Friday, December 28, 2012

Handwriting, Motor Skills, Motor Memory and Autism

A poster presentation at the 2012 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting researchers reported on a small study using a digital tablet to record precise handwriting metrics of 12 boys with autism, 8 with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and 12 controls. The tablet measured pen pressure, strokes, speed and precise letter formation while the children copied an eight-word phrase that uses every letter in the alphabet. Three experiments were conducted - copying letters from the phrase written, tracing the letters in the phrase as carefully as possible and tracing the letters as quickly as possible.

The results showed the following differences in handwriting kinematics:
  •  children with autism and those with ADHD were faster but less accurate than controls at each task
  •  children with autism performed poorly on the copying and tracing task
  •  children in the ADHD group struggled with copying but traced as well as controls.
  •  in all three experiments the children with autism who were worst at reproducing the letters scored lowest on working memory sub-scores of an intelligence quotient test
  • the ADHD group and the control group did not show an association between letter reproduction and working memory
The researchers concluded that it is not only motor performance but higher cognitive centers as well that contributes to handwriting difficulties in children with autism.  

Reference:  Hughes, V. Handwriting study points to motor, memory problems in autism. Retreived on 12/28/12 from Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative at

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