Handwriting is a complex and long learning process. It is at the crossroad of langage and motor skills. In schooling, handwriting plays an important role. Therefore handwriting disorder has a severe impact in academics learning.
During their development, children learn gradually how to move, how to trace, how to draw and then how to write. Handwriting skills start growing at early stage, as soon as babies train their fine motor skills, hold a pencil and start to scribble.
Writing needs a high level of attention. While writing, pupils are in double task activity. They have to control their handwriting movement while undertstanding the meaning of their writing. However, with time, the movement involved in writing will be automated. Through the process, children learn gradually to detach himself from the motor skills to become intellectually available to his production’s content. Over time, writing become a thought’s support.
Studies show that a poor writer often finds it difficult to generate a text because of the lack of automation of the gesture which prevents him from getting out of the double task situation.
Writing is not only a hand motion. This task involves implementations of many skills:
The handwriting motion involves differents coordinations between the articulations: wrist, elbow and shoulder. The gesture needs a translational motion of the forearms to the right, a digital mobility (fingers’s flexion/extensions), wrist rotation. The translational movement will allow to link the letter and to string the words on the sheet. Digital mobility allows to shape the letter itself. Wrist rotation is particularly involved to shape round letters. Fine motor skills allows a proper pencil’s grasp.
The eye guides the hand in writing. Eye tracking plays a key role in allowing the children to copy a text from a vertical or horizontal support.
Visual Perceptive Skills
Children will learn to analyze letter’s spatial features, sheet’s space and their environment while writing. Thanks to this analyze, they will be able to adjust their gestures according to the spatial constraint.
Proprioceptive and Kinesthesic Skills
It is the sense of self-movement and body position. They’ll allow the children to plan their movement.
Tonus and Posture Control
A good posture is essential in writing. Keep in mind that a pupil can stay sitted 4 to 5 hours a day. To have a smooth writing movement, we need a correct support of the feet, ischions and fore-arms. Shifting our weight to the opposite side of the writing hand allow us to initiate a gesture coordinating all articulations.
Tone is involved in the pressure on the paper, pencil’s grip. Hypertonia will prevent the child from maintaining movement over time and cause fatigue and slowness.
Memory and Attention
Children need to memorize the gesture to be able to automate it. They need to memorize while copying and listening. For instance, while copying if there are too many forth and back from the model, the pupil increase the risk to miss some information and to get lost in the meaning. In the contrary, if writing is not an issue, it helps memorizing a text.
While writing attention is as well important. We need to pay attention to our gesture, to our posture, to the meaning…
Writing is not a simple gesture. However if all coordinations needed in writing are well automated, they go unnoticed.
We talk of dysgraphia when a child face difficulties to learn how to write, is a slow writer or/and has a bad handwriting.
Nowadays, digital is more and more involved in learning and handwriting means to be less important. However, if there is no handwriting disorders, it helps memorizing the content. Handwriting does not have only an esthetic function. In our time, we should find a right balance between digital and handwriting.