With each passing year, technology becomes a more critical part of students’ educational programs.
This is especially true for children who struggle with handwriting.
Keyboarding is often suggested as an alternative or supplement to pen-and-paper writing for children with disabilities.
But what if a child also struggles with typing, or with learning how to type?
If students are going to be able to use keyboarding as a viable alternative or supplement to handwriting at school, they need to be able to appropriately access and practice using the technology in order to become fluent in it use.
Today, as part of our Functional Skills for Kids series, our team is addressing the topic of keyboarding, and I’ll be sharing about keyboarding modifications and adaptations that can help students with typing! This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (see full disclosure here).
WHAT TO DO IF A STUDENT IS STRUGGLING WITH KEYBOARDING
First of all, let’s make sure the student is set up for success:
- Is the student’s computer, work station, and body positioned appropriately? Your Therapy Source has a post that gives details and checklists to help you make sure your student’s ergonomics are appropriate for keyboarding. And OTs with Apps & Technology has a post about an adjustable stand for your computer, keyboard, and mouse in order to ensure correct positioning for a variety of students.
- Are developmentally appropriate expectations being placed on the student? Miss Jaime OT has a wonderful post that outlines the developmental progression of keyboarding skills and expectations, from Kindergarten through 8th grade.
- Has the student been given the opportunity to consistently practice with an appropriate keyboarding program? I have a post filled with keyboarding programs to help kids with typing practice that may help you narrow down your search.
- Has the student had the opportunity to participate in a keyboarding club as part of a Response to Intervention (RtI) approach? Sugar Aunts has some great suggestions for how to start and run a keyboarding club as a first round of intervention for students.
- Would the student benefit more (or require) other forms of assistive technology? The Inspired Treehouse has a list of high-tech and low-tech AT options for students who struggle with handwriting. And OTs with Apps & Technology has a FANTASTIC post filled with several options for note taking tools.
If you’ve determined your student is set up for success but you need some more strategies, take a look at these keyboarding modifications!
Some are low-tech options that are quick and easy to implement. Others are high-tech options that would best be considered by a team and will require some further research on your part. Not every suggestion will be helpful for your student. This list is just meant to highlight some options you may not have considered. So take a look, problem solve, and collaborate with other appropriate professionals as needed!
1. Place stickers or pieces of tape with letters on the student’s home row fingers. This will allow the student to see which finger controls each letter when they are first starting out (since the letters get covered up when fingers are placed on them).
2. Put a crooked line down the middle of keyboard to distinguish left from right. You can use a piece of colored tape or a piece of Wikki Stix. On a QWERTY keyboard, your crooked line will go from top to bottom between 5 and 6, T and Y, G and H, B and N. This provides a visual cue to help students remember which hand to use for which letters when learning touch typing.
3. When practicing, place a piece of paper over the students’ hands to cover up the keys (secure it with a piece of tape at the top of the paper, at the top of the keyboard). This will encourage the student to rely on their kinesthetic sense while typing rather than their visual sense, which will slow them down. Over time and with practice, this can help increase fluidity and speed of typing.
4. When practicing, put a “window” over the keyboard, to only reveal the keys being worked on. This can help students who are visually distracted or impulsive.
5. Try high-contrast computer keyboard stickers. Helpful for students with visual or attention challenges. Here are several different types of computer keyboard stickers.
6. Try a color-coded keyboard. There are OTs with Apps & Technology blog.
8. Try a smaller, more compact keyboard. Can be more easily positioned for wheelchair users (such as between the arms of the wheelchair). Available through: Hands Free Computing; Inclusive Technology; Keytools; and Posturite.
9. Try a keyboard with larger keys. For students who have difficulty targeting keys on a standard-sized keyboard. Available through: Adapt-IT; Enabling Technology; Hands Free Computing; Inclusive Technology; Keytools; and Posturite.
10. Try an ergonomic keyboard with a split between left and right sides. Some allow you to adjust both the angle and height of the split. Can be helpful for students who present with range of motion challenges. Available through: Adapt-IT; Enabling Technology; Keytools; and Posturite.
11. Take a look at the Helpikeys customizable adaptive keyboard. Helpful for students with learning or motor disabilities, as well as visual or cognitive disabilities. Available through: Adapt-IT; Enabling Technology; and Inclusive Technology.
12. Try the Malton expanded keyboard for students with physical disabilities (such as cerebral palsy) or visual impairment. Made of steel and provides a keyguard to prevent accidental keypresses. Available through: Enabling Technology; Keytools; and PCD Maltron.
13. Try a Typing Aid for those with limited finger or hand use. Here is an example.
14. Look into the Maltron head/mouth stick keyboard for students with no use of hands. Designed to match natural head movement. Available through: Adapt-IT; Enabling Technology; Keytools; and PCD Maltron.
15. Consider a half keyboard for one-handed touch typing. Click here to learn more.
There are SO many amazing apps, keyboards, and keyboarding tools/programs out there to help students better access computer technology. And there are so many accessibility options within standard programs such as Windows, Mac, and Chrome. I’ve highlighted just a handful!
Here are some great resources where you can learn more about how to support students’ access to technology:
- AbilityNet fact sheet filled with keyboard and mouse alternatives/adaptations (scroll to bottom of page and click to download)
- AT Classroom blog
- OTs with Apps & Technology blog
MORE HELPFUL INFORMATION RELATED TO KEYBOARDING
For more ideas to help kids with keyboarding, check out all these posts from the Functional Skills for Kids team!
When is My Child Ready to Learn to Keyboard? | Miss Jaime, O.T.
Fine Motor Skills and Typing | Therapy Fun Zone
How to Implement a Keyboarding Club | Sugar Aunts
Assistive Technology for Kids Who Struggle with Handwriting | The Inspired Treehouse
Activities to Help Children Learn to Type | Growing Hands-On Kids
Work Station, Positioning and Keyboarding Skills| Your Therapy Source
Visual Perceptual Considerations When Typing | Your Kids OT
AbilityNet (2015). Keyboard and mouse alternatives and adaptations [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.abilitynet.org.uk/factsheets