6 Helpful Adaptive Writing Tools For Adults

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Writing on paper needs appropriate motor skills along with relevant muscle power in hand. These skills are often the area to work upon when motor abilities and learning compromises are evident. Thankfully, there are some adaptive writing tools that can either ensure an added grip over the pen/pencil or add more strength to the wrist. This way, writing gets better. 

While there are multiple writing tools available in the market, it may be ambiguous to choose the apt one for you. The insights and our picks provided in the following lines can make up a noteworthy guide towards better writing with assistance

What are adaptive writing tools, and why do we need them?

We know for a fact that adaptive tools come into being when there is a gap that needs to be filled between the potential functioning and the actual functioning of an individual. Multiple conditions can affect the muscles, tendons, and even bone joints of our hands, affecting the grip of the fingers in holding things, the weight a person’s hand can hold, or the duration for which any object can be held. All of these hurdles diminish the potential of an individual to write or type for that matter. This is where the function of Adaptive Writing Tools comes into being for Adults. 

Adaptive tools are simple assistive pieces of equipment that can add support to the individual to retain better writing for longer durations. Also, here are some other benefits that highlight the importance of these handy tools. 

  • They are often easy to use and carry. Most of the assistive tools come in the form of special pens, grips or wrist assistance. These are often lightweight and can be easily carryable by placing them in school bags or office suitcases. 
  • Made up of quality materials. Apart from varying prices, these come with good quality material to ensure durability and flexible implementations of the users. 
  • These tools offer instant results. These wearables or tools often can fit the gap to make writing effortless, With these, the user can see an instant difference in their performance. 
  • Provides a definitive Framework for Writing. Tools like weighted pens (explained below) are flexible to use with varying customizations, that way a certain style and regulations can be ensured.

With that being mentioned, one has to make sure that the assistive device that is being used here for an adult, is the perfect match for their needs, and the assessment for the same has been done by a professional. 

Research and development behind the curation of assistive Tools for writing 

With different sorts of writing tools available, not all of them are suitable for a new particular condition. Analyzing the restrictions and the dexterity of one’s hand the decision of the tools can be taken. 

Similar points have been put forth in research by Freeman and Miller[1] in 2004, where it has been seen that in light of the rapidly increasing use of technology in the world, occupational therapists have begun to prescribe and suggest the use of technology-based assistive handwriting tools, over tools that are solely speech-based because of their lack of accuracy and gap in fulfilling the promise they used to aid with earlier.

Considering the widespread demand for assistive technology and tools for writing amongst adults, research by Marshall Raskind[2] identifies the growing need for knowledge and accessibility around these assistive tools and enlists them while elaborating their usage at every stage of writing. 

Also, the difference in requirement of these tools for children and adults was not clear. These areas were explored when a research[3] study was done among students with learning and writing compromises, to explore the effects of the usage of assistive technology. It was found that there was a significant and almost an equal increase in the learning and studying motivation with the use of assistive technologies among the students with learning compromises, in comparison to the control group of students, who simply carried out their academic duties throughout a year with no assistance.

Tools and technologies for assistive writing 

Considering the wide array of low and high tech assistive writing tools available, here’s a list of the most accessible tool and technologies :

1. Weighted pens and pencils

 Weighted pens and pencils

Weighted pens are specially designed alternatives to pens that come with better grips and are lightweight. What makes it distinct is its flexibility to add weight based on the user’s needs. The weight of these specially curated pens and pencils allows the hands and fingers to create awareness and press more firmly onto these objects for writing. The additional weight also stabilizes the object in the hand and reduces the possibility of tremors while writing. It works on improving fine motor control as well as hand-eye coordination for rather legitimate writing. 

For example, A pen comes with a weighted grip at the front end, which allows a strong grip of the pen, and easy writing efficiency. 

2. Ergonomic grips

Ergonomic grips

Unfortunately, individuals with poor motor control are unable to maintain an adequate grip over writing utensils, and these adaptive grips and holders, allow these individuals to achieve better hand positioning and movement, thereby making the writing more legible and improved. Most of these grips are made of soft and pliable materials that provide comfort and convenience together. 

For example, Adaptive grips for pens and pencils are designed by doctors and provide ergonomic handgrips. Writing with it eventually becomes natural and easy and provides for more control and less fatigue. 

3. Abbreviation expanders

This tool is used for the word processing stage of writing and is a software-based program that allows the individual to create abbreviations for the most frequently used words and phrases, thus minimizing the effort and time required. It also helps in eliminating any potential spelling mistakes in the abbreviated content.

4. Weighted gloves

It is a weighted pouch that is uniquely designed to rest on the back of the hand and is constructed of compression fabric. It is held on the hand with elastic finger loops and a hook and loop closure around the wrist. It is known to help reduce tremors in the hand and provide strength to the hands while doing activities. 

5. Paper-based computer pen

Paper-based computer pen

While it can be difficult for some individuals to listen and write simultaneously, It can be even more difficult for those who have writing compromises, thereby, these paper-based computer pens allow the individuals to write on a specialized paper that can record the audio of a speaker (if required), as well. It can be used later by touching a part of the content and listening to the audio associated with that part of the notes, thus eliminating any loss of information due to poor handwriting, or mistakes. Livescribe pen is a good example of this.  

6. Egg pen-pencil grips

 Egg pen-pencil grips

A slip-on cushioned foam grip made to keep hands and fingers comfortable. It is developed to improve grip strength and control. It also helps in improving hand posture while writing and provides enhanced stability. 

These egg grips have three arches that help in strengthening the small muscles of the hand. It can also help individuals with fine motor issues, or poor muscle tone. Not just stationary tools, it can be used on sleek objects to improve grip in holding them, like crochet hooks as well. 

Assistive technology-based writing tools

1. Speech to text software Programmes

Speech to text software Programmes

There is software available for individuals with writing compromise, that allows them to dictate their content to software that can eventually convert the speech to text with almost as much as 97% accuracy. This software is the most incorporated technology in the present scenario with its existence in our mobile phones to our smart television AI-assisted tech too. A few examples of this software include Converse Smartly, Microsoft Dictate, and Speechnotes. 

2. Word prediction software Programmes

 Word prediction software Programmes

Again, a widely used tool, word prediction software uses the knowledge of syntax, spelling, and the most frequently used vocabulary to predict the words intended to be written. It reduces human effort and error and creates space for better word choices, reduced spelling and grammatical mistakes, and thereby aids the process of writing. Lightkey is one such program that assists in writing and typing tasks.

3. KurzweilL 3000

It is a software-based system available on both Windows and Macintosh, where the program integrates speech to text technology but in 18 different languages thus, allowing a wider horizon for individuals to not just improve their expression through writing but offering literacy aid for those with both a writing compromise and language difference. With features like text magnification, it also helps in checking to spell, drafts the notes in a more curated fashion, and provides a multisensory approach to learning and writing.

4. Customized keyboards

 Customized keyboards

For individuals with writing and reading compromises, this tool might be the best way to move forward and use one’s skills to the best since these keyboards are customized according to the needs of the individual and group the keys according to individual needs rather than the generalized keyboards which might be difficult to learn. It may also group the keys according to colors or even use images or symbols for better understanding. Some of these keyboards are also built with better softer keys that require less pressure to push them as well, aiding the motor needs of such compromises too. An ergonomic keyboard is one example. These come with some size and shape changes to make typing easier for users

Here we wind up:

We are running into a world full of opportunities every single day, and it becomes a moral responsibility to keep inventions and discoveries at pace with them which allows equal benefits to those with certain compromises. The tools and techniques shared above are some of the most widely used aids that an individual with writing compromises can adapt. Through the insights mentioned above, we hope to highlight the roadblocks that have been eliminated, and areas that require swimming into lesser-known waters of accessibility and availability of these products among adults and older generations as well. 

References:

  1. Freeman, A. R., MacKinnon, J. R., & Miller, L. T. (2004). Assistive technology and handwriting problems: What do occupational therapists recommend?. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(3), 150-160.
  2. Raskind, M. (1993). Assistive technology and adults with learning disabilities: A blueprint for exploration and advancement. Learning Disability Quarterly, 16(3), 185-196.
  3. Svensson, I., Nordström, T., Lindeblad, E., Gustafson, S., Björn, M., Sand, C., … & Nilsson, S. (2021). Effects of assistive technology for students with reading and writing disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 16(2), 196-208.

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