Reading and Writing

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 1017–1038 | Cite as

Handwriting in signing deaf middle-school students and relationship with text composition and spelling

  • Denis Alamargot
  • Marie-France Morin
  • Érika Simard-Dupuis


We set out to (i) assess the handwriting skills of signing deaf students, and (ii) examine the extent to which their text composition and spelling performances are linked to their handwriting efficiency. We asked 15 prelingually and profoundly deaf middle-school students (M = 15.18 years), all sign-language users, and a group of hearing students matched on chronological age (M = 15.32 years) to write the letters of the alphabet and their firstname and surname from memory as a handwriting assessment, and to compose a text describing their bedroom. Results showed that even though the deaf students formed legible letters in both handwriting tasks, they spent more time producing the alphabet letters, and composed shorter texts that were less fluent and contained more phonologically inaccurate spelling errors. Analysis of correlations between handwriting and text production (including spelling) measures revealed strong and significant relationships for the deaf students. This study showed that handwriting difficulties, in terms of executing the letters of their firstname and surname, as well as retrieving the letters of the alphabet from memory, persist in 15-year-old signing deaf students, and represent a constraint during text production, impairing spelling as well as text content richness and word fluency.


Deafness Handwriting Text composition Spelling Legibility Fluency 



We would like to thank the schools that helped us to test their pupils, the two specialist institutions for the deaf in the French cities of Poitiers (IRJS) and Bordeaux (INJS) and the Vienne département’s education service, which facilitated our research team’s interventions in the different schools. We would also like to thank Elizabeth Portier for translating and revising the English style of this article.


This research received financial support from the French National Research Agency (ANR)’s Dynamics of Orthographic Processing (DyTO) project; the state/region planning contract (CPER) for Poitou–Charentes (France); and the Research chair in reading and writing learning in young children (CREALEC; University of Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada).

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All procedures in this study involving human participants were conducted in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national review board, the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards, and France’s 1988 Huriet Act on the bioethical protection of persons involved in human experimentations.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Denis Alamargot
    • 1
  • Marie-France Morin
    • 2
  • Érika Simard-Dupuis
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratoire Cognitions Humaine et Artificielle (CHArt- EA 4004)Université Paris-Est, UPECCréteilFrance
  2. 2.Chaire de Recherche sur l’Apprentissage de la Lecture et de l’ECriture chez le jeune enfant (CREALEC), Faculté d’EducationUniversité de SherbrookeQuébecCanada

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