It is a known fact that children on the autism spectrum do worse at handwriting than their non-autistic peers. An autistic child’s motor skills are the main determining factor in a child’s handwriting skills and autistic children typically find letter formation the most challenging aspect of writing. (Fuentes, Mostofsky, Bastian, 2009). However, the fact that it is an additional challenge does not mean that educators should give up on helping autistic children learn to write well. To the contrary, there is clear evidence that penmanship promotes brain function in both autistic and non-autistic children. (James, Engelhardt, 2014)
Handwriting Boosts Reading Capabilities
Studies have shown that writing by hand helps children to learn to read faster than would have otherwise been possible. As children write their own letters, they realize that while their handwriting is not the same as that found on computer or in a book, the letters are still the same. This understanding promotes letter recognition and understanding. (James, Engelhardt, 2014). It is also interesting to note that cursive handwriting has particular advantages. The fact that the movement tasks are more demanding and the letters less stereotypical than print letters helps students develop categorization skills. (Klemm, 2013)
Boosting Brain Function in Autistic Children
As the above paragraph shows, writing in print or cursive boosts a child’s assimilation and accommodation of information as described by the late psychologist Jean Piaget (Barry J. Wadsworth, 1984). It is the accommodation of information that is particularly important for an autistic child as the ability to accommodate new sights, sounds and other sources of information is a determining factor in a child’s standing on the autism spectrum. (Jean Piaget, 1962)
Boosting Self Esteem to Increase Learning Capabilities
It is a sad fact that autistic children are at a heightened risk of developing mood disorders, ADHD and psychiatric conditions. (Magnusen, Constatino, 2012) These conditions naturally impede the learning process, making it hard for an autistic child to gain independence. Poor handwriting further stigmatizes an autistic child while learning to write properly increases independence in tasks related to daily living. Teaching an autistic child to form letters properly also improves the length and quality of his or her written expression. (McGinnis Stango, 2015) Because writing is an imperative part of any academic subject, learning to write well can enable an autistic child to earn good grades.
The importance of teaching an autistic child to write well simply cannot be overstated. Thankfully, there are no only autims penmanship brain functions programs that help children do this but also simple yet effective methodologies that enable children to gain the fine motor skills needed to form legible letters. Proper physical therapy combined with an educator’s efforts can dramatically improve an autistic child’s handwriting and thus his or her general quality of life. (DeNoon, 2009)
Christina T. Fuentes, BS, Stewart H. Mostofsky, MD, and Amy J. Bastian, PhD (2009), Children with autism show specific handwriting impairments, American Academy of Neurology, retrieved March 16, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2777071/
Karin H. Jamesa,* and Laura Engelhardt (2014), The effects of handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate children, American Academy of Neurology, retrieved March 16, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4274624/
William R. Klemm, Ph.D (2013), Why Writing by Hand Could Make You Smarter, Retrieved March 16, 2017 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201303/why-writing-hand-could-make-you-smarter
Wadsworth, Barry J. (1984) Piaget’s theory of cognitive and affective development, Allyn and Bacon Classic Edition
Piaget, Jean (1962). Comments on Vygotsky’s critical remarks concerning The Language and Thought of the Child, and Judgment and Reasoning in the Child, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Katherine M. Magnuson, B.S. and John N. Constantino, M.D. (2012) Characterization of Depression in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders, retrieved March 16, 2017 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3154372/
Amy McGinnis Stango, M.S., OTR/L, M.S., BCBA (2015) Teaching Handwriting to Students with Autism, from a presentation given at the National Autism Conference
Daniel J. DeNoon (2009) Kids with Autism Need Handwriting Help, retrieved March 16, 2017 from http://www.webmd.com/brain/autism/news/20091109/kids-with-autism-need-handwriting-help#2