HANDWRITING AND LEARNING DISABILITIES
Many children with learning difficulties also have writing difficulties.
Ernest J. Kahn, O.D., discovered after administering the “copy form” tests to many of his patients that:
- Practically all nearsighted children held their pencil no more than a quarter of an inch from the tip.
- Almost all children with learning difficulties exhibited some form of unusual pencil grip and fine motor in co-ordination.
- In all instances of improper pencil grip, the fingers blocked the line of sight from the eye to the pencil tip, causing the writer to bring the head to the side and/or down closer to the page in order to see what was being written.
Many of those who work with learning-disabled children have found that these children, in addition to having problems with reading, also have problems with handwriting.
Awareness of the problem is the key to change
Correct handwriting posture is very important.
Both feet should be on the floor.
- For right-handed the body should be slightly turned to the left.
- For left-handed the body should be slightly turned to the right.
The position of the paper is also very important.
In many cases, just learning how to correctly orient the paper may help poor handwriting.
- Right-handed writer should have the paper turned so that the bottom left-hand corner points directly to the navel.
- Left-handed writer should have the bottom right-hand corner pointing to the navel.
- The paper is aligned in such a manner that the sides of the paper are parallel to the writing arm when it is resting on the paper.
The non-writing hand is not just a “paperweight.”
- The non-writing hand has the role much like that of a typewriter roller as it moves the paper up to prepare for writing on the next line.
- The non-writing hand plays a very important role in paper orientation while writing.
- The non-writing hand should be kept resting on the side of the paper, with the elbow on the table. This allows an open view for writing and puts the body in balance to keep the paper from moving, while writing.
- The elbow and forearm of the writing hand must lie on the desk. It is better to keep the elbow in place and move the paper upward as writing is done. The writing hand moves across the page from left to right and line to line.
- The distance from the eyes to the writing or reading material should always be the distance from the elbow to the middle knuckle, aka “The Harmon Distance.”
The way students hold a pencil or pen to write, the manner in which they orient their paper, heir posture while writing, and the way in which they form their letters will be carried over to adulthood.
Copying and Reproduction Skills
Many parents are concerned with their children’s handwriting abilities. Graphomotor performance is related to visual analysis, motor planning, and spatial organization.
Writing and copying skills principally relate to the following visual skills:
- Fixation – the ability to direct and maintain steady central visual attention on a target.
- Ocular motor skills – the neuro-muscular control skills which point the visual system on a moving target (pursuit eye movements) or jump from one object to another as in reading (saccadic eye movements).
- Accommodation – the vision skill which involves focusing.
- Binocularity – the ability to team the eyes. This allows for coordinated eye movements as targets move from distance to near. This skill has a sensory and motor aspect, information on location (depth perception) and allows both eyes to remain on the target as it moves closer and further from the eyes.
Children have been asked to write meaningful material before they have learned to write.
We often hear the term “reading readiness”
(a time when the child is developmentally ready for reading).
We seldom hear of “writing readiness.”
Reports show that children with learning disabilities, in addition to having reading problems, tend to reverse letters, invert letters, place letters and numerals on their sides, mirror their writing; in general have numerous handwriting problems. These errors have been reported as “additional problems.” Such writing however is the cause of vision problems.
Mistakes, wrong moves, incorrect sequence, etc. have been shrugged off as unimportant. As a result, many early handwriting problems have been permitted to become established as habit. This, we contend, is responsible for many of serious reading problems from which 15% of our children suffer.