The process of writing draws on many skills, including the ability to organize thoughts, find the right words, and put them into coherent sentences.
Portable word processor. Children who have trouble writing by hand may benefit from this battery-operated device, which looks like a computer keyboard with a small calculator screen. Lightweight and durable, it can be brought to school for note-taking and writing assignments. Files are easily downloaded onto a PC or Mac for further work.
Basic models, such as Neo by AlphaSmart, cost about $250.
Tablet PC. This slender laptop types up what your child writes with a stylus on a touch-sensitive screen, making it a great tool for copying math problems and charts.
With the capabilities of a personal computer, and a serious price, tablets such as the HP Compaq tc4200 ($1,500 to $1,900) are for the high school or college student.
Speech recognition software. Also called speech-to-text software, this allows a student to read into a microphone and see his words appear on a computer screen. Programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking 8 Preferred, for PCs ($199), and iListen by MacSpeech ($149), help children with good oral language skills who can't seem to find the words when putting pen to paper.
Word prediction software. If your child struggles with spelling, grammar, and translating thoughts into words, look at Co:Writer Solo ($325) and similar programs. The software helps with spelling and builds vocabulary (a drop-down list of words provides options), and fills in words to speed up composition. Some programs read sentences aloud, so the writer can hear what he has written and catch mistakes as they occur.
Electronic spell-checkers and dictionaries. Enter a word phonetically, and these portable gadgets define the word and provide the correct spelling. Talking devices also read the words aloud. Franklin Electronics offers models beginning at about $20.