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assistive technology, writing skills, physical disabilities, educational disabilities


In recent years effective instruction in reading for learners with physical
and educational disabilities has received great attention in the schools.
However, instruction in the corollary skill of writing has received considerably less emphasis. This review paper notes that through the use of assistive technology, students with a variety of physical and educational
disabilities can learn to effectively (a) plan and organize their writing,
(b) draft and transcribe their work, and (c) edit and revise their narrative
and expository writing.
With teachers increasingly being held accountable for the development of
literacy skills in all students, including those students with physical and educational disabilities, schools are paying substantial and growing attention to reading. The expressive side of the literacy coin, writing skills, is arguably equally significant and worthy of instructional emphasis. However, there are growing indicators that writing has not received enough attention in the national educational reform debate (National Commission on Writing, 2003, 2006; National Writing Project & Nagin, 2006).

Along with reading comprehension, writing skill is a powerful predictor of academic success (Graham & Perin, 2007), and is an effective means of developing higher-order thinking skills (National Writing Project & Nagin, 2006). Writing helps learners make sense of the world (e.g., “Letters from Ground Zero,” cited in National Commission on Writing, 2006). Yet to date the teaching of writing skills to students with disabilities, including physical disabilities, has not received the level of curricular emphasis that teaching reading skills has (Graham & Perin, 2007).

For students with physical and educational disabilities, stronger writing skills offer a variety of benefits. These include (a) more successful academic inclusion outcomes, (b) transfer of improved literacy skills to reading, and (c) greater pass rates on high stakes academic testing. As more and more careers require greater levels of literacy skills, students with disabilities who are unable to write effectively may find themselves increasingly minimized in these adult roles. Writing is considered to be an essential “threshold skill” for hiring and promotion (National Commission on Writing, 2003), and is a basic requirement for participation in civic life and the global economy (Graham & Perin, 2007; National Commission on Writing, 2003). This paper reviews the use of a variety of assistive technologies in enhancing writing skills in students with physical and educational disabilities.


Originally published in Volume 26, Issue 2, of Physical Disabilities: Education and Related Services