Handwriting Development Apps
by Molly Shannon, OTR/L, ATP,
on the ATandOT Blog
This blog post highlights handwriting development apps and it continues as the second in my series of three posts elaborating on apps for pre-writing, handwriting development, and writing. Here is a link to the first in the series for pre-writing apps:
The use of apps is a very hot topic within therapy and education arenas, with many opposing voices and research on each side of the discussion. I am a firm believer that what our grandparents told us remains true today in that wise saying about “everything in moderation”. As a mother, grandmother, and OT with over 30 years’ experience and a specialization in assistive technology, I still think there is a definite time and place when using technology to augment developmental/educational skills, for rewards, and for leisure skills.
Places to find Handwriting Apps and Print Resources
For those of you on Facebook that are OT practitioners, there is an excellent (closed) group “Pediatric Occupational Therapists” you may wish to explore and a wide variety of apps are frequently discussed in this group. (To join, enter your email address to request membership on their page.) A unique website for app review via videos is “Apps for Children with Special Needs” was developed by a father of a child with autism. Another great OT resource is the blog/website “OTs with Apps and Technology” by Carol Leynse Harold, My new website, AT and OT, is also a resource for technology. My friend and mentor, Katherine Collmer of “Handwriting with Katherine,” shares handwriting development research and strategies on her site and has written a book, “Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, available on her site.
An App Review
Remember that no two therapists, teachers, or parents will agree on all apps for every educational or therapeutic purpose. It is important to note that these apps can benefit all children (with or without special needs) to assist in developing and practicing the letter and number formation skills required for handwriting. The use of these apps are meant to be used in conjunction with typical hands-on materials in the home, educational, or therapeutic settings.
I have tried to include both free and paid apps for your potential use. As there are over 200 handwriting apps on the Apple App Store, I am only including those that are of a higher quality, which means no ads, some ability to “grade” the accuracy of the student’s handwriting attempts, adjustable settings, and/or some data collection option. I have included them in two methods: one, using a list format and another via a Symbaloo chart. (Click introductory graphic above or here). If you are not familiar with Symbaloo, it is an awesome method of visually organizing lots of links and references for ease of use. Each of the icons will take you to the correct app store for review and possible purchase from iTunes for IOS or Google Play for Android. Each app icon tile has a title indicating parameters regarding cost and platform (space permitting).
Free Apps: Free versions of apps often do not include all letters/numbers/options or data collection. For descriptions of paid versions, see the list below.
- Little Writer (shapes, letters, numbers, words), IOS: many therapists like this one
- Ollie’s Handwriting and Phonics, iPad: really nice app for free with some ability to grade difficulty, can turn sound on/off, includes phonics
- iTrace Free, IOS: limited set of letters (6), numbers (2), name, words(1) for one player and does some stroke history
- iWriteWords Lite, iOS: (only 3 letters and 3 words)
- Kizzu Letter Workbook, IOS: (12 letters free) can be difficult as the child has to practice each letter 12 times
- Blobble Write, iPad and Android: all upper and lowercase letters trace letter on top and copy on bottom of screen, options: can show errors/strokes, easy mode, baseline, audio.
- ABC Pocket Phonics Lite, IOS: includes 6 letters
- Letter School, IOS: subset of numbers and letters
- Handwriitng Wizard,: IOS, does keep user stats which is rare in a free app
Paid Apps: These types of apps provide the entire alphabet (some include numbers or words), with full options, more choices for handwriting letter styles, or possibly data collection.
- Write my Name, $3.99 iPad, by Injini: one of my all-time favorite early handwriting support apps for developmentally young students. It is a very user-friendly app in that if the student makes an error, there is not a loud noise or negative reaction. You can upload their picture which is very motivating for them to see and students often want to write their peer’s names in addition to their own! No data collection. Also works on letters and words.
- Ready to Print, $9.99 IOS and Android: $9.99 IOS and Android: developed by an OT and may be the closest to that ONE app that does have the pre-writing and letter/number formation components that are helpful in handwriting development in one app. It also has data collection (paths, shapes, letters, numbers). A must-have in my opinion!
- Writing Wizard, $4.99 and Cursive Writing Wizard, $4.99, both IOS, and Android: tracing various visual motor designs, plus letters, numbers and words. Another fairly all-inclusive app that is highly motivating and collects data. It is one of my all-time favorites due to this versatility.
- Touch and Write, $2.99 and Cursive Touch and Write, $2.99, both IOS: Very popular apps with many of my students on the autism spectrum as they seemed to connect to the structure and appreciated the audio and visual feedback in this app. No data collection is available, but you can import your own word lists in addition to using their pre-made choices.
- Handwriting without Tears-Wet Dry Try Suite, $4.99 iPad: data collection, pay per student
- Letter School, $4.99 IOS, $3.96 Android: 4-step process for learning letters/numbers of introduction, tap to learn starting points, tracing, and then writing from memory. Three Handwriting styles: Zaner Bloser, Handwriting without Tears, and D’Nealian. It only keeps data depending on whether or not the students have performed the letter or number yet. For 3 users.
- iTrace, $3.99, iPad: 3 Handwriting styles: Zaner Bloser, Handwriting without Tears, and D’Nealian; data collection; includes visual perceptual rewards after stroke formation
- iWriteWords $2.99, iOS: saves user progress, can adapt contrast/difficulty
- Kizzu Letter Workbook, $2.99, IOS: Student has to trace the letter 12 times to move onto the next letter which would make it too challenging for many students.
- Yum-Yum Letters, $2.99, IOS and $1.99, Android: New app with lots of great features, data collection. Very cute app and says was developed with input from OTs and teachers.
- Blobble Write, $2.99 IOS, .99, Android: shows errors, easy mode, audio feedback
- ABC Pocket Phonics, IOS, $6.99: data collection, phonics, Zaner Bloser/Handwriting without Tears/D’Nealian AND cursive are all included as options within this one app.
- Zaner Bloser Handwriting, Manuscript or Cursive, $1.99 for each, IOS: shows videos of letter formations, very clean/uncluttered screens, can trace letters/numbers and practice without lines (have visual cues for starting point), and can press the “check it” button to see if performed correctly, no data collection.
While these are some of mine and other OT’s favorite apps, each of us undoubtedly will have our own particular “must haves.” These apps can assist with handwriting development. Technology can never replace the need for using crayons and markers for coloring, drawing, or tracing with pre-writing and early letter/number formation tasks, but the judicious use of apps can be a great motivator for some children or clients as another tool in our OT toolbox. Let me know if you have discovered other handwriting apps that you are using!
Molly Shannon, OTR/L, AT , is an occupational Therapist with 33 years’ experience and currently working in the public schools as a school-based Occupational Therapist in NC. She has specialized in the provision of Assistive Technology for 29 of those years and is RESNA certified as an Assistive Technology Professional. In addition, Molly is an Adjunct Professor of Occupational Therapy at Cabarrus College of Health Sciences in the Master’s Program teaching Therapeutic Adaptations/Assistive Technology in OT. She loves to present and train others in Assistive Technology and has been a national-level conference presenter since 1989. She has worked with clients of all ages and with a wide range of disabilities in public/private school settings, non-profit educational/therapeutic agencies, outpatient/inpatient rehabilitation, and with the North Carolina Assistive Technology Program. You can connect with Molly on Twitter site, Pinterest Boards, or her ATandOT Facebook page.
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