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ERIC Number: EJ856150
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 28
ISSN: ISSN-0040-0599
Take the Pencil out of the Process
Broun, Leslie
TEACHING Exceptional Children, v42 n1 p14-21 Sep-Oct 2009
In classrooms, it is not unusual to see students who struggle to produce legible print. In actuality, many students have difficulty with the physical printing and writing processes ("handwriting")--difficulty that is significant enough to interfere with their academic performance. Some students grow out of this, and some, with extra practice, improve their skills. There is a group of students, however, who do not progress, no matter what intervention is tried. Their handwriting remains ill-formed, and they struggle in the process of its production. Two of the primary movement difficulties many individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) experience are hypotonia (low muscle tone and strength) and apraxia (impairment in the ability to execute skilled movements despite having the physical ability and the desire to do so). These two conditions directly affect an individual's ability to use his or her hands and have a significant impact on an individual's ability to hold and use writing implements. Some students with ASD are able to engage in handwriting with fluidity and ease; however, it cannot be assumed that all students will be able to manipulate handwriting instruments successfully even with intervention and practice. Although it may seem contradictory, many individuals who are not able to print efficiently are able to do other things very well with their hands and fingers, such as play a musical instrument or use building toys. Teachers should not assume that an individual with efficient fine motor skills for other kinds of activities should be able to develop and refine handwriting skills. Different neural pathways are involved that do not include the movements, positions, and processes involved in manipulating a writing instrument. For a student with ASD, difficulties with handwriting can underscore all areas of academic participation. Classroom behavior may also be affected because of the stress induced by the expectation of written output. Poor behaviors can be the result of the fear and frustration encountered when these students must communicate through handwriting. It often takes great concentration to write legibly and therefore the child's focus is moved from the work to the writing. This article asks practitioners to consider and implement keyboard use for all students who languish academically because they cannot efficiently engage in the handwriting process. (Contains 3 figures.
Council for Exceptional Children. 1110 North Glebe Road Suite 300, Arlington, VA 22201. Tel: 888-232-7733; Fax: 703-264-9494; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: Practitioners
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A