Does your child rush through written homework so quickly that it is impossible to read? Does she or he get frustrated when doing a writing assignment, crossing out words vigorously or balling up the paper in frustration after making an error? Does it take her or him “forever” to complete assignments when handwriting is involved? If any of these scenarios describes your child’s approach to handwritten work, it is probably time to begin teaching your child how to master other forms of “writing.”Luckily, technology can help your child become a better writer. This might mean learning to type on a traditional or virtual keyboard, adapting to thumb typing on a cell phone, or mastering dictation skills with a speech recognition program such as Dragon Dictation.
As a child clinical psychologist, I frequently encounter children whose frustration with any task involving writing negatively affects their view of school. Some of these kids are referred to my practice due to difficulty with processing issues due to very slow clerical motor and writing speed. Others are identified as children with ADHD, working memory difficulties, problems with executive functioning skills, or Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, or other Learning Disabilities. They may think quickly but write very slowly. For many of these children, writing tasks in school become a source of immense frustration. It is my observation that children who become frustrated with writing tasks are more likely to disengage with their education or even become high school dropouts.
Interestingly, for many of these children, texting their friends is not an issue. They are very comfortable texting using their two thumbs or “Swyping” without even looking at the keyboard. While I cannot cite any studies to prove it, I believe that these students produce more written words via texting than they do in their writing assignments at school.
The same students may also be good talkers. They may be eager to tell you about their latest exploits in a video game or about the newest drama in their social circle. These observations suggest that children who struggle with writing may have the capacity for using technology to help them improve their writing skills. They may be better at texting or using a mobile device than handwriting for recording their thoughts. They may certainly be better at oral communication and able to use dictation tools to produce writing assignments for school.
However, you can’t just provide them with technology and expect them to master it. Nor can you expect them to enjoy using these technologies initially. They may find that the learning curve for becoming a good typist or dictator seems just as steep as that of good penmanship. However, because many of these children truly love technology and the opportunity it offers to become more efficient and skilled writer, it is well worth trying. This series will provide a set of strategies to help parents and educators identify the best technologies to help struggling writers and to then motivate and train them so that they can master these tools to overcome their frustrations with writing.
Part two of this series will describe how to engage your child in becoming more proficient in dictation. The key is to help them learn the skills to dictate efficiently so that the desire to master the skill is inevitable. Part three will explore strategies for using typing and keyboarding skills to overcome the frustrations of writing. Part four will look at other technologies and tools such as word processing, brainstorming, online organizers, and cloud-based sharing technologies such as Google Drive, that will encourage your child to want to become a better writer.