Tuesday, November 10, 2009

handwriting problems in autistic children

I have seen that a new study has come out documenting handwriting problems in autistic children. I have had great difficulties with handwriting and printing. Contrary to some published reports of autistic children having superior scores on the block design subtest of the Wechsler performance IQ test, I score in the far subnormal range on this.

Also, some persons with autism do have very superior fine motor coordination skills such as Stephen Wiltshire and the lesser known Stephanie Lynn Keil who is also a talented artist.

I had to have extra help one on one tutoring for handwriting for years as a small child. I remember one tutor could only tutor me during recess or the school felt it was the only time they could give me the extra help. While the other kids enjoyed a recess break, I had to spend time being tutored in handwriting.

I later went to after school to a place where they claimed their educational methods remediated perceptual impairments that caused my handwriting problems (as well as perceptual problems that caused dyslexia which I don't have). This was another example of a pie-in-the-sky special education promise that turned out in reality to be shit-from-the-sewer. They did not help at all.

I recently wrote a blog post inquiring about fine motor coordination problems. The diagnosis given to me before the autism diagnosis was "fine motor coordination problem".

The article states that they got a standard score on the perceptual part of an IQ test. I don't know if this means they had normal scores in block design, etc.

So I am still interested in reading about handwriting and motor impairments in autistic children. I guess this shows that while autistics may have some symptoms in common that not all of them are alike and different conditions are labeled "autism".

I am not sure there is anyway I will ever be able to know exactly how my brain was damaged and what the neuroanatomical correlates are that cause the self-stimulatory movements and handwriting problems and all else that is wrong with me.

Still interested in reading this article and finding out about handwriting problems in others.


farmwifetwo said...

Both of mine have fine motor issues. The little one so far is hard to tell how difficult. He's fine on the computer, printing even with a weight on the pencil is horrendous. Getting his thoughts out is still... iffy to tell... since getting him to tell you how he thinks is difficult still.

The elder can type. But has HUGE issues writing out his thoughts. Building a sentence, writing it down - computer/pencil - is one of his LD's. He can do about one paragraph (approx 4 sentences) to another child his age (10), 3 times that much.

It's just the way it is. We'll keep working at it, over it, under it and around it... its all you can do.

Adrianna said...

I actually have excellent fine motor skills when it comes to drawing. The evaluation team that diagnosed me with a developmental delay was very impressed with my skill in this area and said so on their report. But my handwriting skills are deficient. When I was younger, I had almost perfect handwriting for two reasons. Number one, I have symptoms of OCD and still have them and mumber two, I had to write on that special lined paper they give to young children to teach them how to write. So I just stayed within the lines.

Now, my handwriting is not so neat. When I take my time, it can be very neat, but I can't write at a normal pace or else I get an untidy scrawl. What's more, ever since I first started writing, I need to left hand to hold down my right hand as I write because my right hand can't support itself. I basically have to "facilitate" my right hand.

Autism Mom Rising said...

A lot of people are seeing positve handwriting results from vision therapy, the idea being that, for some, handwriting issues are a visual perceptual problem. My son (moderate atypical Autism) has major handwriting problems, despite having nearly typical fine motor skills. For this reason he will be getting vision therapy in the future, once he completes Neurofeedback.

Stephanie said...

My father told me as a child I was skilled at taking things apart and putting them back together again. On the CARS (Childhood Autism Rating Scale) there is this question:

"(Age 3-5) How skillful is the child in doing fine work with this fingers or playing with small objects?"

My father placed me in the "exceptionally skilled" range. I can draw, play the piano, etc.

My handwriting isn't that great though. Perhaps it has more do to with the fact that I find it difficult to write out my thoughts. I also have difficulty writing papers, essays and such, whether or not they are on the computer or not.

In short I have problems with language: comprehension and whatnot.

Anonymous said...

I had occupational therapy when I was in preschool to work on my handwriting skills. I write neatly thanks to it, but I tend to write slowly since it won't come out as nice if I pace myself. I've battled through some OCD symptoms as part of my autism throughout my life, so while that factor has played a role in writing information on paper/notepads in a quick fashion without being able to move on to the next step as rapidly as I should be, I recently discovered the main reasons as to why I struggled taking notes throughout grade school. They are listed below from the following web site:


Now, while I don't have ADHD that bad (it's a borderline case according to my speech pathologist), I'm able to look back at the past and realize that I could not express the sort of thoughts that are on the site to my parents when I was in
5th-8th grade. Yes, I did tell them to more narrow extent, but not in a complete crystal clear picture that they could imagine. I'd mostly use excuses like,

"The teacher goes too fast for me."

"I try to copy the notes, but she'll erase the board and I worry about how my handwriting looks."

"Everyone picks on me for how slow I am to copy down everything. How do they keep up so fast?" (This example is where I'd be given suggestions like, "Use abbreviations", and I'd get frsutrated because I already knew that but I didn't know how else to explain my problems, and what if I abbreviated something but forgot what it was later, or was indecisive or acted OCD about how to write short-handed notes?)

Luckily, I was able to explain to my parents that I never knew what notes to write down if the teacher was teaching/lecturing orally. I was also lucky to have received the best teachers possible throughout my elementary school years while only having to go to the resource classroom a couple times a week for about an hour.

Anonymous said...

While middle school is where things got more complicated for me, I was lucky to have received some guidance from one of my teachers there who I had for at least one class each year whenever it came to studying for tests. Although she did her best to help me with other things, she did not always have patience with me and my behavior(i.e.- I used to act silly and immature for attention because I felt alienated.). The good news is that I did well on my homework and classwork assignments since I was always diligent, but my parents felt I was too dependant to be asking for their help with certain assignments and to have guidance with studying for tests, so I went to special ed. in high school where I was lucky to at least make progress with my reading comprehension in the 9th grade at a learning disabled school.

Then I transfered to a public high school, earned a high GPA prior to graduation, passed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, yet hated the SAT. Although I improved my scores after retaking it twice, my verbal score was still a bit low, but at least I made up for it by taking the College Placement Test at my local community college and being placed into the last remedial reading program. I had already been accepted into Florida Atlantic University at the time, but once I started off there, things finally started clicking for me, especially with the fact I did not have to worry about taking my own notes since I got the notetaking accomodation that the ignorant grade schools should have.

God, my speech pathologist would make a great addition to the special education department! Exceptional Student Education teachers should be required to take speech pathology classes and elementary education majors should take some, but not as much as future ESE teachers. Hell, maybe if more disabled individuals tried Neurofeedback or the speech therapy techniques I'm learning and working on, we wouldn't need special education! Most of the ESE teachers at the Miami-Dade County Public School System are egotistical bastards who will never have the authority to actually work with and teach kids material that the kids/teens could be learning in reality.

Anyway Jonathan, I'm proud of you for the fact that you were able to make your way through the system, considering there was no disabilities office to receive accomodations like a notetaker. If I was you back in your days, I probably wouldn't have graduated from college (I hope Andrews is satisfied I used the expression correctly this time, even though he could care less about what I or anyone here has to say.). Perhaps occupational therapy might have helped you out, or if PCs had existed in your time you could have had it easier, but hey, that was then, here is now! :)

Kent Adams said...

Jonathan, I read the link to the study you gave. All I can say is Duh! I'm not sure what the purpose of this study was. I guess I have to read the entire study but it seemed a waste of time. Its like doing a study about "is the grass green". Hasn't it been known for decades that autistic children have problems with handwriting?

You asked about perceptual IQ? I wonder if this is what is considered non-verbal IQ scores? My son scores above the mean on non-verbal portions of the IQ and 2 deviations below the mean on the verbal IQ portion. I believe non-verbal IQ has more to do with visual matching and so forth. He's always been extremely talented in non-verbal, visual tasks, much more talented than I am or my wife. However, when it comes to having to process verbal questions, he is far far behind. Anyway, interesting article you wrote.

Anonymous said...

To be more specific, ESE from public schools should be banned, and instead include a disabilities office at all public grade schools. Allow a student to a specific coordinator who could work with the student to discuss which classes he/she may want to stick with for the school year and with the best or most lenient teachers. Perhaps the student with ADHD who cannot handle a bunch of busy work could try an honors or AP class which could especially help him/her earn college credit early on. Mentor the student, dammit! Keep in touch with the student's speech pathologist or recommend one to the student to not only learn social skills, but help him/her learn how to manage learning and studying inside and outside the classroom. Suggest extra-curricular activities to the autistic student and remind him/her to keep up with bulletin board posts and write down the dates in a pocket-sized calendar or cell phone notepad if he/she hasn't been taught so by the speech pathologist. Discuss career opportunities and what the consequences will be as soon as he/she earns the bachelor's degree if he/she doesn't think about what he/she wants to do with his/her life early on. Dyslexic students could benefit from Neurofeedback training and other services. Try the Sylvan Learning Center. Anything, dammit!

Now once we find cures for certain defective areas of the brain, we'll no longer need these services for future newborns! That's what ND proponents fail to grasp.

Kent Adams said...

"This was another example of a pie-in-the-sky special education promise that turned out in reality to be shit-from-the-sewer. They did not help at all."

I have yet to see any improvement from special education services in my child. None of it seems even remotely applicable to him. Its all based on teaching a person with a typical mind and a physical disability from what I can tell. So, like you, I am coming around to view special education as "shit-from-the-sewer" as well. I think my son is uneducatable (sp?) in a classroom setting at this point in his life. We have tried everything. Some things do and have worked, but they require very very strict settings and highly qualified people to deliver it and that isn't going to be transferable to real world settings.

farmwifetwo said...

"My guess is only the highest functioning don't have problems with handwriting"

My eldest would qualify as the highest of functioning... he's going to be "normal" as normal is.. (dryer setting :) )and already pretty much is at 10... and IMO it's simply a LD that some people have and he's one of them. Difference with those with an ASD dx is that it's flagged. Had he not had a dx, had he not had a speech and language delay that gave us Mild PDD at 2.5yrs.... we'd be floundering.

"Some things do and have worked, but they require very very strict settings and highly qualified people to deliver it and that isn't going to be transferable to real world settings."

Which is why I have no use for descrete undending IBI/ABA that we had for the little one. The psychometry exam before we kicked them out after 8mths of them being here, and I quote "child can not transfer skills out of the IBI setting" and it was their psychometrist that did the testing.

We're doing well in a regular class setting - little one (autistic disorder) - with full time support. We've been lucky to have some excellent teachers (not all) and an excellent EA (same one last 3yrs). Plus, we've done more at home (30min/day). I wish he was as far along as his older bro... but all I can do is keep teaching.

Kent Adams said...

"We're doing well in a regular class setting - little one (autistic disorder) - with full time support."

My little one isn't doing well in a regular class setting with full time support. I don't have an answer either as my AS is nothing like AD, which I have come to learn. What worked for me does not work for him.

farmwifetwo said...

"I don't have an answer either as my AS is nothing like AD, which I have come to learn. What worked for me does not work for him."

Bingo. ASAN and friends claim they are exactly the same and I can tell you my boys are oil and water. That AD and NLD are NOT the same at all. What worked for one, does not work for the other. What skills one has, the other does not.

My coulda, woulda, shoulda list is a mile long. All you can do is try. One thing we did try with the little one is 0.25ml of risperdal twice daily (the adderall we tried first was a huge bust). It's taken 3mths, the verbal stim is still there but more under his control. His attention span had gotten down to about zero, and the stim out of control last spring/july. The words are coming, the ability to attend in class and at home is 100% better. Not "normal" but huge gains for him. We still don't have conversation (small talk), but we have words, socialization (not normal but wants to spend time with parents and sings "grandma's here" when she says with him), and full opinions. I'm pls'd with the gains... they are more than I'd hoped, even imperfect.

All you can do is try your best. I have no answers, just a million suggestions.

Adrianna said...

"We get multiple diagnoses of learning disabilities along the way.Except for the one of dyscalculia,I believe all of the LD diagnoses I got were unwarranted."

How can you say that? Don't you know you are supposed to be a math genius? All autistic people are math geniuses! Remeber Einstein?! He was autistic too! You CAN'T be autistic! You just can't!

Anonymous said...


What you were describing about your elder son sounds like he has a graphomotor learning disability.

I'm going to share something interesting with you, and hopefully any blogger who comes across this post will find what I tell you unique. Are you ready? Get set......read below! :)

About two and a half weeks ago, my friend with cerebral palsy was curious as to what this speech therapy I've been using for over two years was all about. My therapist was kind enough to allow me to bring him in to my individual session. In fact, she asked me to bring him in like two weeks before he asked me if he could visit because I was telling my therapist about him and what he's like. I told her it wasn't up to me to help him out, but if he ever wants to come, I'd be willing to bring him with me.

Anyway, he comes with me to my session, and I was able to observe how well he's able to interact socially to her and me compared with my two group members who have Asperger's that I attend group therapy sessions with.

At first I believed the therapist wasn't going to notice what he's truly like when he's in most settings. I will admit that I warned my friend as to what my therapist could do (i.e.- He asked me how he should dress the evening before the session, and I told him casual, but not too casual. Then I added on, "What you'd normally wear every day is fine. I wouldn't dress up like you were going to an interview since she'll lecture you on how to dress."). My friend replied, "Oh, thanks for telling me." I then told him, "Yeah, no problem. I wouldn't want her educating you on how to dress since you normally dress well."
(To be honest, he could learn how to be more flexible with the clothing he wears, yet I understand he chooses to wear blue jeans most of the time or some other long pair of pants occasionally in case he accidently loses his balance and falls on his knees.)

Anonymous said...

Now back to the point.....my therapist asked my friend if he has problems with writing? He told the truth, and after my therapist started to discuss it, my friend was able to express to her that not only does his writing come out messy and he can't even read his own writing, but he does not feel he can transmit what he wants to write on paper that he could say orally.

I was shocked! So was my friend. My therapist was able to explain that just as his brain does not transmit the right signals that has made it difficult for him to walk normally (he's had lots of physical therapy over his life so you wouldn't recognize right away to this day that he has cerebral palsy), the same thing happens whenever he writes with a pencil, but if he types on the computer, he'll be fine since he's not using his graphomotor skills. My friend then exclaimed that he just learned something new about himself.

Although I thought the info. we learned about his graphomotor disability he was born with due to his cerebral palsy was interesting, I wonder why he never told his parents this and why he never thought about asking to use a computer or have someone take notes for him throughout all his years in grade school. Was it something he sort of figured out as he got older and was able to express this thought to the therapist as she was using her "flash memory eraser" technique? Was it the fact he attended school as a special ed. student from Pre-K (where he was in a wheelchair) to 12th grade (where he was using crutches in case he fell) and never got the opportunity to receive the education I was able to have, yet the teachers never recognized all his learning problems for coming across as being slow, lazy and a bit annoying with the idea that part of his problem is his cerebral palsy and part of it is the fact he's a bit selfish and spoiled despite being a nice, friendly kid? Had he seen someone like my speech therapist long ago, things could have turned out differently for him. Yes, he obviously has a lot of problems, but the graphomotor learning disability was a great example of one out of many pieces I learned about my friend.

Now farmwifetwo, I cannot assume that your elder son has a graphomotor learning disability, but with the information I provided about my friend with cerebral palsy it's possible your son has the same sort of graphomotor problem. I'd be interested to know if he's someone who'd rather take a test or do homework/classwork assignments orally.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my posts. I realize I write a lot.


jonathan said...

Roger: I hope you start your new blog soon. I will look forward to reading it and providing you with a link on gadfly. We need as many anti ND bloggers as possible to take on the hub as we are most certainly outgunned.

Anonymous said...

"One of these days,I am going to have to start my own blog,and have a downloadable .pdf of my autism evaluation,and diagnosis,from Dr. Richard Campbell,head of developmental psychology,at The University of New Mexico,complete with his assessment I am too disabled to care for myself,and need to be in a home.

I would suggest any autistic who speaks out against ND or anybody else,needs to have such documentation on hand."

Posting your medical records online to "prove" something doesn't do anything. Many Neurodiverse bloggers have their medical records posted online (e.g. Amanda Baggs) so we know that they can easily be fabricated.

Anonymous said...

I was rereading Amanda's medical reports and noticed that one of her main doctors was "Hugh Wilson Ridlehuber, MD." He died (of course) on October 8, 2008. Was anyone able to get in touch with this man to verify that she existed and was telling the truth?

Adrianna said...

Roger Kulp, I was being sarcastic in that last comment. I was making fun of the comments that Neurodiversists make about autistic people with learning disabilities and how they tend to believe stereotypes about autistics. I don't question anything you say at all.

Anonymous said...

I love that this blog exists.

You obviously have a very specific topic here, but I was wondering if you've ever examined a similar movement for schizophrenics?
I have heard that some schizophrenics will think beneficially of their hallucinations, because most people can't experience them.

KateGladstone said...

Since you’re interested in reading about hand writing problems of us autistics, I’d like to send you a link to the article “Handwriting and the Autism Spectrum — Notes from a Survivor”: https://www.autism-society.org/stories/handwriting-and-the-autism-spectrum-notes-from-a-survivor/