Assistive Technology for Students with Dysgraphia

Instructor: Elizabeth Diehl

Elizabeth studied to be a special education teacher at Regis University, and received her masters in 2014.

There are all kinds of strategies to help students with dysgraphia. Let's explore dysgraphia, and learn some assistive technology options available to help students with this learning disability succeed in the classroom.

Students with Dysgraphia

For a student with dysgraphia, translating the ideas in their mind into written language is difficult. Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects how the student forms letters, plans his writing and even affects spelling skills. Teachers of students with dysgraphia need to be mindful of how writing can be difficult for the student physically. Students are slowed down by the time it takes to individually form letters, and might easily get their thoughts jumbled. There are some very helpful assistive technologies available that can help a student with dysgraphia access information and show what he knows. Assistive technology can be anything that a student uses to help the student access education. Let's investigate some strategies for helping a student with dysgraphia access learning with assistive technology, as there are several high-tech and low-tech options.

Consult First

An excellent first step would be to review the student's IEP for detailed information on his diagnosis and learning goals. A student with dysgraphia has specialists in the school who can help guide his access to education, such as the special education teacher and the occupational therapist. This team of specialists determine what kind of assistive technology would benefit the student and then list it on the IEP. The specialists can help you understand the student's unique experiences with dysgraphia.

High Tech Options

Let's now look at some of the higher technology options for assistive technology out there.

For many students with dysgraphia, using computers helps them access education.
student using a laptop

Word Processing

For many students, having regular access to word processing systems during writing times can be very helpful. Encourage students to learn keyboarding skills, as this will improve their speed when typing and makes this tool even easier to use. There are many options available for keyboarding, so check with the school technologist for what is available for your classroom.

Voice to Text Software

The technology that converts voice information into text is improving and changing rapidly. There are software programs where the student can say her ideas, and the words are converted via word processing software, into text. These are helpful because the software can be installed directly onto the classroom computer or iPad, so that the student can use this resource throughout the school day. Another option would be to consider allowing the student with dysgraphia to use an audio recorder, so that the student could record her response to a question instead of writing it. She could then share her recorded response with you, or at a later time, transcribe her response. Voice recording apps can be found and installed onto tablets or smart phones for use in the classroom and at home.

Proofreading Software

Voice-to-text software helps the student focus his mind on the ideas, and frees his brain from focusing on the mechanics of forming letters. However, students with dysgraphia need extra support with organizing their ideas too. Proofreading software and spell-check features on word processing programs are great tools for students with dysgraphia. Encourage students to learn how to use these tools when they write. Allow students feedback about homophones and homonyms, as these words can be missed by proofreading software.

Low Tech Options

While higher-tech options are growing in availability, there are lower-tech options that can still benefit a student with dysgraphia.

Graphic Organizers and Outlines

One option is using graphic organizers and outlines throughout the school day. Graphic organizers help all students prioritize their thoughts and organize information, and can be applied in subjects other than writing. Graphic organizers can be made as simply as folding paper to create a grid or created on a computer using word processing software. Provide outlines of what you will teach, or have students prioritize their notes into outline format, instead of writing sentences. Teach students a variety of graphic organizers for different tasks, and use them in both introduction and reinforcement assignments.

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