I’ve used several different types of assistive technology for dysgraphia over the years, ranging from low-tech/no-tech devices that don’t require any batteries to the use of a computer or tablet that makes it possible for me to type all of my notes and not have to worry about trying to decode my handwriting later. Here are my favorite types of assistive technology for dysgraphia for students from elementary school to college, with options that can be used in the workplace as well.
What is dysgraphia?
Dysgraphia is defined by the National Institute of Health as “a neurological disorder characterized by writing disabilities. Specifically, the disorder causes a person’s writing to be distorted or incorrect.” It is considered a print disability as well as a type of specific learning disability, which is defined by the IDEA as “a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations.” By this definition, students with dysgraphia can qualify for classroom accommodations or modifications that are provided in a Student Assistance Plan (SAP), 504 Plan, or Individualized Education Plan (IEP), as well as qualify for a Disability Services file in college.
- Dysgraphia Accommodations In The Classroom
- Introduction To Low Vision IEPs: Post Round Up
- Why You Should Get A Disability Services File
What is assistive technology?
The Technology-Related Assistance to Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 (Tech Act) defines an assistive technology device as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.” The Tech Act also defines an assistive technology service as “any service that directly assists an individual with a disability in selection, acquisition or use of an assistive technology device.”
- A to Z of Assistive Technology For Low Vision
- Five Myths About Assistive Technology
- My Talk At A Future Date: What I Wish I Learned About AT Before Starting College
Low tech/no tech assistive technology for dysgraphia
For students that have dysgraphia in addition to other fine motor issues, pencil grips can be a great tool for helping students to hold a pencil more naturally. I have not used pencils in years because of my poor contrast vision, though my IEP in elementary school stated that I was allowed to use pencil grips in the classroom.
Wide ruled notebooks
I have trouble writing on small lines, so when I have to write in a notebook or on a page, I prefer to use wide ruled notebooks or notebooks with high-contrast lines that I can easily follow. A major component of dysgraphia is having difficulty with writing in a straight line, and while many of my words do not follow a straight line even when writing on the larger lines, the additional spacing does make a difference.
White boards with dry erase markers
I find it easier to write with a dry erase marker on a white board compared to writing on a page with a pen, as it is easier for me to correct mistakes and look at what I am drawing. When I have to hand-draw graphs or mock-ups for my homework, I typically draw them on my whiteboard and take a picture with them for the assignment.
Mid-tech assistive technology for dysgraphia
Dictation is referred to by many names, including speech-to-text, speech recognition, voice typing, and voice input, among other terms. Whatever you choose to call it, dictation as assistive technology is an alternative input format where the user uses their voice to speak text and formatting information, instead of using their keyboard or another tool to input text. I personally choose to use the built-in dictation tools on my tablet and computer, as I do not use dictation often and find that these tools are very accurate for capturing my voice.
Word prediction software
Word prediction software can help users that spend a lot of time typing by “predicting” the word or set of words that a user intends to type, based on frequency, spelling, and syntax. Users can add their own custom shortcuts to word prediction tools as well.
Handheld word processors/digital typewriters
For students that do not have access to computers at school or in the classroom, a handheld word processor is a portable, battery powered word-processing keyboard that has a small screen. It is designed for writing on-the-go and can be plugged into a computer to transfer saved written text with no internet required. While these devices can be difficult to purchase, they remain a popular tool in classrooms for students with disabilities and can be purchased used online. They can be purchased for as low as $19 from eBay and $40 from Amazon. The specific model I’ve used is the AlphaSmart Neo.
Pen scanners are a type of scanning device that allow users to scan in handwritten or typed text, which can help users with copying down information. Some pen scanners will also read text out loud, though this depends on the model. Once text is scanned in, users can copy it into a notetaking program or modify the text as needed. I use the low-cost Scanmarker Air, and love that I can use it with my computer as well as my iPad.
- Learning To Use Dictation As Assistive Technology With Low Vision
- AlphaSmart For Low Vision and Dysgraphia
- ScanMarker Air for Print Disabilities
High-tech assistive technology for dysgraphia
Note taking applications
All of my notes for my classes are stored in note taking applications like Microsoft OneNote or Notability, instead of traditional notebooks. These apps make it easily to reference notes from previous days or from other classes. An additional bonus is that I don’t have to carry several notebooks to class.
Use of a computer/tablet for typing
While I do handwrite text on occasion, a large majority of my assignments and notes are typed on my tablet or computer so that it is easier to read what I am saying. I also type out notes in class, lists of homework that needs to get done, and anything that is longer than a paragraph or that I will have to read later- it’s not fun trying to figure out if I meant to write 13x or 18y when I am trying to solve a math problem for my calculus class.
Digital scanning applications
In addition to the pen scanner, I also use digital scanning applications like Microsoft Office Lens to scan in materials that I can’t or don’t want to copy down. This is especially helpful for scanning in documents that I can later import into Microsoft OneNote or Notability and pair with my classroom notes.
- Notability and Low Vision Review
- How I Use Microsoft OneNote With Low Vision
- Why Every Student Needs Microsoft Office Lens
Summary of assistive technology for dysgraphia
- Pencil grips
- Wide ruled notebooks
- White boards with dry erase markers
- Word prediction software
- Digital typewriters
- Note taking applications
- Use of a computer/tablet for typing
- Digital scanning applications