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Demands for the production of fast and legible handwriting increase as children progress through school in the UK. Despite the considerable number of children faced with handwriting difficulties, there is no practical tool to assess legibility in this population.
The aim of this study was to develop the Handwriting Legibility Scale (HLS) and examine its reliability and validity, before describing performance on a representative sample of primary school children aged 9-12 years.
The HLS was developed to assess global legibility. The content of the scale was based on a review of the literature plus the professional experience of the authors. Five criteria were included: global legibility, effort required to read the script, layout on the page, letter formation and alterations to the writing. Each of the criteria were applied to samples of ‘free writing’, scored on a five-point scale and summed to give a total legibility score. Content validity, inter-rater reliability and internal consistency were examined using scripts from 20 children aged 8-12 years. Construct validity was established by a discriminant analysis of the HLS score in 29 children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and 29 typically developing (TD) children. Minor revisions were made to clarify the HLS scoring instructions before scripts from a representative sample of 100 primary school children aged 9-12 years were rated. Effects of age and gender were examined.
The scale had high internal consistency (α=.92). The inter-rater reliability was acceptable but indicated the need to refine the scoring instructions. In the discriminant analysis, 86.2% of the children with DCD and 89.7% of the TD children were correctly classified to their groups based on the total HLS score. Use of a revised version of the HLS with the larger representative sample showed that it was quick and easy to use. Preliminary analyses indicate more legible handwriting with increasing age, with girls showing better performance than boys.
The overall findings suggest that the HLS is a useful tool for teachers to quickly assess handwriting legibility in the classroom and to identify those with handwriting difficulties.
This study has been presented at several international conferences and a paper is in preparation for submission to an academic journal.