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Handwriting Skills May Lag in Kids With Autism

Therapy to improve letter formation could boost self-esteem, researchers say

MONDAY, Nov. 9, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Autistic children are more likely to have handwriting problems, including trouble forming letters, than those without autism, researchers say.

The new study included 28 children, aged 8 to 13. Half of the study participants had autism spectrum disorder, but all of the children scored within the normal range for perceptual reasoning on an IQ test.

The children were asked to copy a scrambled sentence -- "the brown jumped lazy fox quick dogs over" -- to eliminate any speed advantage for children who were more fluent readers.

Five categories were used to score the participants' handwriting: legibility, form, alignment, size and spacing. Half of the 14 children with autism earned less than 80 percent of the total possible points, compared with one of 14 children in the group without autism. Nine of the children with autism scored below 80 percent in the form category, compared with two of the children without autism, the researchers reported.

The overall handwriting quality was poorer in children with autism, but all of the children in both groups were able to align, space and size their letters equally well, the study authors noted in their report in the Nov. 10 issue of Neurology.

"Our results suggest that therapies targeting motor skills may help improve handwriting in children with autism, which is important for success in school and building self-esteem," study author Amy Bastian, of the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. "Such therapies could include training of letter formation and general training of fine motor control to help improve the quality of their writing."

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism.

SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Nov. 9, 2009
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