How To Make Paper Journals Dyslexic Friendly

My Notebook, Pen, and iPad

It may seem funny to talk about technology in one breath and then mention pen and paper in the other, but they really can work together. For most everything I do, I use some form of technology – my Victor Reader Stream, a laptop, an iPad or an iPhone – but sometimes , well almost daily actually, I still enjoy writing something down into my old-fashioned journal.

My journal is a small leather three-ring binder with lined paper which is actually three generations old. I found it tucked away in my dresser draw in my room where my Mom had saved it for me. She used it as a kid and her Mom used it before her.  I think that fact that it was old and looked different than other notebooks was part of it’s appeal.  Even though I am a 21st century kid, I like old-fashioned things.

Handwriting and Spelling – Always a Challenge

Mind you, this was not something I took to immediately. Having dyslexia, compounded with dysgraphia, has always made handwriting and spelling very challenging for me. But I loved the idea of having a private journal where I could scribble (literally!) my secret notes. I think it started around the time I read (thank you Learning Ally!) the first book in The 39 Clues Series.

I was jotting down “clues” in my journal, ripping them out, and hiding them around the house. (My parents are still finding them and that was a few years ago!)  They were far from perfect, often misspelled notes, usually with a hand sketched picture for clarification, but suddenly writing was fun and not a chore.

My early attempts at writing – a “Clue” from The 39 Clues.

How Technology Can Help

But where my writing style differs from most kids, is that I use a combination of paper, pen…and technology to jot down my thoughts.  If I’m at home, I’ll prop the iPad in front of me as I write in my journal.  I start to write, and as I think of a word that I don’t know how to spell, I use the iPad Dictation Mode to record it.  The word will pop up on the screen and then I’ll use the text reader to read it back to me to make sure it’s the right word that I want to use.  If it is, then I copy it into my journal.

Here I am getting ready to write in my journal with the iPad ready to help.

The reason that I have the iPad read the word back to me is because  – although it’s a great tool – it’s not perfect.  Sometimes I might dictate a word, but the iPad hears it slightly differently and puts a different word on the screen…but I can’t always read it well enough to tell the difference.  Having the iPad read it back to me lets me know that the iPad understood me correctly and I am copying the right word that I want to use.

Write or Right?  Which One Is it?  How “ing” came to the rescue.

Oh!  But this just made me think of something important.  What about words that sound the same but are spelled differently such as “write” and “right”! How does the iPad know what to “write” so that I use the “right” word.  Well, it doesn’t.  But that’s OK.  Let me explain.

I may not know that the spelling of a same sounding word with different meanings might have different spellings, but I make the educated guess that it does, so I usually add “ing” to the word I dictate.  If I say “writing”, the iPad will usually not type out “righting”, (yes, “righting” is a word but it is less common, so the iPad will usually go with the more common word which is usually the word I’m looking for), so I know I have the “right” word to “write”.

The same is true with words like pear and pare.  I would have no idea how to spell either of these, and I wouldn’t even really know that they are spelled differently, but if I use my trick and add “ing” to the word, the iPad will type paring not pearing.  So then I know that the word on my iPad screen means “a pair” and the other is a fruit.  Clever, huh? 😉

But It’s All Worth It

Having to use the iPad to help me write in my journal may be an extra step compared to what other kids might have to do, but I actually find it fun because it gives me the freedom to be able to write down my own thoughts, in my own hand…and without having to call out, “Mom, how do you spell…”

And it’s a much more fun way to practice handwriting than writing the same letter over and over again.  And speaking of practice, keeping my journal has actually helped to improve my handwriting.

And one other thing I would like to share that you might be wondering about.  Why do I use a pen instead of pencil?  Wouldn’t it be easier to erase, if I used a pencil?  Well, that’s true but I like a pen for two reasons.

One, a pen is more scientific.  Scientist always write in pen in their scientific notebooks for the very reason that it can’t be erased.

And second, I simply like the weight of a pen – preferably a substantial, thick, heavy weighted pen as opposed to a light weight pencil.  It just makes writing easier for me.  I thought it was just me, but I learned that people with dyslexia often do finding writing easier when their writing instrument of choice is weighted.

So if you struggle with handwriting like me, why not try writing in a journal.  You might find it fun.  And your handwriting might improve as well.  I love the fact that I can neatly (relatively!) write my name and phone number on a piece of paper and hand it to a girl proudly! 🙂

Be sure to visit the Dyslexia page of my blog to read my other posts including:

Your friend,


Filed under Dysgraphia, Dyslexia, Handwriting, Learning Ally, Victor Reader Stream, Weighted Pen

14 responses to “How To Make Paper Journals Dyslexic Friendly

  1. Great post, Ben! You write really well and right on target. (I bet you get a lot of phone number requests, too!) 🙂

  2. I love your site! I will be sharing it with the many children/adolescents with dyslexia and dysgraphia that I work with as a developmental & behavioral pediatrician.

  3. Reblogged this on The Pediatric Profiler ™ and commented:
    Parents and teachers are always asking me how to help their child/student who has dyslexia and dysgraphia become engaged in reading and writing. Commander Ben does a great job sharing how he works with his dyslexia and dysgraphia rather than fight with them all the time. Please read this blog to get some great ideas.

  4. Those are really excellent ideas. I just started a writing exercise blog to help encourage writers to keep writing. This is great for those who are discouraged by dyslexia and dysgraphia. I will reblog this for sure. Great work!

    Ivan Villafuerte

  5. Reblogged this on Write Is Not Wrong and commented:
    Nice ideas for those with dyslexia and dysgraphia.

  6. Cliff Tyllick

    Ben, you mentioned that having a weighted pen makes it easier for you to write. I also read your earlier post, where you mentioned that having tactile feedback from letter shapes helped you learn the alphabet. So I wonder if the reason the heavier pen works better for you is that you get more tactile feedback about what letters you are shaping as you write.

    And I can’t wait for the next chance to go take out some invasive species–especially Chinese pistache!

    Your comrade in arms against Donax, 😉

    • Hi Cliff,

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog…again! I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts about dyslexia and technology!

      You have a great point!…yes, that probably is why I like a weighted pen.

      Your friend,

  7. I just had my 8-year-old son try out different weighted pens and he preferred the heavier ones! Never thought of that before!! Thank you!

    • Hi Carrie,

      Thanks for your comment! I mainly use voice to text on all my Apple devices because I can’t write very well, but if I have to write, it’s very helpful to have a heavier pen. It makes it easier for me to form the shapes of the letters.

      Your friend,

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