Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development

Handwriting Difficulties in Children with DCD

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  • Mellissa Prunty undertook this research for her PhD, which she completed in 2013.

    Children with DCD are often reported to have handwriting that is slow, difficult to read and sometimes painful to produce. This can lead to problems at school as written work is required in everyday class work and in most examinations. Children who struggle to keep up or whose writing cannot be easily read are at a disadvantage and may fail to reach their full potential. Surprisingly little is known about the nature of handwriting difficulties in DCD, leaving health and educational professionals baffled by how best to support these children in school. This project focussed on providing a better description of the handwriting difficulties seen in this group, together with an understanding of the underlying mechanisms. Using carefully selected tools she assessed handwriting in terms of speed and legibility of performance. She also used a digitizing tablet, which records the precise movements of the pen, to examine more detailed aspects such as pause times and exactly how letters are formed. With a background in Occupational Therapy, Mellissa also evaluated the use of specific clinical tools to assess handwriting difficulties, particularly in the area of visual-perceptual skill. Mellissa was keen to take a holistic view, taking into account teacher assessments of handwriting as well as the child’s own views.

    Prunty, M., Barnett, A., Wilmut, K., & Plumb, M. (2013) Handwriting Speed in Children with Developmental Coordination Disorder: Are They Really Slower? Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(9), 2927-2936

    Prunty, M., Barnett, A.L., Wilmut, K. & Plumb, M. (2014) An examination of writing pauses in the handwriting of children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35, 2894–2905