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Software and apps for kids who struggle with writing

By Understood Team

Kids with and other writing challenges often struggle to express their thoughts in written form. The physical act of writing can be difficult for them, too.

There’s a range of assistive technology software that can help, however. These computer programs and tablet apps help kids create legible text, organize their thoughts, make word choices, spell words correctly, and catch some of the errors they make while writing. Most of them offer several tools that help with writing, such as:

  • Dictation (speech-to-text), which types out what kids say so they don’t have to type or write by hand

  • Text-to-speech (TTS), which reads back what’s been typed to help kids listen for possible mistakes

  • Typing echo, which uses TTS to read aloud as students type, providing immediate feedback

  • Word prediction , which predicts what kids are trying to type (even if it’s misspelled) and lists suggested words

  • Spellcheck to suggest correct spelling even if students spell words phonetically

  • Grammar checker to highlight possible mistakes such as easily confused words (its/it’s, to/too/two), wrong verb tense, and capitalization and punctuation

  • Word banks to help kids think of topic-related words, or to help emerging writers build sentences from whole words

  • Different types of dictionaries and thesauri, some of which allow kids to look up words with sound or pictures or look up words in their first language

  • Digital , which can help kids organize their thoughts visually prior to writing

Here are some options to consider for macOS, Windows PCs, iPads, and Google Chrome. Tools that run on Chrome will also work with Microsoft’s Edge browser on PCs and Macs. Built-in reading features like basic TTS and visual tracking are also available in most devices.

Program and priceKey featuresUser experience

Google Voice Typing (Google Docs): Free

 

Dictation (Mac, iPad) and Voice Control (Mac, iPad): Free 

 

Windows Speech Recognition (Windows): Free

  • Dictation

With the dictation: Kids can speak what they want to type (including punctuation). They can also navigate and edit their work by using voice commands like “delete,” “capitalize,” and “go to end.”

Microsoft Editor (part of Microsoft Learning Tools): Free utility included with:
 

  • Microsoft Word and Outlook (Mac, Windows)

  • Online versions of Microsoft Office available through the Office extension on Chrome or Edge browsers

  • Dictation

  • TTS

  • Spellcheck

  • Grammar checker

With the dictation: Kids can speak what they want to type.

 

With the TTS: Kids can listen to text read aloud to help them identify possible mistakes.

 

With the spellcheck and grammar checker: Kids can get suggestions on how to fix possible errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

 

The Premium version provides extra help with word choice, writing style, and sentence clarity.

 

In addition to these writing tools, the software has other features to help kids with reading.


 

Grammarly (Mac, Windows, Chrome): Free

 

Premium version (provides additional writing assistance): $12/month

  • Spellcheck

  • Grammar checker

  • Writing assistance

 


 

With the spellcheck and grammar checker: Kids can get suggestions on how to fix possible errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

 

To help improve future writing, the program also explains why the flagged text is a possible mistake.

 

Grammarly Premium provides extra help with word choice, writing style, and sentence clarity.


 

Co:Writer: $60/year (Chrome extension on Mac, Windows, Chromebook, iPad)

  • Dictation

  • TTS and typing echo

  • Word prediction

  •  Translator

 


 

With the TTS and typing echo: This program reads aloud each word and sentence as it’s typed to provide real-time feedback. 

With the word prediction: Co:Writer displays a list of likely words based on letters typed, even if misspelled. The software also uses topic dictionaries to bias its predicted words toward those related to selected topics. Kids can also find desired words using dictation.

With the translator: Students can type a word in their first language and see the word in English.


 

Read&Write: $145/year (license provides access for one user from Windows PCs, Macs, Chrome, iPad, and Android tablets)

Free version includes TTS and single-word translator.

 

Read&Write is free for teachers who sign up with their school email address.

  • Dictation

  • TTS and typing echo

  • Word prediction

  • Spellcheck

  • Grammar checkers

  • Word banks

  • Talking and picture dictionaries

  • Translator

With the TTS and typing echo: As the student types, the program reads aloud individual words and the entire sentence using kids’ TTS voices. Words are also highlighted as they’re spoken.

With the talking and picture dictionary and translator: Kids can hear definitions of words read aloud with TTS and see images of those words to help them understand the meanings. Kids can also translate a word from their first language into English.

With the spellchecker and grammar checkers: Kids can get suggestions on how to fix possible errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

The Mac and Windows versions also have a Verb Checker to figure out the right tense of a verb, and a Similar Words Checker to help kids check for mistakes involving words that sound alike but are spelled differently.

In addition to these writing tools, the software has other features to help kids with reading.

Inspiration (Windows): $89

 

Inspiration Maps (iPad): $10

  • TTS

  • Graphic organizers

  • Voice notes

  • Writing templates

With the graphic organizer: Kids can brainstorm and organize their ideas as an outline, a diagram, or a mind map. Ideas can be represented by text, symbols, and pictures.

With the voice notes: Kids can capture ideas verbally or rehearse and record what they want to say before writing it.

With the writing templates: Kids can use one of several dozen templates to jump-start their writing project. Inspiration offers some ready-made templates. Teachers and students can also create their own custom templates.

Clicker 8 (Mac or Windows) and Clicker Writer (iPad or Chromebook): $349 (three-year subscription for one teacher or parent and one student)

  • Dictation

  • TTS and typing echo

  • Word prediction

  • Spellcheck

  • Word banks

  • Graphic organizers

  • Voice notes

Clicker is a standalone word processor aimed at grade-schoolers.

With the TTS and typing echo: As the student types, the program reads aloud individual words and the entire sentence using kids’ TTS voices. Words are also highlighted as they’re spoken.

With the word banks: Emerging writers can build sentences by selecting whole words or phrases from word banks (called Clicker Grids) or use these words along with typing. Teachers can create custom Clicker Grids to help kids build sentences word-by-word or provide words related to a topic. Teachers can create custom grids for special topics or use grids available through the software.

With the graphic organizers: Kids can organize their ideas with words and pictures to prepare for writing.

With the voice notes: Kids can capture ideas verbally or rehearse and record what they want to say before writing it.

Kurzweil 3000: $1,395 standalone, or $500/year subscription (Mac or Windows)

 

It’s available at a big discount if your school is a Kurzweil customer.

 

Students can also access their Kurzweil materials and most tools through various web browsers or the Kurzweil iPad app.

  • Dictation

  • TTS and typing echo

  • Word prediction

  • Spellcheck

  • Talking and picture dictionaries

  • Graphic organizers

  • Writing templates

With the TTS and typing echo: As the student types, the program reads aloud individual words and the entire sentence using kids’ TTS voices. Words are also highlighted as they’re spoken.

With the word prediction: The program predicts words based on frequency of use. It also offers lists to help kids with choosing words.

With the dictation: Kids can combine the dictation tool with word prediction when writing. As they speak words to write, the program suggests words for them to use.

With the graphic organizers and writing templates: Students can visually organize their collected notes and ideas as an outline or a mind map in preparation for writing.

In addition to these writing tools, the software has other features to help kids with reading.


 

Computer software and tablet apps offer a wide range of features to help kids who struggle with writing. Explore free online tools that can help with writing. You can also look into assistive technology that’s built into mobile devices . And for a free low-tech tool, download some of our graphic organizers .


Price and availability may vary but were accurate as of March 31, 2021. Understood does not endorse or receive financial compensation for the sale of any of these products.

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