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Handwriting Vs. Touch typing- is one better than the other?

SEND Advisor for Cavendish Education, Vanessa Danz, discusses the skills and benefits involved in handwriting and touch typing and how a balanced approach may promote the best outcomes.



In today's digital age, where typing and texting have become the norm, the importance of handwriting is often debated. Some argue that with the prevalence of computers and smartphones, the skill of handwriting is becoming obsolete, while others feel it is crucial to recognise and uphold the significance of handwriting in our modern society.


Handwriting difficulties can affect various groups of children and young people for different reasons. 


Anyone can find mastering the skills involved in handwriting tricky but some groups of children and young people can find it particularly challenging.


Those with dyslexia: 

Dyslexia is characterised by challenges with reading, writing, and spelling. Individuals with dyslexia often struggle with the phonological processing, verbal memory and verbal processing speed which are required for accurate and fluent handwriting. Letter formation, letter reversals, and inconsistent spacing can be common among children with dyslexia.


Those with dysgraphia: 

Dysgraphia primarily affects writing skills. Children with dysgraphia may have trouble with handwriting legibility, letter formation, letter size and spacing, and maintaining consistent line alignment. These challenges are not necessarily due to motor difficulties but rather with the coordination and integration of cognitive and motor processes that are involved in the writing process.


Those with developmental coordination disorder (DCD):

DCD, also referred to as dyspraxia, is a neurological condition that affects motor coordination. Handwriting can be particularly challenging for people with dyspraxia due to challenges with fine motor control, motor planning, and spatial awareness. They may struggle with letter formation, consistent letter size, and maintaining proper spacing and alignment on the page.


Those with Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD):

ADHD can impact attention, focus, and impulse control, which can make handwriting tricky! Children with ADHD may have difficulty sustaining attention during writing tasks, resulting in messy or incomplete handwriting. Impulsivity can lead to rushing through written work, which can then impact the legibility and quality.


It is important to note that not all children within these groups will experience any barriers in the development of their handwriting, and individual strengths and challenges can vary. 

When considering whether to prioritise handwriting or touch typing, it is important to recognise the unique needs and abilities of each child. Both skills can offer valuable benefits, and the decision should be based on individual circumstances and goals. 


Some factors to consider:

Handwriting:


  • Fine motor skills development: Handwriting exercises can help improve fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness. These skills are foundational for various activities beyond writing, such as self-care tasks and manipulative tasks.

  • Memory and spelling: Research suggests a positive correlation between handwriting and memory retention, as well as improved spelling skills. The physical act of writing has been shown to reinforce neural connections, aiding in information processing and recall.

  • Note-taking and learning: Handwritten notes during lectures or while studying can enhance comprehension and information retention. Many individuals find that the act of writing helps them focus and better absorb the material.

  • Individual preference and self-expression: Some individuals may prefer handwriting as a means of self-expression and creativity. Handwritten notes, cards, or journaling can provide a personal touch and emotional connection that may be valued by the individual.


Touch typing:


  • Accessibility and efficiency: Touch typing can provide a more accessible and efficient means of written communication, especially for individuals who may struggle with the physical demands of handwriting. It allows them to express their thoughts more fluidly and with less frustration. It can offer an alternative method for written expression, enabling them to focus more on the content of their writing rather than struggling with the mechanics of handwriting.

  • Technology reliance: In today's digital age, proficiency in touch typing is increasingly valuable. It prepares individuals for the use of digital tools, online communication, and productivity in various settings, including education and professional environments.


In many cases, a balanced approach that incorporates both handwriting and touch typing can be beneficial. By developing basic handwriting skills while simultaneously introducing touch typing, children can have the opportunity to acquire both sets of skills, allowing them to adapt to various situations and preferences.


It is important to involve professionals, such as occupational therapists, educators, or specialised instructors, who can assess the specific needs and strengths of the child, provide guidance on appropriate interventions, and support the development of the chosen skill set. Individualised instruction and ongoing assessment are crucial to ensure that the child's learning needs are met effectively.


Vanessa is an education specialist with 15 years of experience.


Alongside leadership roles such as SENDCo, Assistant Headteacher and SEND adviser she has also taught across the age ranges in leading mainstream and specialist schools within both the Independent and Maintained sectors.


Her expertise lies in Special Educational Needs (SEND) and School Improvement; providing training, support, and advice to improve outcomes for all pupils, offering a range of services for Headteachers, Leadership Teams, SENDCos, Teachers and Support Staff.


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