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Writing in the digital age: Keyboard versus pen in adolescents

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

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
  2. Measure other known factors associated with writing performance (control variables)
  3. Obtain the views of adolescents and their parents/carers about handwriting difficulties through questionnaires and interviews.

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

Take part

If you would like to find out more about this study, please email

If you are interested in participating, please read the participant information sheet.

Meet the Principal Investigator(s) for the project

Dr Mellissa Prunty
Dr Mellissa Prunty - Mellissa is the Divisional Lead for Occupational Therapy at Brunel University London. She is a children's Occupational Therapist by background. She qualified from the MSc (pre-reg) programme at Glasgow Caledonian University in 2010. She previously completed a BSc (Hons) in Kinesiology at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada, while on athletic scholarship for women’s basketball. She completed her PhD on handwriting difficulties in children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), which she undertook at Oxford Brookes University under the supervision of Prof. Anna Barnett, Dr. Mandy Plumb and Dr. Kate Wilmut. Mellissa has worked in a variety of childrens' services and specialises in working with children with coordination difficulties. She founded the children's occupational therapy research clinic at the university which investigates key skills and participation in childhood including handwriting, activities of daily living and cycling. The clinic currently offers placements to occupational therapy students at the university. Separate to this Mellissa co-led the development of wheelchair basketball and disability sport on campus. She has organised a series of inter-professional training days for health care students and has incorporated wheelchair basketball into the occupational therapy curriculum. The wheelchair basketball project has now expanded into the local community and a new club for children and adults is now underway (Brunel Bulls). Mellissa joined Brunel University London as a Lecturer in October 2013.

Related Research Group(s)

brain scan

Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience - Fundamental and applied research into brain function using techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), eye-tracking, transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS), infrared thermography together with psychophysics and cognitive behavioural paradigms in health and disease.

Partnering with confidence

Organisations interested in our research can partner with us with confidence backed by an external and independent benchmark: The Knowledge Exchange Framework. Read more.

Project last modified 06/02/2024