For autistic teens, handwriting problems may continue

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

WASHINGTON - A new study has pointed out that handwriting problems among autistic kids are likely to continue into their teenage years.

Researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute revealed that like children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), adolescents with ASD have poor handwriting quality and motor skill impairments.

Twenty four girls and boys aged 12 to 16, half of whom had ASD, were asked to write a scrambled sentence ‘the brown jumped lazy fox quick dogs over’ as neatly as they could.

IQ tests showed all of the teens, both with autism and normal, scored within the normal range of perceptual reasoning.

The researchers also tested the teens’ motor skills, including balance and timed movements.

The handwriting was scored on five measures - legibility, form, alignment, size and spacing.

The average score for autistic kids was 167 out of 204 possible points, and normally developing teens scored an average of 183. Teenagers with autism were also more likely to have motor skill impairments.

Handwriting performance in adolescents with autism was predicted by perceptual reasoning scores, which reflect a person’s ability to reason through problems with nonverbal material.

“That reasoning skills can predict handwriting performance suggests a possible strategy by which adolescents with autism could learn and utilize compensatory strategies to overcome motor impairments,” said study author Amy Bastian.

“While teenagers with autism are more likely to have handwriting problems, there are several techniques available to improve handwriting quality, such as adjusting pencil grip, stabilizing the writing hand with the opposite hand or forming letters more slowly. These therapies could help teens with autism to progress academically and develop socially,” she added.

The study is published in the recent issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. (ANI)

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