The physical act of writing can be challenging for many pupils. For learners who experience writing difficulties arising from dyslexia or dysgraphia, it can be a frustrating and challenging process, but with the right support, technology can make a big difference.
If you find handwriting painful, or you struggle to hold a pencil or pen, there are some 'low-tech' tools that might help.
If you have tried the suggestions but still require help, then it is time to consider how technology can help.
Read this case study - a true story of a dyslexic learner's journey from primary to Nat 5
The Supporting Writing Difficulties poster/infograph is a step-by-step guide in the form of a question and answer 'checklist' to help identify problems. It suggests a range of practical technology-focused solutions to support pupils with writing difficulties.
Download the 'Supporting Writing Difficulties' poster.
This poster/guide recommends 8 technology tips that you can easily and quickly implement, that are either built-in to the operating system or free to download.
Download the 'A technology guide to creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom' poster.
Although dictating (voice typing) is becoming more popular, the keyboard is still the primary way of interacting with and inputting information into a computer, whether it is a physical keyboard, an on-screen keyboard or both.
Learning to be proficient with a keyboard is an invaluable skill and can help to:
Getting to know where all the keys are on the keyboard can help to increase your typing speed and improve accuracy.
Touch typing programs include:
The keyboard can also be a barrier - characters on standard keyboards are in 'uppercase' which can be confusing, particularly for younger children who are learning lowercase letters and words.
A lowercase keyboard with larger colourful keys can be a helpful alternative. In the illustration below, the keys are grouped into numbers, vowels, and constants by colour.
The standard keyboard does not suit everyone and it is relatively easy and inexpensive to make it more 'dyslexia friendly' by making some basic adjustments, adding an accessory, or using an alternative keyboard.
As well as the default iOS on-screen keyboard, 3rd party keyboards can be downloaded and installed on the iPad.
Windows also has a choice of two on-screen keyboards; Windows on-screen keyboard and Windows Touch. A benefit of Windows On-screen keyboard is 'Text Prediction' which can help increase typing speed and accuracy.
To activate Windows Touch go to Settings > Personalisation > Text Input - there are options to choose a keyboard theme or create your own, e.g., a yellow/black coloured contrast keyboard.
For a comprehensive overview of technology to support writing, see the CALL Scotland Technology section of the website.
This technology writing checklist (see below) is designed to help pupils and staff identify and explore technology to help address specific needs arising from dyslexia.
The tools suggested are mostly freely available or via your Glow log-in so everyone in a Scottish state school should be able to access them. There are separate links to each of the most popular devices in the columns Windows, Chromebooks (ChromeOS) and iPad (iOS).
These are 'universal' supports. They may or may not be the best tools to meet your own needs - apps and resources that you pay for may be better - but this should help you to get started with technology.
Microsoft Word is a popular word-processing program, that is used extensively by schools across Scotland (via Glow) available as an app or online via a web browser.
CALL has created a series of short video tutorials on using Word to Support Literacy. The videos below explain how to use the built-in 'Show Text Suggestions as I type' and 'Using Dictate to speak text' - great tools that are readily available in Word to support writing.
See the full playlist of videos - many of these tools are also available in Word Online for iPad and Chromebook via the browser.
A series of short guides to support literacy difficulties using the iPad's built-in tools - tools to support writing include, Typing Feedback, Predictive Text, Siri to Support Writing.
The Chromebook also includes tools to help overcome writing difficulties - the video below explains how to use Google Voice Typing more..
As well as freely available built-in tools, specialist software/apps provide a more targeted approach. Examples include:
Clicker Writer is available for Windows, iPad and Chromebook and offers numerous tools such as word prediction, word banks, text-to-speech and more. Clicker Writer is aimed at primary school pupils, whereas DocsPlus is geared towards secondary pupils and older learners with literacy difficulties.
Word prediction software predicts words in context as you write (after the first or second keypress). Word prediction aids spelling accuracy and can increase typing speed. To find out more read the Guide to Word Prediction.
Examples of specialist word prediction programs/apps include:
WordQ is available for Windows, Chromebook and iPad.
Ghotit is available for Windows and iPad.
The benefit of word prediction to support learners with writing difficulties - and illustrated guide.
All-in-one literacy support tools tend to take the form of a 'floating toolbar' which sits on the desktop and includes a range of tools such as text-to-speech, word prediction, spelling corrections, talking dictionaries and voice typing.
Spell-checking software has improved greatly in recent years. Effective spell-checking includes both:
Spell checking in Word using Editor (also for Edge and Chrome)
Mind mapping programs help you to organise your ideas visually.
Features of mind mapping software include:
Using audio to support writing and notetaking can be a quick and effective method to record class notes.
For example, in PowerPoint.
or Book Creator
Consider also using a smartphone, Android or iPad to capture good-quality audio.
Remember to ask permission from a teacher or lecturer before recording.
CALL has a wealth of resources with hints and tips to improve writing.
Books and reports, e.g., A Guide to word prediction and Making the Most of Microsoft Word
Professional Learning courses - with a focus on technology and dyslexia
Interesting illustrated blog articles that cover different devices and apps.