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Supporting Writing Difficulties

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  • Published: 2014
  • Revision: 1.0
  • Format: A3
  • File type: pdf
  • File size: 0.4Mb


An accessible breakdown of this PDF poster is available further down the page.

A step-by-step guide in the form of a question and answer 'checklist' helping you to identify problems and suggesting a range of practical technology focused solutions to support pupils with writing difficulties.

An accessible breakdown of this PDF poster is available further down the page.

Contents of the PDF poster

This is an accessible breakdown of the contents of the PDF poster, designed to be accessible with a screen reader, and also for people who find it hard to see or access the links in the poster.

Who could help?

  • Consult school ICT Coordinator, and colleagues.
  • Consult local authority ICT Sfl / ASN specialist.
  • Check for contact details in your area:

I have a pupil with writing difficulties. What Could Help?

1. Identifying the problems, gathering information, team approach.

What do writing difficulties arise from?

  • Dyslexia / specific learning difficulties with language, reading, spelling?
  • Vision or visual processing - acuity, visual field, tracking?
  • Cognition - learning, comprehension?
  • Physical causes - poor coordination, pencil grip, seating, positioning?


  • Refer to local Sfl / ASN Guidance Document(s).
  • Involve Sfl / ASN team.
  • Consult 'Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit'.
  • Consider consulting OT, PT, SLT, Visual Impairment service as needed

2. Identifying problems with physical writing using a pencil/pen

  • The pupil's writing takes excessive time and effort?
  • The quality of writing output is poor; legibility, spelling, letter, shape, length of writing etc?
  • Is there a difference in quality between what the pupil can write and what they can verbalise, i.e. dictating to a scribe?
  • The pupil appears reluctant to write?

Poor writing is not because a pupil is lazy or stupid.

3. Have you tried the following?

  • A different size or style of pencil / pen?
  • A pencil or pen grip?
  • A writing slope?
  • Different or better positioning; chair / table / lighting etc?
  • One of more of the above in combination?
  • Using appropriate writing technology?

Staff who 'don't do computers' is not a valid reason for the pupil not using technology! Hand writing is a life skill - true - but the physical process must be separated from producing content - language and ideas. Pupils must be prepared for the future.

4. Have you tried a computer, tablet or keyboard adaptation?

  • Will a classroom computer suffice, or might the pupil need a personal, portable device?
  • There are many different types of keyboards
    • e.g. bigger, smaller, high contrast, upper, lower case keyboard stickers.
    • Touch screen keyboards; on-screen keyboards controlled by a mouse pointer or external joystick.
  • If the pupil can't use a keyboard, why not?
    • Is the keyboard too big, too small, too high and / or wrong size wrongly positioned?
    • Is the pupil unfamiliar with the keyboard, e .. layout, upper case letters?
    • Do the computer settings need to be personalised?
    • Does the pupil require additional software to improve typing speed and accuracy?
    • Does the pupil require an alternative method to input text?
  • There are many accessories for keyboards
    • Keyguards which fit over the keyboard to prevent errors.
    • Keyboard mounts / risers to aid hand / arm / head positioning.
    • Dycem mats to prevent keyboard slipping / movement.

Is the pupil doing appropriate keyboarding tasks? Is copying or typing notes into a word processor really worthwhile? Touch typing is NOT feasible for some pupils so ‘keyboard familiarity’ practice might be more useful.

5. Have you tried customising the screen and computer settings?

  • Customising the screen can make all the difference, e.g. changing font style, size, background colour etc.
  • Have you considered adapting the built-in accessibility options such as FilterKeys, StickyKeys, large cursor etc?

If these options are ‘locked down' or the pupil is unable to customise their personal settings i.e. make reasonable adjustments, the school could be breaching disability discrimination legislation.

6. Have you tried supportive software?

Supportive software can include:

  • Picture or symbol support.
  • Text-to-speech – speech feedback, text is read aloud.
  • Word prediction - words are predicted in context after the first or second keypress - sometimes supported with pictures and text-to-speech.
  • Spell checking - phonetic, audio or symbol supported options are available. Support also available with homophones. Remember hand-held talking spell checkers, digital scanning pens etc.
  • Check what is available in school, contact local specialist for further advice.
  • Word banks - topic dictionaries, sometimes support with pictures and / or text-to-speech.
  • Mind mapping to visually help plan and organise thoughts and ideas.
  • Audio: voice recording, often directly into the application (which can be saved for evidence)
  • Speech recognition - talking to a computer, speech is converted to text.
  • One of more of the above used in combination with each other, e.g. Clicker, Co:Writer, Texthelp Read@Write, Penfriend, Textease, WriteOnline etc.

If staff are not familiar with such software, training should be requested. Check local CLPL calendar: Contact CALL Scotland.

7. Have you tried different access methods?

If the pupil can't use a keyboard consider other access methods.

  • Touchscreen.
  • A different mouse or large rollerball / trackball.
  • A joystick with different handle adaptations (T-bar, large foam ball.
  • A Glidepad or a laptop mouse track-pad.
  • A switch access system (interface box plus one or two switches) - which scans rows, columns etc.
  • Positioning for one or all of the above - keyboard risers, mats to prevent slipping etc.

Try to borrow to trial before buying, locally or from CALL Scotland (2 months only).

8. Working in partnership with parents and professionals.

  • Formulate an action plan for Next Steps, including list of possible technology(ies).
  • Clarify / launch procedures for obtaining technology needed.
  • Ensure child’s views are taken into account
  • Share with parents.
  • Take account of training and support implications.

Establish or expand the Child’s Plan as per LA procedures.