Keyboard skills and confidence

A question from someone got me thinking about fine motor skills and writing. Now, this won't be about fine motor skills ..... that will have to wait for another post. However, this post may be useful to parents of children with issues, children with elderly parents who perhaps have diminished grip and so struggle with writing (but aren't afraid of typing) and perhaps even older children or adults who want to become more fluent with typing.
Typing in itself will not help to develop the fine motor control muscles needed for writing BUT one of the ways in which children with these issue can be helped to overcome their fear or reluctance to write can be through allowing them to use a computer for certain writing activities. 
Put yourselves in the shoes of anyone (young, or old) who is unable to form letters to the same degree as their peers, they may feel embarrassed of their 'scruffy' handwriting or fear being reprimanded for not writing neatly. This continued feeling of inadequacy can make children feel reluctant to even try, especially if this has happened over a long period of time. This means that they will never get as far as creating those imaginative stories that sit inside their minds, and because they do not adequately engage with the material as a whole, may find their skills in English are slightly delayed. That is not to say they are unable to do the same as their peers, they simply don't prove it as they may rarely finish a piece of work, or their teacher may struggle to identify the evidence because it is hard to decipher their handwriting.
Some schools recognise this and will allow children with identified weaknesses to use a school laptop or PC when writing longer pieces of work so that the handwriting itself does not hinder their creative process.
So, whether your child is allowed to use a computer at school, or you use a computer for homework, keyboard skills are essential and can be learnt independently, or with assistance, through fun learning games that can be found free on the internet.
Whilst there are many sources, I have looked at a few in detail and will include the links below.
For younger children, Dance Mat Typing from the BBC is a good option with fun characters to talk children through the steps. There are different stages that take children through the key strokes and building up until they are typing without having to look at the keyboard!
For older children, or adults, who don't want the distraction of cartoon characters giving instructions, a similar online learning program can be found from Typing Club. It is no nonsense and takes the learner though all the stages, building up to writing a certain number of words per minute (for those who really love a challenge).
I will never forget talking to a colleague who turned to talk to me whilst her fingers danced nimbly over the keyboard - it was somewhat disconcerting but I also found it fascinating that it could be done. It isn't necessary for children to be able to touch type, but, if they are going to use a keyboard, they do need to become familiar with the positions of the keys and touch typing is an excellent way to do this. Who wants to spend hours at the computer typing with their index fingers when they can spin out something within minutes?
A note about keyboards: remember that very young children will be looking for lowercase letters and so you might want to look into getting a cover with the lower case letters on it. Also, some keyboards are smaller than average (laptops for example), so if you are looking for a long term solution, you can purchase keyboards with larger buttons for children with more serious difficulties. Also, if you are using laptops where the mouse pad falls under you hands whilst typing, you may want to disable it whilst the children are typing (there is a function button that does this on most modern laptops)
Good luck, and as always, please let us know if you find something else to be invaluable and want to share with others.

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