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article imageResearch Reports Link Between Handwriting and Autism

By Carol Forsloff     Dec 20, 2009 in Health
A child who has trouble writing may well turn out to be a famous writer or philosopher. Indeed great writers had some characteristics of autism and problems with fine motor skills but great genius in creative language pursuits.
Recent research has established a link between handwriting and autism that may be helpful in uncovering some of the language behaviors and assets exhibited by children who have difficulty with fine motor tasks. A recent parent magazine discusses how those Individuals with autism spectrum disorder often find small motor tasks laborious and difficult. Great writers such as Lewis Carroll and George Orwell were found to have characteristics now associated with autism yet had significant language abilities.
The article goes on to discuss one parent's struggle with her autistic son. The mother, Barbara Wagner, said about her child, "He doesn't actually write they way you or I would write," she told NPR. "He draws his letters. It was almost painful to watch."
The handwriting skills of 14 autistic children with average intelligence were compared with 14 similar children in terms of age and intellectual abilities. The scientific research found the handwriting skills of autistic children to be much poorer than the skills of the non-autistic children. The fine motor difficulties are similar to the problems parents report their autistic children have doing simple things such as holding a fork or tying shoes. The hypothesis is that the problem exhibited with fine motor skills has to do with the problem autistic individuals have in recognizing the activities of other persons that inhibits their abilities to pick up nonverbal social cues.
Examining handwriting to determine the barriers autistic individuals have in learning may be a better approach to assessing certain human behaviors than having them push levers and perform similar activities. Research using handwriting to assess human behavior has found analyzing the response patterns in handwriting can help determine certain patterns of behavior, valuable in making certain predictions and conclusions about why people respond or behave as they do.
Occupational therapy for autistic youth often centers on helping to develop large and fine motor skills. Handwriting is one of those areas that has been shown to be a struggle for many autistic children. Some will use a keyboard rather than write by hand. The reason for this, according to some authorities, is that these children have a need to engage in certain repetitive movements and self-stimulation that fine motor skills, such as handwriting, may interrupt.
Autistic children often exhibit behaviors that other people might find curious or even alarming, however the young child flapping his hands today may be the century's next Shakespeare, as research has noted the discrete abilities exhibited by autistic children beyond fine motor skills.
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