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Writing Disorder May Be Common Among Kids
Date:5/5/2009

Study finds rate as high as 14.7 percent in one Minnesota city

TUESDAY, May 5 (HealthDay News) -- Though dyslexia and attention-deficit disorder are better known, another learning disability -- the inability to write properly -- strikes a significant number of children, a new study suggests.

So-called written-language disorder is a "forgotten learning disability," said Dr. Slavica K. Katusic, an epidemiologist at the Mayo Clinic and lead author of the study in the May issue of Pediatrics.

The ability to write is "a critical skill that they [children] need to have for academic success and social well-being," Katusic said. "They are at risk for long-term personal and economic consequences."

Education specialists define written-language disorder as the inability to write near the level expected based on a person's age, intelligence and education. People who suffer from the condition may have problems with such skills as grammar, spelling, paragraph organization and handwriting, Katusic said.

For the new study, Katusic and her colleagues looked at the school and medical records of 5,718 students in Rochester, Minn. The researchers found that between 6.9 percent and 14.7 percent of the children had the condition, depending on the formula used. Boys were two to three times more likely to have the condition than girls.

Other studies have also suggested a high rate of the disability among children, resulting in what Katusic called "an enormous cost for society" because they grow up to be adults who can't write.

But specialists "are just writing and talking about reading and math disorders and not about written-language disorder," Katusic said.

The causes of the disorder aren't clear, she said, although it's possible that genetic, environmental and socioeconomic factors play a role.

Karen R. Harris, a professor of special education and literacy at Vanderbilt Un
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