By Michael Yarbrough

In practice, teachers quickly learn how often students with learning difficulties (LDs) face problems related to writing skills. One of the most frequent issues is Dysgraphia, which appears when your student has difficulty with correct spelling or handwriting. Specifically, your student may spell words on paper incorrectly and mix cursive with print or uppercase with lowercase letters. Another trouble is Dyspraxia, which may cause some difficulties with movement, including the physical process of writing and printing. Another common issue is Dyslexia. This is a learning disability that leads to reading problems that can also influence writing. If your students cannot make sense of written words or recognize them, they may have Dyslexia. Fortunately, today’s schools provide special programs for students with LDs so they can develop the skill sets they need to use their strengths and overcome their challenges. Furthermore, there are special technical tools your students can freely use for boosting their writing abilities:

  1. Speech-to-Text Synthesizers. This kind of software is created for children whose oral abilities are better than handwriting. They can dictate into a microphone and see their spoken words appear as text on the computer screen. Suggest using either Dragon Speech Recognition or Dictation software to create more complicated and longer essays free of spelling mistakes. Research has shown that essays created with the help of voice recognition software are better than those written in the more traditional way. Other benefits of using the above tools include enhancing core reading abilities, better navigating skills on the computer, and increasing a sense of independence while lessening anxiety.
  2. Word Prediction Software. This type of software is especially valuable for students with Dyslexia, as this technology predicts the words students want to write after just a few characters have been typed. As a rule, there is a box with several suggestions, and the user can choose the appropriate word to be inserted into the text. Try to test word prediction software using either WordQ or Co:Writer. These tools can also be used when sitting in a classroom and taking notes during lectures, as dictating aloud would probably disturb other classmates. Statistics show that word prediction is actually able to help students improve their spelling and transcription accuracy, increasing both word fluency and the academic quality of work completed. Furthermore, students enjoy how the program suggests a wide range of options so they can select the most appropriate ones without constantly worrying about spelling mistakes. Still, the process of choosing requires careful attention as there are many confusing words and word forms, so using this software isn’t as easy as it seems to be at first. Nevertheless, this tool is really effective because in many cases it shows more significant results than voice recognition software, as it not only helps deal with problems but actually does its best to solve them!
  3. Tools for Students With Rare Disorders. In addition to the common problems of Dysgraphia, Dyspraxia, and Dyslexia, there also are some other issues that, although they occur rarely, are important to know about. Cryptomnesia is when something that was forgotten returns suddenly but is thought to be new. In other words, memory resources become a new knowledge for writers without their realizing it. In this way, writers auto-plagiarize everything they remember, whether it’s a song or a literary composition. What is most surprising is how they do it unintentionally. To prevent these situations, students with Cryptomnesia can use Unplag to check their papers for plagiarism to be sure they use their own original thoughts and unique ideas. Dysantigraphia is when students cannot copy any printed or written material. Instead, students can write this material down if it is being spoken aloud by the teacher, but as soon as they take a look at a printed version of what they’ve heard, they become incapable of copying it. Scholars presume this disorder may be related to a stroke or other brain trauma. Screencast-O-Matic is a tool that will help students conquer Dysantigraphia by turning printed material into listenable sound files.

What You Can Do Besides Using Tools

Fortunately, there is a lot of information out there from reliable sources about difficulties with writing. Lots of research by psychologists, neurophysiologists, behaviorists and other specialists has taken place, which means there are many ways to improve written expression even without leaving home. Below are some ideas that are the easiest to follow. You just have to inspire your students to use them effectively!

  • Never stop encouraging students to learn;
  • Prove that reading is FUNdamental;
  • Concentrate on effort, not result;
  • Make them focus on their studying process;
  • Inspire students to stay hungry for new knowledge;
  • Advise them to take notes on everything;
  • Have the highest regard for their writing;
  • Allow them to use keyboarding when they’re tired;
  • Evaluate their achievements according to your expectations;
  • Pride yourself on constant teaching and improving together with your students.

With tools and strategies like these, you can help put your special needs students on the pathway to academic success!

Photo Credit: Yasmeen/Flickr

About the Author:

Before he became a private teacher, Michael spent five years in the school classroom. He always was an inclusive education advocate, and still, believes that everyone should have access to good education.  Michael shares his thoughts on education, pedagogy and digital learning on his Twitter and his personal education blog Cultivating Education. Follow him, and you will not miss his new posts!