When I was in school, I hated handwriting practice. Being left handed, the way the teacher explained things never made sense. However, I persevered and over the years and, like so many of you reading this, developed my own, recognizable script. These days, I enjoy adding an artistic flair to my signature and notes I write to family and friends.
The only compromises and changes I’ve made to my penmanship as an adult, in fact, came as a result of my excellent training at the Neuhaus Center in Houston. During training in multi-sensory language instruction, we were encouraged to teach children specific pathways for letter formation. Learning and teaching these pathways altered the way I wrote as well as gave me a valuable tool for improving my students’ performance. While handwriting is often a struggle for students with dyslexia, by teaching them consistent pathways to letter formation, I saw great improvement in their abilities and confidence in both writing and reading.
Recent research supports my observation. A recently published New York Times piece summarizes this research nicely. Diverse research from different parts of the world comes to one conclusion: learning to write letters activates pathways in the brain, improving learning. Writing by hand is associated with learning to read faster and retaining information. In short, it simply helps us think better.
However, despite what research says about the importance of teaching handwriting, there are many who advocate for its elimination from the curriculum. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity recently published an article which seems to advocate for the elimination of such instruction for students with dyslexia. I was eager to see what research supported this recommendation, but the article provides no such evidence. While I certainly agree with their statement that “There is no reason that handwriting should keep any student from reaching her full potential,” it seems to me that it is not an “either/or” situation but rather a “both/and.” I personally began keyboard lessons as a fourth grade student on an Apple IIE computer, with additional practice conducted on mimeographed sheets at our desks. I also received excellent handwriting instruction in the previous grades that benefited me greatly. While all students (not just students with dyslexia!) need keyboard skills to maximize their access to 21st century technology, the benefits of handwriting instruction for spelling and reading skills and the necessity of a personal script for many tasks and activities reaffirm a place for research-backed handwriting instruction now and in the future.
Since 2003, Tori has been a committed special educator, working as an elementary special education teacher. Her drive to improve outcomes for her students with dyslexia led her to the Neuhaus Education Center, where she was trained in Orton-Gillingham the summer after her first year of teaching. "I was so frustrated as a first year teacher, not knowing how to meet my students' needs. I spent the entire summer learning about dyslexia and was thrilled by my students' progress the next year!" Since then, she has used the method in English and Spanish with students in three states. In 2009, Tori completed her M.Ed. in Special Education at the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, where she focused on educational strategies for students with learning disabilities. Tori joined the Lexercise team full-time in early 2014 after seeing students online for over a year. When she is not working, Tori loves to read, cook, garden, and spend as much time outdoors as possible.