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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

iPad App for Children with Dysgraphia and Writing Difficulties

iPad App for Children with Dysgraphia and Writing Difficulties

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Hi!!  I have created a free iPad App for children who have trouble with handwriting...   It is called SnapType:   https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/snaptype-for-occupational/id866842989?mt=8

My Story:

Steven* is a 5th grader that I met during my occupational therapy fieldwork this spring. He is diagnosed with dysgraphia however his mind is sharp, but his handwriting is so messy that he can't even read his own writing. His OT tried countless ways to help him improve his penmanship but nothing seemed to work. The caring OT went so far as to scan his worksheets into a computer but that consumed too much time during class was quite a hassle. Even worse, Steven was very frustrated and getting left behind in class because he couldn't complete the worksheets with the rest of his peers. 

I thought that there had to be a better way to help Steven keep up with the other kids in his class. Then I had an idea, what if Steven could take a picture of his worksheet using an iPad and then type his answers directly on the screen? I searched all over the app store, but there was nothing that did what I wanted. Well, there were a few apps but they were designed for business people and were far too complex for a child to use. 

So I sketched out my idea on a napkin and shared it with Steven's OT. She loved the idea. So I put together a detailed mockup of the app and worked with a developer to build it. A few weeks and a few dollars later, I had a working app!

Steven's OT and teacher are thrilled. However, the real joy comes from seeing Steven use the app. It's effortless for him to take a picture of a worksheet and use the iPad keyboard to type in the answers. He's no longer left behind in class and is now more confident than ever! While he continues to work on his penmanship, he's now able to keep up with his peers. 

SnapType is an iPad app that anyone can use. It's available on the app store for free and I'm hoping to help as many kids as I can by reaching out to OTs, teachers and parents. 

*Name changed for privacy. 

--About The Author--
Amberlynn Gifford is a 2nd year OT student at Springfield College in Massachusetts. When she's not studying, which is rare, you can find her coaching gymnastics and working on all sorts of creative projects. She will graduate with her masters degree in 2016 and looks forward to working in pediatrics. Connect with Amberlynn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amberlynngifford.

Best,
Amberlynn Gifford


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John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England

This sounds awesome! A co-teacher and I had this exact idea taking pictures of pages in a math book and then tried using PDF annotation apps which like you stated, just didn't work for kiddos. I'm excited to try this app myself for not only my own classroom (we have a heavy OT influence) but also my son has dysgraphia (and dyspraxia). I'm will also post a link to this discussion onto a Facebook Dyspraxia group I belong to. The group on FB is called "Developmental Coordination Disorder UK Support Group (Dyspraxia)" and is an INCREDIBLE resource for any of the Dys- disorders. Thanks for iTuning me into this app. ;) I have a 2nd grade student who has both dyspraxia and dysgraphia and I am looking forward to trying the app out with him using our new iPads we just got!

SnapTypeOT's picture

Thank you so much John! I hope to help as many kiddos/people as I can. Please let me know how it works for you. I am in the process of making some upgrades as well! If you have any questions at all please let me know! -Amberlynn

John S. Thomas's picture
John S. Thomas
First & Second Grade Teacher/Adjunct faculty Antioch University New England

I got to try the app today- It is very nice. I didn't realize the instructions were on the iTunes details page and not in the app. Many in the Dyspraxia Facebook Group loved it, some had suggestions and all but one had no idea how to use it including myself. I like that there are no extra menus, buttons to distract the student, but I really think you need a simple info button with directions.

I am a little nervous about some kids losing their work if they inadvertently turn the iPad over for 2 seconds and they have not yet taken a screen shot to save it. It isn't a stretch for dyspraxic kiddos to turn iPads every which way while working. ;)

It seemed like even though I would zoom in on the object, the text remained quite large. I would add the ability to do even smaller text, and based on trying it out today I think kids would rarely need to increase the size as large as the app allows.

I am looking forward to trying it with students and may have additional feedback when that happens- thanks for sharing!

SnapTypeOT's picture

Hi John,

Thank you for your feedback it is very much appreciated. Yes, the instructions are only currently on the iTunes details page. This product is a prototype and I have many upgrades in the works. Some upgrades will include:

- Smaller text size for higher grade level students working on more detailed worksheets.
- Easier method to save photos.
- Ability to email completed worksheets from directly within the app.
- Ability to import blank worksheets from email/upload instead of just by taking a picture.
- A host of small usability improvements

If you have any other recommendations or questions please do not hesitate to contact me! Thank you so much!

-Amberlynn

AmandaC's picture

Hi,
I am currently using this app with one of my students. I wanted to know....is there a way to open a previously unfinished worksheet back up within the app in order to finish it? She often begins completing the worksheet, saves it in order to go to another class and work on something else, but then is unable to open it back up to complete it without having to take a picture of the worksheet all over again. Am I missing something?
Thanks!!

SnapTypeOT's picture

Hi! Thanks for writing in. And thanks for using SnapType! I am thinking that you are using the first version of SnapType. Feel free to download theme newest version of SnapType here. http://goo.gl/VaywL0 The new version has many new features including the opportunity to re-open documents that have already been worked on. If you have any questions please contact us on our Facebook page or through the support tab from within the app. Follow us on Facebook to stay up to date with SnapType updates!
https://www.facebook.com/SnapType

Amberlynn

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