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Handwriting performance of children with dyslexia

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1 Handwriting performance of children with dyslexia
Emma Sumner, Vince Connelly & Anna Barnett

2 DYSLEXIA Specific learning difficulty with written language (Rose, 2009) Phonological deficit Affects reading acquisition and spelling English has a deep orthography Spelling requires explicit teaching High cognitive cost for individuals with dyslexia Possible co-occurring motor difficulties (Rose, 2009; Chaix et al., 2007) Slow handwriting?

3 THE WRITING PROCESSES Berninger & Swanson (1994) Note. *activates long-term memory during composing and short-term memory during reviewing

4 PREVIOUS RESEARCH For typically developing children, handwriting speed predicts text length and quality (Graham et al., 1997) Inconsistent findings of children with dyslexia having slow handwriting No different to peers on copying tasks (Martlew, 1997) 1SD below the mean on the alphabet task (Berninger et al., 2008) Spelling ability predicts compositional skills of children with dyslexia (Berninger et al., 2008)

5 RESEARCH AIMS To investigate handwriting execution using a writing tablet: Do children with dyslexia demonstrate a slower handwriting speed than their peers? Are they slower at composing written text? Do children with dyslexia pause frequently while writing?

6 PARTICIPANTS 31 children with dyslexia (mean age 9 years)
31 typically developing age controls (9 years old) 31 spelling-ability matches (6 years old) Selection measures: Cognitive ability Phonological awareness Reading and non word reading Spelling Manual dexterity. Note. There were no differences across the groups for cognitive ability or manual dexterity

7 METHOD Alphabet task (1) Writing task (2)
Write the alphabet in the correct sequence, as many times as possible in 60 seconds Writing task (2) Narrative: ‘Design a place for you to live....describe how you want your ideal home to look’ (1) Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (Barnett et al., 20007); (2) Wechsler Objective Language Dimensions (Rust, 1997).

8 ANALYSIS Letters/words per minute Online (writing tablet):
Temporal characteristics Execution speed = distance covered / time spent physically writing

Dyslexic Age-matched Spelling-ability No. of letters 30.87 (14.98) 37.87 (10.51) 17.87 (11.95) Execution speed 2.32 (.59) 2.23 (.53) 1.75 (.47) Pause time (secs) 40.41 (5.94) 36.75 (5.56) 39.45 (4.57) Writing time (secs) 19.25 (5.59) 22.95 (5.37) 20.04 (5.10) Note. No of letters = letters/minute; execution speed = cm/s, excluding pauses. No difference between children with dyslexia and their peers on the letters produced or execution speed measures They pause for longer while writing – could explain slightly lower number of letters written.

10 RESULTS: FREE WRITING Text characteristics:
Dyslexic Age-matched Spelling-ability Analytic score (raw) 8.61 (2.72) 13.68 (3.20) 7.52 (1.59) Spelling errors 15.39 (9.01) 4.87 (4.08) 12.56 (8.78) % of text 21% 4% 39% In comparison to their peers, the quality of the writing produced by children with dyslexia is much lower They perform at a similar level to the younger SA group

11 RESULTS: FREE WRITING Speed of composing text:
When actually writing on the page, children with dyslexia can execute handwriting at the same speed as their peers So, why do they write significantly fewer words per minute? Dyslexic Age-matched Spelling-ability Words per min 8.19 (3.34) 11.48 (3.56) 5.17 (2.38) Execution speed (cm/s) 2.11 (.69) 2.19 (.64) 1.59 (.44)

12 RESULTS: FREE WRITING Here, the children with dyslexia match the younger spelling-ability group

13 CONCLUSIONS The writing tablet provided a detailed analysis of the execution of text: Argues against claims of slow handwriting by children with dyslexia Rather, it shows that the fluency of transcription is frequently interrupted Demonstrates that handwriting is influenced by other processes, such as spelling Suggests that poor spelling is acting as a barrier to productivity Focused interventions on spelling instruction may contribute to resolving the slow rate of composing text.

Special thanks to Vince Connelly, Anna Barnett, The Waterloo Foundation, and all the children that participated in this research. THANK YOU FOR LISTENING

15 references Berninger, V. W., Nielsen, K. H., Abbott, R. D., Wijsman, E., & Raskind, W. (2008). Writing problems in developmental dyslexia: Under-recognized and under-treated. Journal of School Psychology, 46, 1-21. Berninger, V. W., & Swanson, H. L. (1994). Modifying Hayes and Flower's model of skilled writing. In E. Butterfield (Ed.), Children's Writing; Toward a Process Theory of Development of Skilled Writing (pp ). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. Chaix, Y., Albaret, J.-M., Brassard, C., Cheuret, E., Castelnau, P., Benesteau, J., et al. (2007). Motor impairments in dyslexia: The influence of attention disorders. European Journal of Paediatric Neurology, 11, Graham, S., Berninger, V. W., Abbott, R. D., Abbott, S. P., & Whitaker, D. (1997). Role of mechanics in composing of elementary school students: A new methodological approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, Martlew, M. (1992). Handwriting and spelling: Dyslexic children’s abilities compared with children of the same chronological age and younger children of the same spelling level. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 62, Rose , J. (2009). Identifying and teaching children and young people with dyslexia and literacy difficulties. DCSF London: DCSF Publications. Retrieved from

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