Could touch typing help students with dyslexia?

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For many young students, learning differences – like dyslexia – pose a real challenge to developing good literacy skills.

Most people are familiar with the effect that dyslexia can have on reading and writing; but the impact that struggling with this learning difficulty can have on an individual’s confidence and sense of self-worth are not so commonly reported.

What is dyslexia? 

Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that affects approximately one tenth of the UK population. Termed a ‘specific learning difficulty’, dyslexia impacts on certain abilities that are used for learning, and as such can cause problems with writing, spelling and reading. Some students with dyslexia also have a related condition, such as dyspraxia (difficulty with movement and/or coordination) or dysgraphia (difficulty with the physical act of writing).

Dyslexia can’t be ‘cured’, as such; it’s a lifelong problem. However, the right support makes the condition manageable, allowing affected individuals to fulfil their potential and be successful at school, work, and beyond.

Spot the signs early

Spotting the signs of dyslexia early can have a large, positive impact on teenagers and children. Early identification of dyslexia allows for intervention and support. Parents and educators can develop strategies to help teens manage dyslexia effectively.

Not only are there multiple softwares, fonts and other coping strategies that can improve a teens self-esteem, emotional well-being and promoting academic achievement. 

What are some of the signs of dyslexia?

A young person with dyslexia may:

  • Put letters the wrong way round (‘b’ instead of ‘d’) or mix up the order of letters in words.
  • Struggle with spelling.
  • Understand information when given verbally, but find it difficult to process in written form.
  • Read and write slowly.
  • Appear disorganised or unable to follow a series of instructions/directions.

Please note that dyslexia has no impact on intelligence. Many students with dyslexia are in fact very clever, creative and skilled at problem solving; but the learning disorder may hold them back or obscure their talents.

What is touch typing?

Students can leverage touch typing whether they’re dyslexic or not. Touch typing is the process of typing on a keyboard without looking. Touch typing can increase typing speed and accuracy. Most QWERTY keyboards have small bumps on the ‘J’ and ‘F’ letters to help touch typers position their fingers correctly.

Touch typing may come naturally to some students, especially in the age of smartphones, however, others may have to practise touch typing. 

How can touch typing help?

In recent years, the use of technology has proved very helpful for students with dyslexia. Indeed, a recent article by the Guardian states that touch typing can provide a vital confidence boost, as it ‘give[s] dyslexic children the kind of automaticity they struggle with when learning to write by hand. Some are wary of putting marks on paper that would be a permanent symbol of their difficulties and are more comfortable with a tablet or computer where making corrections is easier.’ Moreover, the British Dyslexia Association concludes that ‘teaching touch typing skills and allowing pupils to use a computer for written work can allow more concentration to be focussed on the content of the piece’ and can even lead to ‘significant improvement in exam grades’.

Key benefits of touch typing include:

Providing students with a different way to learn. 

The memory skills utilised when learning to type are different to that of traditional writing; typing turns the process of spelling into a series of keyboard patterns. Dyslexic students often find it easier to remember these kinds of patterns than exercising the muscle memory it takes to handwrite a word, or the mental skill of picturing a correctly spelt word in one’s mind.

Offering an easy form of correction.

Touch typing provides an easier method of correcting a mistake once recognised. A paper covered in scribbles and crossings out can not only be disheartening for a dyslexic student to see, but also can interrupt the flow of their thought process and make it difficult for them to read back through what they’ve written. Spellchecking tools are widely available on touch typing programmes, too, and can be useful here.

Giving students the freedom to experiment.

Developing a strong writing skill – a key but often overlooked component of literacy – is often impossible for dyslexic students as they’re focused almost solely on making sure their spelling and grammar is correct. Touch typing, by contrast, eliminates much of this concern, allowing them to experiment with different writing styles and develop a sense of flair and confidence.

Offering an opportunity to go back and re-organise thoughts.

It has been proven that people with dyslexia have specific thought processes. This means that dyslexic students – unlike many students who do not have the condition – find it easier to jot thoughts down quickly as a series of disconnected ideas and then return at a later time to organise and structure their points into a cohesive answer or essay. Touch typing facilitates this.

The advantages of touch typing are significant for any student; but for those with dyslexia, learning to type could be a game changer. With the potential to boost confidence, improve communication skills, and enhance literacy, touch typing might just spell scholastic success.

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