Why is hand writing important?
Even with the widespread use of computers for most tasks, we still need to write phone messages, scribble shopping lists, address envelopes, sign birthday cards, fill in log books, jot down messages on Sticky Notes and fill in forms. It is important to have legible and fast writing for numbers as well as letters. The “dead letter” rooms at post offices have many letters with indecipherable addresses on them. The two numbers that are most often confused are 4 and 9. If the boss wants to bill a client for the number of items on an invoice you have written, the boss needs to be able to read whether he is billing for 4,000 or 9,000 units.
Can’t we just use computers for everything else?
There is a significant body of research that has confirmed that people learn and retain information better if they write it down by hand. This is true even if they can get more information recorded using a keyboard. A study in 2014 from Princeton University in the USA, examined the ability of university students to process and learn information when the participants used a laptop versus hand writing to take notes on a series of TED talks. There was significantly greater remembering of the facts and understanding of the concepts when the notes were taken by hand, even when tested a week afterwards (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014).
Children need to achieve a level of handwriting that is fast and legible for a number of very good reasons. Firstly, no matter how good the piece of work is, if the teacher cannot read it easily it may not get the marks it deserves; it is perceived as inferior (Sloan and McGinnis, 1982). Secondly, research has shown that students who write legibly produce better compositions. A landmark study by researchers from the University of Washington and the University of Maryland concluded that legible handwriting frees students to focus on words and ideas, instead of letterforms (Berninger, V.W., et al., 1997).
Substantial research has unquestionably shown that using a laptop encourages multi-tasking and distractibility, which does diminish the quality of the learning.
On the other hand, beautiful but slow writing is not helpful in a classroom situation. The actual process of writing needs to be fast, legible and “automatic” so that the child’s time and energy can be focused on the composition of the content, not the letter formation. Research has also clearly shown that when a person’s handwriting flows, they have better access to their thoughts.
Learning to write for the first time, or re-learning to write after an injury, is an achievable task for most people. There can be several different types of hurdles to overcome. It may be that the person has visual perceptual problems (which are different from needing glasses for visual acuity). For example, if your trouble lies in an inability to appreciate the small differences between each letter, such as the difference between short and long vertical lines, you will struggle to differentiate such letters as as h and n. If you can not appreciate the difference between a and u you will struggle to read; however, if you can see the difference but don’t know how to start to form the letters, then practice in a structured programme by our Occupational Therapists will help. Our programmes are designed to be fun and educational at the same time.
Some people, children in particular, have weak intrinsic hand muscles and so writing is a very tiring task. Others have trouble coordinating their fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders to write after an injury. Others can not write because they are unable to stabilise themselves at their desks due to low tone in their trunk muscles. Thus there are many and varied reasons why a person has trouble writing. We can help with all of these problems through specially designed programmes, that we are sure will be fun to practice and master.
Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers: Transfer from handwriting to composition.
Berninger, Virginia; Vaughan, Katherine; Abbott, Robert; Abbott, Sylvia; Rogan, Laura; Brooks, Allison; Graham, Steve. Journal of Educational Psychology, 1997, 89, 652-666.
The Pen is Mightier that the Keyboard: Advantages of long hand over laptop note taking.
Mueller, Pam; Oppenheimer, Daniel M. Psychological Science, pub online 23 April 2014.
The Effect of Handwriting on Teachers' Grading of High School Essays.
Sloan, Charles A.; McGinnis, Iris. Journal of the Association for the Study of Perception, Vol 17(2), 1982, 15-21.