LACK OF SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS
Almost no teacher training course today teaches handwriting instruction. As a result the vast majority of primary school teachers do not consider themselves prepared to teach handwriting effectively. The consequence for the pupils has been a steady decline in their ability to write competently and legibly. Many teachers avoid teaching handwriting in the classroom as they are under the illusion that this is the ‘technological age’ and handwriting is not important. Students often exhibit poor posture, bad pencil grip and incorrect letter formation but sadly, teachers are not equipped with support to help children overcome these problems. I feel that this is one of the most common cause of bad handwriting.
Many children pick up bad habits in relation to handwriting, which children develop very easily. The two most common are when a child places his head flat on the table or, far too close to the paper, whilst writing. This means that letters and words are not seen clearly and can result in double vision! The other common problem is wrapping a thumb around the pencil. This affects fine motor movements and obscures writing.
Often bad habits result from copying peers or, quite differently, where teachers are not taught to correct errors. Equally, children often need to slow down as they may have a fast mind and a slow pen! Others may jus write slowly. In addition, children sometimes fail exams, not because of inability, but because of a well-meaning but flawed academic system- one that has unwittingly taught them bad habits.
Dyspraxia is a disorder that affects motor skill development. People with dyspraxia have trouble planning and completing fine motor tasks. Dyspraxia is thought to affect up to 10% of the population and 70%of those affected are male. It is common for people who struggle with handwriting to feel distressed and frustrated, which in turn may lead to low self-esteem. Learning how to write the letters in the Magic Link handwriting programme and repeated practice of these simply explained tasks help people with dyspraxia. Pupils benefit from the step-by-step progress, which leads them into more complex activities. Many people with dyspraxia have achieved excellent handwriting using the Magic Link handwriting programme.
Dyslexia affects all kinds of people, regardless of intelligence, race or social class. About 10% of the population have some form of dyslexia. Often, pupils with dyslexia have problems with messy, illegible, poor quality handwriting. When learning to read, children first have to link the shape of the word on the page with the sound it makes. Then, when it comes to writing they often have to recreate that shape back onto paper. For people with dyslexia, decoding these patterns and making these links can often be very difficult. As a result, they frequently fail to develop the automatic flow of writing, which will help them to express themselves clearly and easily in writing. The Magic Link handwriting programme has proved successful with these pupils due to its clarity and simple, logical structure.
Some children who have bad handwriting are referred to an occupational therapist and many are diagnosed as being ‘hypermobile’. About 20% of people have joints that are particularly mobile. This is because the capsule and ligaments that hold the joint together are more pliable (they can be more easily stretched) than usual. The body parts are only loosely held together which means that the muscles have to work harder to hold the body steady and move it against the ever-present downward pull of gravity. 40% of children who have joint hypermobility present with poor handwriting speed and endurance. Hypermobility makes holding and moving the pencil tiring and less efficient. Children with difficulties associated with joint hypermobility respond well to the Magic Link handwriting programme, which focuses on letter formation which, in turn, increases muscle strength and improves coordination.
Dysgraphia or Agraphia, as it is sometimes referred to, is a specific deficiency in the ability to write – not associated with the ability to read or due to intellectual impairment. It can manifest itself as difficulties with spelling, poor handwriting and trouble putting thoughts on paper. Dysgraphia is the delayed development in, or acquired loss of the skill of writing which may affect one child in twenty. Dysgraphic type problems are usually related to poor sequential information processing and poor motor/kinaesthetic skills. This affects speed and quality of handwriting and also spelling.