Dyslexia & dysgraphia: answers
Today a parent asked: how to improve my dyslexic and dysgraphic child's keyboarding skills, since despite the school giving him 3 sessions a week for 6 months, he still can't touch type?!
SOAP BOX ALERT: A child with dyslexia and dysgraphia? 3x a week is a waste. Seriously.
To get good at something the child needs explicit instruction with 3 necessary elements that schools rarely provide:
After intensive, one-to-one, daily handwriting instruction as part of Multisensory Structured Language Therapy, those who still struggle with legibility benefit from touch-typing skills. I have only had one client who couldn't do well, and that was do to the degree of fine-motor dyspraxia that impaired both handwriting and keyboarding. [Side note: Dyspraxia is also known by the term Developmental Coordination Disorder/DCD. The leaders in dyspraxia/DCD information are in the United Kingdom, https://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/about-dyspraxia/ . ]
Schools are a limited resource. Often "the cart before the horse" situation occurs when the schools provide a keyboarding accommodation, but the student does not have keyboarding skills.
Think about it: a school that cannot teach your child to read with independence, or write with independence, is equally unlikely to be able to teach independent touch-typing keyboarding skills.
Here is a short guide to coaching your child (age 6+) to keyboarding independence so that they can actually USE the keyboarding accommodation:
1. Go buy typing.com (I don't get any money from them) without the ads and skip cutesy backgrounds for a plain setting using the color theme your child finds comfortable. It is an affordable investment in your child's independence, adaptable to coaching, and has optional skill-drill games. Or a similar program.
2. Set a time to work with your child 1:1, for 15 min. everyday (plan on everyday and you will do it most of the time). Because FREQUENCY is directly linked to success!
To put this in a perspective your child will appreciate: name any successful world-class musician/athlete they will recognize, and ask - why do THEY have a coach and why do THEY practice everyday? Because that is what it takes to be great.
3. Sit with your child, and you can provide the needed prompts as he works through the program... you can have him repeat anything or even just work repeatedly on one line, whatever works for the two of you day by day.
4. Focus on accuracy, and speed will grow over time. Begin with goal of 95% accuracy and grow it to 97-100%. As each new keystroke is added, look for speeds in the single digits, then teens, then 20's, then 30's, etc. until you are satisfied.
The nature of keyboarding is that the child is repeatedly learning a new skill, getting better, then adding a new keystroke which drops the speed and accuracy until it becomes a strong skill, then adding a new keystroke, etc.
5. Three phases:
A) No need to color code the keyboard, as we don't want the child to look at the keyboard. But for the first few sessions don't sweat it as your child looks at fingers and keys. The program will have an image of the keyboard and highlight the fingers to use and their reach pattern.
B) I've tried a variety of things and what works best is to use a sheet of paper towel taped to the bottom of the screen which then lays over the child's hands as they practice the reach-and-return without looking at hands. The keyboard image on the screen will be adequate support as the child develops the mind-to-motor connection. After a bit, turn off the keyboard image to strengthen the mind-to-motor links for true touch-typing.
C) After a few weeks, the mind-motor connection will have been established and there will be no need to cover the hands.
6. Once the child has speed and accuracy for all letters, with basic punctuation and use of capital letters, open a "word document".
A) First dictate very simple sentences that do not have ambiguous or challenging spelling.
B) Then ask the child to create their own simple sentences -- and at this time you can instruct the use of spell-check and the value of a trusted editor. But remain focused on learning the keyboarding techniques and resources, this is not a time to dwell on spelling issues.
C) and finally stand a paper up vertically next to the screen for the child to copy from (copying from the same plane is easier than shifting from the horizontal table surface to the vertical screen surface).
Hardware note: for those with small hands, a tablet with keyboard is often better than a laptop or desktop keyboard, which was designed for adult hands.
Your child will be thrilled at their new skill, and touch-type keyboarding will be a huge asset immediately, with life-long value!
Susan Louchen, CALT