Research: Links between handwriting and brain development

Research: Links between handwriting and brain development

There is much controversy regarding the need for our children to continue learning handwriting at school and produce handwritten work in the classroom in this era of the i-Pad and personal computers. So for those of us working with children who see the positive impact of handwriting on other areas of learning, The Handwriting Educational Summit which took January 2012 in Washington, D.C. – titled Handwriting in the 21st Century? – which draws a clear link between children learning to write by hand, the development of brain structures connected with visual and language skills and the development of foundation skills in reading, writing, memory and critical thinking was pretty exciting stuff. You may have seen a reference to it in the article by Elizabeth Farrelly in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Dr Karin Harman presented a series of studies using non-radioactive functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) which showed a clear link between learning to write by hand and brain activity that leads to the development of neural processing in the visual and language systems of young children. This is not the case for learning letters visually or learning to write with a keyboard. The full video of this lecture is available here.

Dr Tanya Santangelo presented the results of a meta-analysis she conducted with Steve Graham, Ed.D, of the effectiveness of handwriting interventions. The results support individualised instruction for those children struggling to learn handwriting. Such instruction has been found to not only improve motivation and legibility but to also have an effect on the quality and volume of work. The full video of this lecture is available here.

Research by Dr Case-Smith showed the importance of a collaborative approach between occupational therapists and teachers, and specific intervention using visual-motor-verbal cues to support the development of correct movement sequences, as well as self-direction and self-evaluation for students experiencing difficulty with handwriting. This type of intervention was found to have a significant impact not only on the legibility of students’ handwriting but also on their ability to generate and organise ideas, stay on task and complete schoolwork. The full video of this lecture is available here.

As I say, exciting stuff for those of us who understand the important role handwriting continues to play in children’s learning and development in this day and age.
MCE updated 5/2/13

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