When handwriting is taught to the automatic kinesthetic level, the student is using implicit memory. This allows him to free up working memory and focus his full attention on the thought he wishes to record or the words he must spell. As long as a student has to shift his attention between remembering how to produce letter configurations and formulating an idea he wants to express, he will be at risk for “output failure” (Benbow, Mary).
Because kinesthetic learning is such a strong learning channel and so reliable, all children need to assimilate accurate formation of alphabet letters to a point that forming these letters requires no conscious effort (Sheffield, B.).
The goal of the [direct] treatment is for the child’s writing to become automatic and fluid so that the child does not have to think about letter formation and can produce an adequate volume of work in an expected period of time without undue fatigue. . . . Practice with letter formation is certainly a necessary component of remediation. In addition, the child’s motor skills and sensory processing abilities that contribute to and are considered to underlie good handwriting are important to consider (Tseng, M.H. & Cermak, S., “The Influence of Ergonomic Factors and Perceptual-Motor Abilities on Handwriting Performance”, American Journal of Occupational Therapy, (47), 1993).
Knowledge of letters was the single best predictor of reading success . . . Children learn to discriminate letters by their distinctive visual features rather than holistically. Research suggests that when the child is learning to visually discriminate between letters, visually similar letters should be taught in isolation before they are contrasted. Adams suggests that teaching uppercase letters separately from lowercase also reduces visual confusion. Writing letters helps children focus on the visual features of each, particularly when their formation is emphasized (Jewell, Karen, “Implications for Occupational Therapists From an Occupation-Centered Perspective”, OT Practice, Oct.1999).
Writing approaches that teach letters in groups with distinctive labels and visual clues are ideal for this (teaching letter formation) (Jewell, Karen).
A cause of difficulty with drawing, printing, and handwriting, and following directions is weak visual-motor processing. This weakness causes individuals to miss the gestalt and distort important parts when drawing or copying, and have difficulty organizing their work on the page, using maps and finding their way in unfamiliar territory (Ellis, William, “Through the Barricades: Multisensory Approaches”, Bulletin of the Orton Society, 1995).
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