At a glance
Typing is often easier than writing by hand for kids with certain learning and thinking differences.
Kids with learning and thinking differences may have areas of weakness that can impact typing.
When kids struggle with the mechanics of typing, it can slow them down and impact the quality of their writing.
Many kids with learning and thinking differences prefer to type rather than write by hand because typing makes writing easier. But that’s not always the case for kids with certain challenges, including and motor skills issues. Even if they’ve gotten typing instruction in school, some kids may need extra time and practice to master this skill.
Here are some of the learning and thinking differences and other challenges that can impact a child’s ability to type.
Motor skills issues
When kids are formally taught to type, it’s usually “touch-typing” (which many of us learned in high school). That means being able to type with multiple fingers without looking at the keyboard.
That can be a real struggle for kids who struggle with fine motor skills. It can be hard for them to coordinate both hands on the keyboard while moving one finger at a time to isolate a letter (or their thumb for the space bar). Using the trackpad or mouse poses an added challenge.
Spatial issues may also create difficulties with learning to type. Kids have to keep one hand on the right side and the other on the left, hovering over the middle (“home”) row. Trouble with visual-spatial processing can make it hard to locate a specific letter in a sea of keys. Kids may also have trouble understanding the spatial distance between letters.
Some kids have trouble remembering where the letters are on the keyboard. So they rely on their vision to search and find the right letter, which slows them down.
Kids who have trouble with spelling, or who have language-related issues, can have an added challenge. The fact that the letters on the keyboard are in a different order than the alphabet can make it even harder to memorize the layout. The letters are also in uppercase, and when writing, kids would mostly be using lowercase letters.
ADHD and executive functioning issues
Trouble with focus can be a problem for some kids when it comes to typing. Most word processors highlight spelling mistakes. They can be configured to highlight grammar mistakes, too.
How can you help your child get better at typing? Try these apps, websites, and games.
Getting constant feedback on what they’re writing can be distracting for kids with ADHD and . They may lose their train of thought by focusing more on fixing mistakes than on moving forward with their idea. Kids with attention issues may also get distracted by shifting their gaze from a handwritten draft to the keyboard to the screen.
Trouble with flexible thinking can create a different type of challenge. Kids may have a hard time accepting the computer’s corrections, convinced that they are right.
How you can help your child with typing
You may not be able to address your child’s specific challenges. But there are ways you can make typing easier.
- Some experts say that if kids find it frustrating to touch-type, you can let them type in whatever way works for them. Don’t worry if they’re not typing “the right way,” as long as they’re getting it done.
- Let kids use a tablet for shorter assignments. They can type using their thumbs and fingers, a process similar to texting.
- If kids find it distracting to have spelling and grammar mistakes highlighted, turn off auto-correct. Turn it back on when the project is finished. Then they can make corrections all at once.
- Use a typing tutor program to boost proficiency. Kids may benefit from a program designed for a general audience to get some practice and improve on speed. There are many free programs online. Most include access to fun games to improve letter awareness and overall speed.
- Try an alternative keyboard. These have special overlays that customize how a standard keyboard looks and functions. They might group keys by color, or add graphics to aid comprehension, for instance.
If your child’s challenges impact typing, don’t give up. It may take longer for your child to master typing than it takes other kids. But kids who do get proficient at typing often find writing assignments easier and less frustrating.
If you’re concerned that your child has a motor skills issue like , there are steps you can take. And find out what to do if you’re concerned your child has another learning or thinking difference.
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About the author
About the author
Kate Kelly has been writing and editing for more than 20 years, with a focus on parenting.
Keri Wilmot is an occupational therapist who works with children of varying ages and abilities in all areas of pediatrics.