The concepts raised here are extremely important in understanding why many seemingly bright children fail to do well at school. But first, let me draw a distinction between the types of motor deficits raised in this article. The article seems to blend weight, exercise, and athleticism with other motor deficits, such as handwriting and shoelace tying. I don’t know about the former, but the problems with fine-motor coordination are central to understanding the difficulties many children have at school. Here’s the connection and here’s what needs to be done.
Poor handwriting affects work pace, and impacts the child from elementary school on. In class, the effect is limited because the school day is bound by the clock. Regardless of how quickly the child works, the bells rings and the child goes home. Further, the teacher is present so, regardless of what that child was able to do, the teacher observed the effort, could come over to offer assistance, or even waive parts of the assignment and accept what was done.
At the end of the school day, the child is expected write down the assignments from the board, with the expectation that he’ll get the work done.
Even if that child can read what wrote down, he is now in a setting with no bell to end the homework day. The teacher is not there, leaving the parent in the role of frustrated taskmaster. Before long, parents and teachers talk, operating on the misconception that the child is unmotivated, failing to see the difficulties caused by the handwriting problem. Faced with unrelenting pressure, the child acts out, and gets turned off to school.
This child needs time-bound assignments, penalty reductions, and for his parents to have authority to limit what he does.
I don’t know if there is another neurological explanation that connects handwriting difficulties with educational problems, but I am certain that unrelenting demands for homework to get done by handwriting deficient children over twelve years of schools is a setup for disaster that essentially robs them of an education.
Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.