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Handwriting & Math

Getting It Down on Paper

Problems with Handwriting or Aligning Columns in Math.

At Cook Vision Therapy Center, we see a large number of bright children who struggle to get their thoughts down on paper. To understand why a child might have difficulty getting things down on paper, let’s try two demonstrations:

Demonstration 1:

Get a piece of paper and a pencil. Copy the following word:

How did you do? “Waving” has six symbols. How long did it take to copy all of them? How many times did you have to look at the word in order to copy it?

Now let’s try another example. This time, however, we’ll only ask you to copy four symbols:

How did you do? What was different about copying these four symbols? In the first symbol, did you get the size and spacing correct? In the second symbol, did you get the lines all pointed in the correct directions. In copying the third symbol did you make your curves the right size? In the fourth, did you get all six lines and were the angles between the lines correct?

As adults, when we write, we are using the same automatic process we used in copying the word “Waving.” We just start writing and it comes out fine–more or less.

When a young child copies a word, however, that child is using the same process we used when copying the four symbols. Suppose a child were copying the word Waving. The child would have to figure out how many lines there are in the letter W, to get the right curves in the a , g, and n, to get the correct, angle between the two lines of v. The child would have to figure out how far apart to put the letters and how to keep them horizontal, or perhaps, on a line. It’s a lot to think about! Unless such concepts as lines and distances and angles and numbers are understood, the child is going to have difficulty learning to write.

Demonstration 2:

Only three rules apply in copying the sentence:

Work as neatly and as quickly as you can.
If you do not finish on time, you will not be allowed to go out to recess.
And—oh yes—use your non-preferred hand: If you are right-handed, copy with your left hand. If you are left-handed, copy with your right.
Ready. Begin!

Again, the frustration you felt in copying the sentence is the same frustration that a child with an Eye-Hand Coordination problem feels in school. All day long! It’s no wonder that many such children spend as much time getting out of work as they spend completing it.

Some Eye-Hand coordination problems are caused by difficulty with the hands themselves and are treated in the schools or privately by occupational therapists. Other Eye-Hand problems are due to the eyes. The child who cant comfortably coordinate the 14 muscles of his eyes (See Convergence Insufficiency) will not use those eyes to guide a pencil. If you observe such a child, you will find that often the eye are not aimed at the tip of the pencil. This is why the words are poorly spaced and float off the lines.

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Dr. Cook’s Publications:

  • Published articles in top optometric journals.
  • His article “Eyesight, infinity and the human heart” was voted “Best Non-Technical Article” by the Association of Optometric Editors.

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