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Children with dyslexia are slow writers because they pause more often and not because they are slow at handwriting execution

Abstract

It is commonly assumed that children with dyslexia are slower at handwriting than other children. However, evidence of slow handwriting in children with dyslexia is very mixed. Thirty-one children with dyslexia, aged 9 years, were compared to both age-matched children and younger spelling-ability matched children. Participants completed an alphabet-writing task and a composition task on the surface of a digital writing tablet. Children with dyslexia wrote the same amount of letters per minute in the alphabet task but wrote fewer words per minute when composing their texts than children of the same age. Crucially, no differences were found between children with dyslexia and their same age peers for speed of handwriting execution, measured by the tablet, when writing the alphabet or composing their texts. However, children with dyslexia were found to pause within their compositions as often as the spelling ability matched group. Thus handwriting execution is not impaired in children with dyslexia. The slow writing that is typical of children with dyslexia is due to pausing more often when composing and is related to spelling ability. This may reflect processing problems in response to high cognitive load through having to contend with spelling and composing concurrently.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a studentship from The Waterloo Foundation. Special thanks go to the children and schools that participated in this study. This research was supported by a studentship from The Waterloo Foundation and Oxford Brookes University awarded to Emma Sumner.

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Correspondence to Emma Sumner.

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Sumner, E., Connelly, V. & Barnett, A.L. Children with dyslexia are slow writers because they pause more often and not because they are slow at handwriting execution. Read Writ 26, 991–1008 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-012-9403-6

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Keywords

  • Composing
  • Dyslexia
  • Handwriting
  • Speed
  • Writing