Assistive Technology for Struggling Writers

Assistive Technology was first officially defined in the 2004 amendment to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA) as "any item, piece of equipment or product system, whether acquired commercially or off the shelf, modified or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of children with disabilities."

Assitive Technology for struggling writers can be defined as adaptations or software available for any person at any grade level (and beyond) who may struggle with writing. This can be assisting any disability or difficulty from blindness to fear of the blank page. There are times we may all fall into that category and need a helping hand. You do not need to have a severe disability to benefit from assistive technology. Those of us who struggle every day can also find help and success just a click away.

Our objective is to give our readers a small sampling of what technological tools are out there to help struggling writers. It may be the first grader who is reporting on frogs but does not have the ability to print legible letters. It may be the learning disabled high school student who is working on college admission essays. It could an employee who has debilitating arthritis and cannot type. Our sincere hope is that one of the books, websites or blogs that we share may be of help to you or someone you know.

This website gives some wonderful practical ideas on how to help struggling writers. It is also a great website for teachers to check out, lots of goodies there!
A website that highlights some of the technology available in both reading and writing with cost estimations.
Website that highlights some of the software programs available for struggling writers. This is more for the disabled learner but has some wonderful information.
A useful online article excerpt that includes low to high tech assistive technology for students.
A short yet concise online article on the types of writing tools that are available for struggling writers.

Great blog giving ideas as a teacher to help struggling writers in a Writer's Workshop environment.
Interesting blog post about what helps or hinders a struggling writer. Does personal expression really help or is it just a way for kids to do self therapy?
A great blog resource on all types of assistive technology available in education, including writing.
Evmenova, A. S., Graff, H. J., Jerome, M. K. and Behrmann, M. M. (2010), Word prediction programs with phonetic spelling support: Performance comparisons and impact on journal writing for students with writing difficulties. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 25(4), 170–182. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5826.2010.00315.x
Abstract: This investigation examined the effects of currently available word prediction software programs that support phonetic/inventive spelling on the quality of journal writing by six students with severe writing and/or spelling difficulties in grades three through six during a month-long summer writing program. A changing conditions single-subject research design was used and replicated across the participants. Using a daily writing prompt, students alternated between Co:Writer, WordQ, and WriteAssist word prediction programs. The results provided evidence for the effectiveness of various word prediction programs over word processing, and demonstrated improvements in spelling accuracy across conditions. Relative gains in the total number of words and composition rate were modest for the majority of the participants and should be interpreted with caution due to several methodological issues. The social validity interviews revealed that all students enjoyed the word prediction programs and found them beneficial. Study limitations and recommendations for future research are discussed.
MacArthur, C. A. (2009). Reflections on research on writing and technology for struggling writers. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 24(2), 93-103. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5826.2009.00283.x
Abstract: In this article, I discuss research on the use of technology to support the writing of students with learning disabilities. Struggling writers can benefit from a wide range of computer applications for writing. Word processing, spelling checkers, word prediction, and speech recognition offer support for transcription and revision. Word processing also opens up opportunities for more meaningful publication of writing. Outlining programs and concept mapping software can help with planning. New forms of writing, including Internet chat, blogs, multimedia, and wikis, have not been studied extensively, but they may offer both opportunities and challenges to struggling writers. In addition to describing the research, I try to articulate some general themes and principles that I hope will be helpful to both teachers and researchers. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Poplin, M. S. (1995). The dialectic nature of technology and holism: Use of technology to liberate individuals with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 18(2), 131-140.
Abstract: Technology, one of the gifts of reductionistic thinking, can be used holistically to liberate students with learning disabilities from many of their struggles with text while they are learning to read and write or to circumvent these struggles entirely throughout their lives if necessary. Technological occupations also offer possibilities for people with learning disabilities. It may well be that using technology in assistive, compensatory, and occupational manners will also produce better readers and writers. Certainly, it can greatly alleviate the problems of not acquiring information about the world while struggling with text.
Engstrom, E. U. (2005), Reading, Writing, and Assistive Technology: An Integrated Developmental Curriculum for College Students. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 49: 30–39. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.49.1.4
Abstract: An emerging body of research reports on the benefits of assistive technology for students with learning disabilities in a variety of academic tasks. This article describes use of such technology in an integrated reading, writing, and skills curriculum that supported college students whose reading scores were between fourth- and seventh-grade levels. Also included is a description of the benefits of common assistive technology software programs and examples of learning activities designed to scaffold students' comprehension and writing using this technology. Finally, the article reports the educational outcomes for eight students, highlighting the efficacy of combining well-documented learning strategies with assistive technology. This article adds to the growing body of evidence that points to the benefit of combining technology with solid instructional and learning strategies.

This is a great pdf someone created as a kind of synopsis or cheat sheet to help struggling writers

Bryant, B.R. & Bryant, D.P. (2011). Assistive technology for people with disabilities. New York: Prentice Hall.
Cook, A.M. & Polgar, J.M. (2007). Cook and hussey's assistive technologies: Principles and practice. New York: Elsevier Health Services.
Dell, A.G. (2011). Assistive technology in classroom - 2nd edition. New York: Pearson.

This video is an advertisement for a software program to help struggling writers. It is certainly worth a watch as it's very entertaining.

This video is a nice lecture on technology available for struggling writers. Also some tips and tricks to help them.

New features in Google Docs to help struggling writers!! Great stuff that you already have at your fingertips!