The instruction of cursive handwriting is at the center of debate following its elimination from the new Common Core Standards. American schools are not required to teach cursive handwriting, but learning and using it is critical for students with learning differences.
For a child with dyslexia, cursive handwriting provides the rules that help cement learning, and engages the kinesthetic and visual processes recommended for students with learning differences.
Explicit handwriting instruction should occur in the primary grades alongside fundamental literacy skills. As students learn letter-sound correspondence, they should be simultaneously taught how to correctly form that letter(s). Effort spent teaching cursive handwriting early in a student’s career prepares him or her for future reading and writing success. Bad habits and a strong aversion to handwriting severely limit a student’s written expression and hurt self-esteem.
Dyslexia and Cursive Handwriting
Manuscript letters start at many different places on a line, but cursive letters all start at the bottom of a line. Even if manuscript instruction explicitly teaches where to start each letter, like Handwriting Without Tears does, an unmonitored child will find multiple ways to start a letter with awkward strokes. Incorrect letter formation is more laborious; As handwriting demands increase with each advanced grade, a student will fatigue more easily at the expense of written expression.
Cursive handwriting avoids many letter reversals that are common among young students and persist with dyslexia. A cursive “b” and “d” look completely different in cursive than manuscript. Also, cursive writing allows for a distinct break between words when writing a sentence.
Dysgraphia and Cursive Handwriting
For students who have dysgraphia, typing is often promoted to overcome fine motor deficits. While technology use is important, students with dysgraphia will have a far more difficult time mastering typing. It may take years for a student with dysgraphia to learn to type, by which point they have lost a window of handwriting practice. Typing skills are important, but do not preclude handwriting instruction.
Trident Academy is an Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators (AOGPE) accredited school, designated for students with learning differences. Orton-Gillingham is a research-based, multisensory approach designed to remediate reading, writing, and other academic deficits.