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Writing in the Digital Age-Keyboard versus Pen in Adolescents with Handwriting Difficulties


Project description

Up to 90% of referrals to Children’s Occupational Therapy (OT) are for difficulties with handwriting and as part of the OT process, alternative modes ie keyboarding are often recommended. In secondary school, these recommendations inform access arrangements where students can apply to use a word-processor in examinations. However, no study has examined whether a word-processor has a positive impact on writing (composition) performance, compared to writing by hand. In addition, little is known about the contextual environment (policies/practices) and how key-stakeholders (students/OTs/educators) experience the process of handwriting accommodations.



This mixed-methods project (n=100) will: 

  1. Quantify the impact of writing modality (keyboarding versus handwriting) on writing performance

Measure factors that predict writing 

  1. performance
  2. Obtain the views of key-stakeholders to understand local policies/practices 

The project will create a much-needed evidence-base for supporting secondary school students with handwriting difficulties.


Impact Statement

Occupational Therapy Outcomes: 

  1. Benefit children and their families – since it may help speed up the process of support for help with writing skills
  2. Prevent or alleviate writing difficulties and reduce the risk of secondary effects such as low self-esteem, reduced motivation and academic underachievement

 Occupational Therapy Practice:

a)       It is anticipated that the information from this project will provide guidance to OTs on what to look for when assessing children with handwriting difficulties and the indicators that may inform their clinical decision-making.

 Occupational Service Delivery:

 b)      Provide an evidence-base for the OT process in children’s practice by informing decisions around assessment and support offered to children handwriting difficulties

Provide evidence for evaluating the need for accommodations in children with handwriting difficulties