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Dcd, handwriting, word processing

(20 Posts)
Partridge Wed 29-Jan-14 22:10:32

Hello smile

My ds is 7 and has a recent diagnosis of DCD. He initially presented with attention problems, anxiety, poor fine motor control (issues with buttons and pencil grip) and motor planning problems.

6 months on and many of these are resolved, however his handwriting is mostly still illegible.

We have just been signed off from the lovely OT. She says that his visual processing is at age 9-11 so no problems there. In this final session he did 10 minutes of handwriting. The task required him to choose a topic and then write on it.

Whilst she was impressed with how quickly he chose a topic, and how he organised his thoughts to commit it to paper (he is bright and his sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling and grammar are excellent) she did say he still has considerable motor issues with writing.

We are both worried that as his learning becomes increasingly complex he will get more and more frustrated by his inability to commit his ideas to paper (and frankly I feel sorry for his teacher having to decipher his writing - it goes on different lines, is smudged, is inconsistent in letter size/squashed etc) Basically she suggested getting him to use a keyboard in class.

Could anyone give me their opinions or experiences of word processing at such a young age in school?

Whilst I am not averse to it, the slightly more old fashioned members of my family think he should persevere with writing exercises (although the ot says these are laborious and not great). My mother thinks he will forget how to write and will be stigmatised for being different. hmm

Many thanks.

claw2 Wed 29-Jan-14 22:32:46

Maybe he could use a keyboard for longer pieces of work and continue to write for shorter pieces?

vorpent Wed 29-Jan-14 22:49:32

Hi there,

My ds1 was diagnosed at a similar age, and his handwriting was also illegible. We went down the typing route with him. My reasons:

- as they get older, children are judged and assessed solely by what they write. No matter what teachers may say to the contrary.

- lots of studies have shown that markers will always mark an essay down if it's not neat.

- My ds' self esteem was dropping through the floor. He knew exactly how badly his writing compared with his peers'.

- The content as well as the appearance of his work was suffering. He couldn't think about what he was writing at the same time as controlling a pencil.

School was initially not keen, but in Year 3 his teachers said go for it, but they couldn't help teach him to touch type at school. We used Nessy Fingers at home, a quick go before school and after school. It's best done in fairly short sessions (5-10 mins), and it gives you stats for each game, so you can see progress in accuracy and typing speed. We set up a massive reward system for our deeply unmotivated ds based on this smile. He managed to get up to about 25 words per minute within about 10 weeks of starting.

The results have been pretty remarkable. His teachers said they saw an immediate change in his attitude and self esteem if they asked him to type, not handwrite. He's become much more independent at school, and has moved up from bottom groups to middle in literacy. Based on our experience, I'd say go for it.

We had a few practical issues with getting him set up with a laptop at school, particularly sorting him out so he can print off his work and stick it in his book right away. If you decide to do this, and school expects you to provide a laptop, don't do what we did, check exactly how all this will work before getting anything. For a long time, ds had to copy stuff onto a memory stick, and give it to a teacher to print, which threw up all manner of problems. He now works at a desktop school computer, from which he can print directly, which is much better.

Good luck OP, whatever you decide!

Partridge Thu 30-Jan-14 06:40:28

That is fantastic smile. Thank you for your advice. The ot said that she didn't think that touch typing was that important, but I see you think it may be?

Could I ask, in terms of how practical it may be, did your ds have to sit separately to use the school desk top? Do you think that with wireless printers we could get him a printer and a laptop so that he could stay part of the class? (Actually I am not sure how practical that is with school wifi etc)

Also did you get any grants for equipment? We live in Scotland so it may be completely different... Anyway thank you so much for that brilliant advice.

Partridge Thu 30-Jan-14 06:40:59

Ps - could you reassure me that your ds can still write a bit?grin

streakybacon Thu 30-Jan-14 08:23:38

Our situation isn't quite the same as my son is home educated so we can do as we see fit, but in practical and educational terms he's found using the laptop incredibly important in producing quality work. He has hypermobile joints and can only write for a very short time before his hands hurt and the writing becomes illegible to anyone not familiar with it.

I'd definitely teach your son to touch type - it will be a valuable skill for him as he gets older. Mavis Beacon is an excellent resource and you can buy older versions of it on ebay etc for pennies. If he's going to use a laptop later for exams he'll need to show he's competent at using it effectively at a reasonable speed. You might want to look at the Joint Council for Qualifications website for special arrangements in exams - it doesn't hurt to think ahead).

Handwriting isn't the only issue/reason for using a keyboard. My son has ADHD and autism and has a lot of difficulty with organising his thoughts onto paper. Typing means he can start in the middle of an answer if that's how his head is working, and can go back and forth to edit till he's happy with the end product. This way he can give answers that reflect his ability and knowledge.

My son has laptop access for his exams but for some papers, there are shorter questions that he hand-writes onto the paper and types the longer ones. If your son goes this route there will be guidance before the exam on how this should be presented. I also have him do some handwriting during the day for lists and revision cards etc as there will obviously be times in everyday life that he'll have to write and can't rely on technology.

Like vorpent, I saw an astonishing change in my son's output when he used a laptop. He too has excellent core skills but his problem lay with putting them all together into something coherent and readable. It's definitely worth pressing for.

sazale Thu 30-Jan-14 08:28:40

I think my DS who is nearly 7 has DCD/dyspraxia. We are considering using an alpha smart. The OT, LA specialist teaching service and EP have all advised using IT support as he has extreme hypermobility in his hands as well as significant fine motor skill issues. The school, however, choose to ignore this.

Partridge Thu 30-Jan-14 10:26:05

Thank you all very much. Someone mentioned alpha smart. How does this compare to a conventional laptop? Any other experiences of typing devices in the classroom?

Many thanks.

KeepOnKeepingOn1 Thu 30-Jan-14 11:04:40

DS2's (also 7) has ASD plus 99th percentile cognitive skills and really struggles to write. CT said that she wanted him to write and that this was an IEP target.

But I spoke about this to potential plus who advised that 50/50 typing and writing in class plus a small group intervention using Speed Up! by Lois Addy is the way to go.

I'll let you know if how the school respond to this.

vorpent Thu 30-Jan-14 12:17:08

Hi, sorry for the delay in getting back!

I think that touch typing allows writing to become automatic, so my ds doesn't have to devote too much thought to how to get his thoughts down, and can focus on content. Plus, it's easier than you might think. Nessy Fingers presented it in quite a fun way, so ds didn't mind doing it, especially as he really, really wanted to stop having to hand write in school. Do keep sessions very short though: a little but often is the trick. I sometimes covered his hands with a teacloth as he got confident, so that he really had to touch type and not look at the keys.

In my ds' case, he does sit just outside the classroom to type and do his independent work, but that's more because he has sensory issues and needs to get away from the noise and bustle of the classroom. He did use his laptop at his desk before. I'd talk to the school about how best to do printing, it all depends what their set-up is. It's definitely good if he can print directly though. For my ds, it also gives him a chance to get up and go and fetch his work from the office, which is a much-needed opportunity to stretch his legs.

Don't do Alphasmart! We tried it, and it was a nightmare. The teachers just couldn't comprehend the interface at all, so he kept losing his work.

On the handwriting front, it certainly hasn't got any worse, and on some days it looks like it's getting a little bit better. There are still occasions when he writes short notes or such like by hand, and he still does handwriting practice when the rest of the class does. I don't make him practice apart from that, as it's such a painful experience for him! These days, I'm not sure that in Real Life we really need to hand write if we don't want to, technology being so all-pervasive now.

I have to say, we paid for an old, cheap laptop for ds, rather than wait around to get funding, so I'm not sure about grants.

coppertop Thu 30-Jan-14 14:26:43

Ds has problems with fine motor skills and his handwriting. He started using a laptop for classwork when he was in Yr6.

I think people often mean well when they suggest continuing with handwriting, but that they don't quite comprehend what it can be like day-to-day. One of ds' teacher's recently 'helpfully' suggested that his writing might improve if he practised more. She was a little taken aback when I explained that ds had been working on his fine motor skills and under the guidance of an OT for almost 10 years!

Using a laptop for typing is relatively straightforward in primary school, where children stay in the same classroom for most of the day. Ds used an old laptop with a basic word processing program on it. His work was saved on to a memory stick, and the teacher would print it in the classroom for him.

One thing to watch out for is to make sure that it doesn't automatically put in capital letters when your child has forgotten to.

Ds learned touch-typing with the BBC Dance Mat website, but I have no idea whether that's still around. He's now 13yrs old and types extremely quickly. He can produce much more work than he used to be able to. In Yr7 he had to write by hand for a while, and managed a paragraph of illegible writing in a typical lesson. With a laptop he was able to type almost two sides of A4 in the same amount of time.

Ds still writes his maths classwork by hand, as it's easier than trying to set it out on a screen. Maths homework is mainly done online though, so handwriting isn't needed for that.

He also uses handwriting for his languages lessons, as it was taking too long to put in the accents on the letters etc.

streakybacon Thu 30-Jan-14 14:48:19

One thing to watch out for is to make sure that it doesn't automatically put in capital letters when your child has forgotten to

Yes, that's important. Unless he has specific permission, laptop use in exams will have all automatic functions turned off, so it's important he learns to manage without those features. It may be that when the time comes your son will get access arrangements to allow them but you won't know for sure for a while yet.

One way to get around this (and our exam centre's way) is to use Notepad rather than Word as it doesn't have those features installed and you have to type correctly yourself.

paperlantern Thu 30-Jan-14 18:18:24

very interested in this topic as going through the same stuff with ds(6) and looking at options.

if you don't mind the highjack. can I ask how things work for your dc? we have had recommended a large button colour coded keyboard but was wondering if you could get them on a laptop. do you kids have Normal keyboards or not.

vorpent Thu 30-Jan-14 21:37:21

Hi, my ds just has a basic old toshiba laptop. It's got a fairly chunky keyboard as laptops go, but the teachers didn't feel there was space to attach a normal full size keyboard on his desk hmm. My instincts are that the bigger and chunkier the keyboard, the better. If your dc learn to touch type, then ultimately coloured keys will be irrelevant as they won't need to look at the keys, but I can imagine it might be helpful to start with.

I don't know exactly what will happen when it comes to secondary. We'll probably get ds a better laptop, which is a bit lighter so he can carry it around. Possibly a tablet with a keyboard to attach. Mind you, as he needs a lot of deep pressure input, carrying around a laptop which weighs about the same as a small child might do him some good smile

Swanhildapirouetting Thu 30-Jan-14 22:07:19

My elder son has been recently diagnosed with DCD at 13. His handwriting did improve a lot (it helped that his spelling was very good) from the nearly illegible stuff at 7, so the fact we did not use a laptop did improve his handwriting, through the fact he was just endlessly having to write. An OT assessed his handwriting as normal speed recently. However the Ed Pysch pointed out how hard he was pressing, and how tired his hand got towards the end of a period of writing, and how this was all impacting on his ability to motivate himself to complete long essays. So what on surface just looks like laziness is a motor skills problem.

So I would definitely, in hindsight, push for touchtyping. Ds has caught up, but he has been told he shouldn't do Gsce like History which have lots of writing - so it is still impacting behind the scenes.

Also, he is too busy writing to process his thoughts very clearly, so we get a lot of grammatical errors and repetition.

The second child, who has ASD is much worse at writing, nearly illegible and this has forced our hand somewhat; school is suggesting he types everything!!!! Although they are still pursuing improvements in handwriting for his self esteem (he does practice every morning before registration) I think they have realised that touchtyping is the answer and they have laid on a course in that.

So TOUCHTYPING!!! I had terrible handwriting, but managed (although slow in exams). In my twenties I learnt to touchtype and it has been a revelation - I wish I had had that facility in exams.

bochead Fri 31-Jan-14 06:13:54

Not everyone with coordination issues will find typing easier than handwriting - it's not a magic bullet for everyone.

DS found daily OT exercises for his balance/midline and BO therapy for his vision helped his handwriting.

This is a good handwriting programme for those with fine motor issues. It helps you isolate the specific areas a child has problems so you can hone in on them & is developmentally appropriate http://www.amazon.co.uk/Write-start-Programme-Perceptual-Handwriting/dp/1855032457 It seems a very popular reccomendation with OT's.

I think it's worth treating handwriting and producing literacy work as separate entities for children with writing problems.

DS writes his stories etc on the laptop, but we still practice forming our letters as pure handwriting practice daily. I'm only aiming to get him to the point where he can confidentially jot down a telephone message or write a shopping list, essays and exams will be typed. I think a basic level of handwriting is a critical life skill for filling in forms, making a note of addresses etc though iyswim.

At the moment he does school online so uses the keyboard a lot. I'm intending to cover touch typing in year 6 as this is the point where I think he'll have the maturity to see the advantages of doing daily repetitive practice in terms of the end goal. (I remember doing my own secretarial course years back and frankly although very handy once you you've learn the actual process of learning to touch type is mind numbingly boring!).

vorpent Fri 31-Jan-14 10:01:08

Bochead, on the question of whether typing is easier, I think the point is that ultimately you're just having to strike a key rather than control the fine movement of a pen or pencil, so I'm not sure I can think of a case where handwriting would actually be easier. Not arguing with your great suggestions for improving your handwriting, though!

Also, once you have, even with some difficulty, typed out your work, you can then read what you've written, other people can read what you've written, and you can feel proud of what you've written. This is of huge importance at school. Teachers judge children by their handwriting, subconsciously. Children judge themselves by it, too.

Seems like the consensus on this thread is that dc do some handwriting practice, but do that as a separate exercise from their general school work. They will also get practice during Maths, as it's problematic to type that. My ds' handwriting is improving gradually, enough to do the simple note taking of which you speak, despite mostly typing his work at school, and doing fairly minimal handwriting practice. I guess to some extent, their general motor skills do improve a bit with maturity.

bochead Fri 31-Jan-14 18:29:12

In my old job I had to help source technology for those adults who couldn't type! Typing is beyond the ability of some people, and I do wish schools would accept that more often as it would have saved the self-esteem of some of the disabled adults I worked with.

Dragonspeak voice to text software is one popular alternative as are specialist keyboards/text input devices. Abilitynet is a great charity to sound out for ideas for that sub-group who'll never be able to type on a conventional laptop keyboard.

lookdeepintotheparka Fri 31-Jan-14 20:27:06

Very interesting thread!

Just to add that BBC Dance Mat is still around for typing practice and it's quite good. My dd (mild CP) is one of those children for whom typing is more difficult than writing as she doesn't have full control of her individual fingers (along with hypermobility/low tone). She has been encouraged by school to develop handwriting skills at the same time as using a computer for longer pieces of work.

mrsbaffled Sat 01-Feb-14 09:08:17

DS was dx with fine motor issues in yr 3. He was advised to learn to touch type. I taught him using Nessy Fingers, which is excellent.. He was given use of an alpha smart in school, but to be honest he rarely uses it any more (it is there if he wants it). His writing has improved so much now. He can't spell for toffee, but the actual letters look similar to his peers now.

I felt the alpha smart was really useful for building confidence for him, so was a great short term tool. I think he may need a laptop or similar when he starts to write more at secondary.

Another thing that we were advised to try was to produce mind maps for helping him get things down on paper (before he was confident enough to write in sentences straight away). This really helped too, just to prove to the teacher he had some ideas, rather than handing in a blank piece of paper.

Now he is older (yr5) he has been told he can hand in homework however he likes. He often chooses to do a presentation. We have discovered Prezi. His projects look really clever. If you do it on the ipad app you can just talk into it too, using Siri. Very clever!

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