they’re thinking, or that they’re understanding what other are saying. This can cause trouble with making friends.
Practice sequencing. For instance, you can say, “Can you tell me how we made mac and cheese for dinner? What did we do first, second, third?”
Expand their short sentences. For example, if your child says, “See car!” You might expand by saying “You see a fast car!” Gradually, you might cue your child to tell you “the whole thing.”
If your child is struggling with expressing his thoughts, there are a number of steps you can take to get him the help he needs. First, learn more about what can cause
trouble with writing and
trouble with spoken language. Talk to his teacher about what she’s seeing in the classroom. And if your child hasn’t already had one, consider getting a
full evaluation to pinpoint what’s causing his difficulties.