Occupational Therapy Tools to Strengthen Keyboarding and Typing Skills
For many children, the challenge of learning to type can feel frustrating – even insurmountable. Fortunately, occupational therapists have useful tools to help!
Regardless of which tools they try, OTs (known for being creative and determined problem-solvers) will find a way to help the students they serve learn how to type.
We know you’ve got this! In the meantime, here are ideas from the educational experts on our team to bookmark and add to your OT toolbox.
Challenges with Typing
Learning to type can be challenging for any child. But certain disabilities can make mastering this skill much harder. Keyboarding can be particularly difficult for students who struggle with:
- Executive functioning
- Fine motor skills
- Physical impairment
- Visual-spatial processing
- Vision impairment
OT Tools to Help With Typing
From low-tech to high-tech solutions, there are modifications, accommodations and assistive technology tools for every need. Try these out with your students:
- Online typing games – Kids love gamified lessons! Free, high-interest typing games are available on sites like typing.com and education.com. These games can help all children but are especially helpful for those with attention issues and executive functioning disorders.
- Slant board - A wedge that can be used to prop up a keyboard. Slant boards can help students reduce interruptions to their visual plane as they look up at the screen and back down to the keyboard. This is particularly useful for students with visual-spatial processing disorders.
- Positioning aids – Seat cushions, foot rests or wrists rests can help students who have trouble accessing the keyboard. Positioning aids are particularly helpful for children who are small in stature or who have physical limitations like spasticity of the hands.
- Keyguard – A plastic frame that fits onto a keyboard so that the user can push only one button at a time. This keeps them from dragging their hands across keyboard and making unintentional keystrokes. Keyguards are available for computer keyboards or tablets and are helpful for kids with physical disabilities.
- High-contrast keyboard stickers – These are large, white or yellow stickers that are placed where needed (on the home row, for example). They can be added, moved or removed.
- Screen magnification – Windows, IOS and Android all have screen magnifiers in their ease-of-use access tools. This can be helpful for students with vision impairments.
- Dictation – Dictation can be used to create a blend of typing and dictation, gradually weaning the student off of dictation and toward typing. For example, the child would type two words and dictate five. Then they can move toward typing more and dictating less until dictation is no longer needed.
- Autocorrect and predictive text – These tools, available on Windows, IOS, etc. are particularly helpful for students with dyslexia. More advanced versions are called online word banks. These include Cowriter Universal, a subscription-based word prediction tool powered by AI that makes word suggestions based on the appropriate grammar, article of speech or content the students are writing about. It offers more support than suggested spellings in Microsoft.
- External adapted keyboard – These specialized keyboards plug into a computer. They have oversized, color-coded keys and are designed to help individuals who have moderate to severe fine motor or visual impairments
- Eye gaze software – This is an advanced tool that tracks the eyes. It is designed for people with physical limitations that prevent them from typing on a keyboard, such as spinal injury, muscular dystrophy or progressive medical condition.
As you work with each child or teen to determine what works best, remember you’ve got an array of solutions to try. Rely on research-based OT tools and methods, advice from experienced colleagues, input from parents and students and your own creativity!
To find out where your specialized skills are needed most in exciting locations across the nation, check out our school OT jobs !