A step in the ‘write’ direction – iPad app helps kids improve their writing
A new iPad app is now available to help children, including those on the autism spectrum, harness their writing potential. The co-designed iPad app, StepWrite, helps children improve their writing and addresses many of the challenges associated with fine motor and perceptual skills required for handwriting. It also helps with conceptual and language skills required for written composition.
StepWrite’s motivating game-like features guide kids through a range of scaffolded tasks that improve their competency and confidence while capturing writing outcomes. There’s plenty of room for fun and flexibility with users able to set personal preferences and choose different modes. The app is most suitable for children aged 8-12 years (Grades 4-7) and can be used at home and in the classroom.
“Studies show that academic and writing-based tasks are among the most challenging for many children on the spectrum,” said Professor Peta Wyeth from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) who co-led the Autism CRC Utilisation Project with Dr Jill Ashburner from Autism Queensland.
Any issues around written expression can negatively impact on a child’s ability to perform academically. Yet many children struggle with the fine motor and perceptual skills associated with handwriting, and some have physical difficulties with handwriting activities.
Teachers and students reported that they felt the app improved overall quality of writing outcomes and supported students to write more.
“I think the most exciting outcome of our trial was that students themselves reported feeling more positive about writing tasks,” Dr Ashburner said.
The app’s co-design process included autistic and non-autistic children and adults, including teachers. The multidisciplinary research team examined the effectiveness of technology for supporting written expression and embedded a Self-Regulation Strategy Development (SRSD) into the software. This approach that has been shown to support students to plan, organise and sequence ideas, compose and then revise their work independently.
Students also reported improvements in planning, setting goals, self-monitoring and evaluating. Teachers noted that student writing improved in class after they had used the app for four weeks. They were also were more willing to perform writing tasks.
StepWrite is the culmination of seven years of research and development through Autism CRC's Overcoming difficulties with written expression project and is now available through the App Store.