Handwriting fluency linked to poor literacy

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Teaching fluent handwriting will help remediate many reading-related disabilities, a review by US researchers says

The review, published online in Creative Education, says there is strong evidence that a majority of youngsters diagnosed as ‘learning disabled’ (i.e. dyslexic, ADHD and Written Language Disability [WLD]) share a perceptual problem known as Reversed Positioning Sensation (RPS). This makes it difficult for students to internalise the shape of letters and thus associate each letter with its correct sound.

RPS also sets the stage for attention problems and confusion when the student is challenged to learn and use written language. ‘This is…why these students are so often misunderstood, and why teachers find it so difficult for these students to successfully develop written language proficiency,’ the review adds.

The authors say affected students can acquire handwriting fluency if correctly taught how to permanently change their handwriting posture, including pencil-hold, paper-hold, and hand/arm positions.

At present, however, ’Minimal time is spent teaching skills for handwriting, even in primary grades, despite a growing body of research indicating that the omission of physical instruction for handwriting is setting the stage for academic failure for many children.’

The review concludes by saying more data is needed to confirm the link between handwriting fluency and literacy and proposes schools regularly measure letter-naming and handwriting fluency using simple 30-second tests.

‘If this fluency connection were shown to be causative, teachers could gain a great deal of teaching time.’

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