In recent years, educational developments such as Common Core State Standards and standardized testing have been crowding out traditional parts of the school curriculum. Unfortunately, in many parts of the country, cursive handwriting has been one of the casualties of this instructional shift.
That’s a shame, considering that research shows all students benefit from learning cursive handwriting. It improves hand-eye coordination, boosts memory and stimulates brain development.
But for students with dyslexia — a learning disability that affects reading, spelling and writing — learning cursive can be the difference between underachievement and a successful academic experience.
“Some of the most recent research … is showing us that when the hands are involved, it’s a stronger association for learning and memory,” said Marilyn Zecher, a language specialist at the Atlantic Seaboard Dyslexia Education Center and a former teacher, in a PBS NewsHour article. “When people write things they remember them longer.”
Zecher further explained that dyslexics have difficulty learning to read because they have trouble connecting sounds and letter combinations. Cursive helps them overcome this difficulty through its fusing of hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, memory and other brain activities.
The British Dyslexia Association notes that the continuous flow of cursive ultimately improves writing speed and spelling and helps dyslexics with easily confused letters such as “b,” “d,” “p,” and “q.” Dyslexics are also able to distinguish between uppercase and lowercase letters better. Because their writing hands develop a physical memory of the letters, dyslexics are better able to consistently and correctly reproduce the shapes.
Dyslexia is a neurological condition that’s often genetic in origin. It’s has nothing to do with intelligence. Albert Einstein, the famous physicist who reshaped people’s understanding of the universe, was dyslexic. It is estimated that as many as one in 10 people have this learning disability.
Given the current trend away from teaching cursive, what other options are there for parents whose children have dyslexia? Some parents have turned to private therapy or are teaching their children cursive themselves as a way to fill the gap.
“If we’re asking children to think about what they are reading, if we are asking [them] to really assimilate the content and make notes and remember it, cursive handwriting really supports that enormously,” Zecher said.
The Domtar blog explored the fascinating role that cursive handwriting plays helping students with dyslexia.