An examination of writing pauses in the handwriting of children with Developmental Coordination Disorder

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Difficulties with handwriting are reported as one of the main reasons for the referral of children with Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) to healthcare professionals. In a recent study we found that children with DCD produced less text than their typically developing (TD) peers and paused for 60% of a free-writing task. However, little is known about the nature of the pausing; whether they are long pauses possibly due to higher level processes of text generation or fatigue, or shorter pauses related to the movements between letters. This gap in the knowledge-base creates barriers to understanding the handwriting difficulties in children with DCD. The aim of this study was to characterise the pauses observed in the handwriting of English children with and without DCD. Twenty-eight 8-14 year-old children with a diagnosis of DCD participated in the study, with 28 TD age and gender matched controls. Participants completed the 10. min free-writing task from the Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH) on a digitising writing tablet. The total overall percentage of pausing during the task was categorised into four pause time-frames, each derived from the literature on writing (250 ms to 2 s; 2-4 s; 4-10 s and >10 s). In addition, the location of the pauses was coded (within word/between word) to examine where the breakdown in the writing process occurred. The results indicated that the main group difference was driven by more pauses above 10 s in the DCD group. In addition, the DCD group paused more within words compared to TD peers, indicating a lack of automaticity in their handwriting. These findings may support the provision of additional time for children with DCD in written examinations. More importantly, they emphasise the need for intervention in children with DCD to promote the acquisition of efficient handwriting skill.




Prunty, M. M., Barnett, A. L., Wilmut, K., & Plumb, M. S. (2014). An examination of writing pauses in the handwriting of children with Developmental Coordination Disorder. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35(11), 2894–2905.

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