Writing Disorder (Dysgraphia)

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects writing. Writing  requires a complex set of motor and information processing skills. Dysgraphia makes the act of writing difficult and can lead to problems with spelling, poor handwriting and putting thoughts on paper. People with dysgraphia can have trouble organizing letters, numbers and words on a line or page.

Warning Signs

Young Children

Trouble With:

  • Tight, awkward pencil grip and body position
  • Avoiding writing or drawing tasks
  • Trouble forming letter shapes
  • Inconsistent spacing between letters or words
  • Poor understanding of uppercase and lowercase letters
  • Inability to write or draw in a line or within margins
  • Tiring quickly while writing

School-Age Children

Trouble With:

  • Illegible handwriting
  • Mixture of cursive and print writing
  • Saying words out loud while writing
  • Concentrating so hard on writing that comprehension of what’s written is missed
  • Trouble thinking of words to write
  • Omitting or not finishing words in sentences

Teenagers and Adults

Trouble With:

  • Trouble organizing thoughts on paper
  • Trouble keeping track of thoughts already written down
  • Difficulty with syntax structure and grammar
  • Large gap between written ideas and understanding demonstrated through speech

Further information on Dysgraphia can be found on the National Centre for Learning Disabilities:  http://www.ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia/what-is-dysgraphia 

Nonverbal Learning Disorder

Nonverbal learning disorder is a neurophysiological condition that results in both deficits and strengths in a child’s development in regards to cognition, intuitive thinking, organisation skills, processing and visual-spatial skills.  There are four main types of NLD:

  • Motor – poor coordination, balance and fine motor skills
  • Sensory – auditory, tactile, visual etc
  • Social – inability to comprehend nonverbal communication, difficulty with change
  • Visual-spatial-organisational: poor spatial perception, relations and visual recall

Assessment for NLD will look at your child’s cognitive, sensory and motor skills as well as his or her ability to process both auditory and visual-spatial information.  A multidisciplinary approach to diagnosis and treatment is important to ensure your children is best supported in all areas of their development.                                                           (Woliver, R. 2009, p. 300-303)




Gifted students vary in terms of the nature and level of their abilities. Gifted and talented students can vary in their ability and aptitudes, level of giftedness and achievement.  Sometimes they are not always easy to identify, and their giftedness may be impacted by cultural background, gender, language and learning difficulties, location, socio-economic circumstance or lack of engagement in the curriculum.  According to Gagné’s Differentiated Model of Giftedness and Talent (2008), gifted students are those whose potential is distinctly above average in one or more of the following domains of human ability: intellectual, social, creative and physical.

Levels of giftedness can be determine from intelligence quotient (IQ) tests.  IQ tests can identify the child’s strengths and weakness, although a thorough interview with child, parent and teacher may be required in order to further determine the needs of the child in order to best support them within the curriculum.

Retrieved from: http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/StudentDiversity/Gifted-and-talented-students 06.05.14

http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/policies/gats/assets/pdf/plk12gtlvls.pdf 06.05.14




Autism Spectrum Disorder

ASD is one of several pervasive developmental disorders and is characterised by severe impairment of communication and social interaction. The child must have persistent deficits in:

  • problems with social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts
  • restricted, repetitive patterns of behaviour, interest or activities.

Symptoms must also be present in from early development  and cause a clinically significant impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. Further symptoms are also not able to be better explained by intellectual disability or global developmental delay (DSM-5, 2013).

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and individuals can be placed somewhere on a spectrum of symptomatic autistic behaviours.  Some individuals with milder forms of Autism such as Asperger’s Syndrome, function at a normal to above normal cognitive level and can learn successfully.  They may have difficulties making and retaining friendships due to poor social skills.

Assessment and diagnosis of Autism is formulated from clinical observations, family/teacher interviews as well as the use of psychological and diagnostic testing.

Intellectual Impairment

Intellectual disability is a developmental disability, which refers to significant limitations to a person’s level of functioning.  This may involve delayed intellectual growth, inappropriate reactions to one’s environment and below-average performance in academic, psychological, physical, linguistic and social areas (Beirne-Smith, Ittenbach & Patton (2002) in Westwood, 2004 pg 133).  Intellectual disability can be categorised into mild, moderate, severe and profound impairment.

Assessment for an intellectual impairment can focus on determining the following:

  • Does the person have an intellectual disability?
  • What is the person’s current skill level?
  • What level of support does the person require?

Psychologists can utilise a range of norm and criterion referenced assessments in order to assist with assessment and diagnosis.

Retrieved from: https://www.psychology.org.au/publications/inpsych/disability/ 14.04.14



Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Not everyone who is overly hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive has an attention deficit disorder. Since most people sometimes blurt out things they didn’t mean to say, bounce from one task to another, or become disorganized and forgetful, how can specialists tell if the problem is ADHD?

To assess whether a person has ADHD, we consider several critical questions: Are these behaviours excessive, long-term, and pervasive? That is, do they occur more often than in other people the same age? Are they a continuous problem and not just a response to a temporary situation? Do the behaviours occur in several settings or only in one specific place like the playground or the office? The child’s pattern of behaviour is compared against a set of criteria and characteristics of the disorder. These criteria appear in a manual called the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders version IV).

Maths Disorder

Maths Disorder (otherwise known as “dyscalculia”) is a learning difficulty presumed to be of neurological origin. Maths Disorder is a specific learning disability affecting the acquisition of arithmetic skills in an otherwise typically developing child (Westwood, 2004 pg 121).

The following characteristics can be typically of a child with Maths Disorder:

  • poor concept development
  • lack of understanding of mathematical terms/signs
  • confusion over printed symbols
  • poor procedural skills
  • inability to determine which process to use in solving problems
  • poor bookwork with misaligned columns and figures
  • weak multiplication skills (Westwood, 2004 pg 122)

Assessment for Maths Disorder may encompass both formal and informal testing. This may be through diagnostic interview, assessment of the student’s understanding of every mathematics words, signs and symbols, examining work books, direct observation of the student’s work and discussion with parent, child and teacher. Appropriate support and strategies can then be formulated for intervention purposes.

Reading Disorder (Dyslexia)

Dyslexia is a language-based processing disorder can affects reading, writing, spelling and sometimes even speaking. Dyslexia is not a sign of poor intelligence or laziness or the result of impaired hearing or vision. Children and adults with dyslexia have a neurological disorder that causes their brains to process and interpret information differently.

 Warning Signs

  • Family history of literacy learning problems.
  • Seems bright and capable but not making expected progress.
  • Excels in Drama, Art, Sport, Technology or Computing.

Reading Difficulties

  •  Lacks awareness of the sounds in words, sound order, rhymes or sequences of syllables (i.e. what is the last sound in the word “bus”, “game”, “sun”).
  • Trouble learning and remembering letter sounds.
  • Hesitant and laboured reader, especially when reading aloud.
  • Relies on visual “look and say” approach to reading.
  • Difficulty catching on to phonics (letter-sound rules).
  • Uses the context of the story and picture cues to identify words.
  • Difficulty decoding unfamiliar words via letter-sound rules.
  • Tends to confuse words that look alike (e.g. was/saw, for/from, the/that, place/palace).

Refer the Resources section of this website for The Dyslexia Checklist