Conventionally, many believe that reading numerous books is the first step to be a good writer. Sometimes, parents even deprive their children of playtime to ensure they have time to read more books. One of my greatest challenges in life is dysgraphia, also known as writing difficulties. I tried many methods to improve my writing skill, and reading was not always an effective method for me.
We often ignore simple things that are important. What sometimes comes earlier than the words when children are learning to write are the hand movements. In order to improve children’s writing ability, we should not only focus on their language knowledge; their handwriting skills, the motor aspect of writing, also need to be developed. Handwriting consists of very complex hand movements, and therefore demands a mature fine motor ability. Children need to have a precise motion planning for how the words are formed, a good control of the pen, and a clear understanding of space. Poor fine motor ability is often considered to be an indicator of writing difficulties. For example, I have dysgraphia, and one of my writing difficulties is due to my poor motor control. I used to write very slowly, and my writings have poor legibility. About 5% to 33% of school-aged children also have a certain degree of handwriting difficulties. If the problem is left untreated, most of the handwriting difficulties will persist. Therefore, we should not overlook the importance of motor abilities in children’s writing training.
Psychomotor training is often used to help children with writing difficulties. Some of these psychomotor training tasks are very simple, for example running, skipping rope, throwing balls, jumping on a trampoline etc. You will find these trainings quite ordinary. Some of them are just activities children do in their playtime. Will these normal physical activities achieve some positive results related to better writing?
Researchers from Finland examined this issue and found that regular physical education lessons can result in improvement similar to psychomotor training. Rintala’s research team carried out an experiment with 54 children with developmental language disorder and movement difficulties. Half of the group was trained with psychomotor training and the other half was trained with regular physical education lessons. The physical education lessons followed the normal curriculum and did not have a specific training aim. All the students acquired significant improvement in writing, though the psychomotor training group performed slightly better.
This implies that physical activities may play an important role in children’s normal motor development. I have some personal experience in that I saw a significant improvement in my own writing after I learned guitar. Although playing the instrument does not seem to have a direct relation with writing, it does involve a lot of fine motor skills training. This common factor may create a facilitating relationship between the two skills. The same may go for children’s playtime and writing. The physical activities children engage in should enhance children’s motor abilities. Sacrificing children’s playtime may not be worth the pain. Children’s writing development can be hindered if their motor abilities are not properly developed.
This article was written by our guest blogger Mr. CHEUNG, Hong Kei Edmond. Mr. Cheung is currently a research assistant in the Life Span Development Laboratory of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Mr. CHEUNG, Hong Kei Edmond.
Life Span Development Laboratory
Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
多讀閱讀被認為是提高寫作能力的先決條件，以致不少家長選擇棄車保帥的策略，寧願犧牲孩子的玩樂時間，確保孩子有更充裕的時間閱讀。我的一生近乎不間斷地尋找提高寫作能力的方法，因為書寫障礙是我人生的最大困擾。我自少便在書寫障礙的陰霾下成長，可是閱讀並未能成為我的指路明燈。 或許，我們是遺忘了一些重要的細節。在考慮如何提高孩子的寫作能力時，我們往往著眼於孩子的語文知識，常曰，熟讀唐詩三百首，不會吟詩也會偷。可是在我們提高孩子語文知識的同時，我們往往忽略了孩子書寫能力的發展。在成年人眼中，書寫是一件平常不過的事，在幼稚園以後，便很少特意地訓練孩子的書寫能力。事實上，書寫是牽涉著很複雜的動作，需要孩子有著很成熟的動作協調能力。要寫出一手好字，孩子首先要對接下來的書寫動作有著精準的預算，對筆杆有著良好的控制，並且對空間的了解非常清楚。因此，肌肉的控制能力的精準度常被用作書寫障礙的指標之一。以我自己為例，我的書寫困難部份也是源於肌肉控制問題。我的書寫速度很慢，而且字體也不美觀。約一成至三成的學童也有著某程度上的書寫能力困難。如果不獲處理，大部分的學童書寫問題是不會自然的消失。因此我們是不應該忽視孩子肌肉控制能力發展的重要性。 在面對學童的書寫問題，教育心理學家會為學童提供動作控制與協調的訓練。當中部分訓練非常簡單，例如跑步，跳繩，拋接球，跳彈床等等。這些活動就跟小孩日常的遊戲差不多。既是如此，那麼日常的運動也能為孩子的書寫能力帶來相近的正面影響嗎？ 來自芬蘭的研究人員有著同樣的疑問,結果他們發現正常的運動課竟能為孩子帶來相近的訓練效果！該研究團隊對五十四名有著語言學習障礙和肌肉控制問題的學童進行研究。一半的學童被安排接受傳統的動作控制訓練，而另一半的學童則參與常規的體育課程。研究中的體育課程跟隨常規的學校教程而且沒有特殊訓練目標。訓練後所有的學童也有著顯著的進步，而受動作控制訓練的學童的進步則略較另一組學童為多。 由此可見日常生活中的活動時間實乃小孩培養肌肉控制能力的重要一環。在我學習結他以後，我的書寫能力有著顯著的改善。雖然學習樂器表面上與書寫像是風馬牛不相及的事，可是它們當中同樣牽涉著大量的肌肉協調控制訓練。因此樂器的訓練同樣能培養到書寫所需的協調控制能力。小孩的遊玩活動與書寫中，可能有著同樣的互補關係。孩子的遊玩時間顯然涉及大量的協調和控制練習。剝奪小孩遊玩時間，或許是適得其反地偃苗助長。沒有良好的肌肉控制和協調，孩子的書寫練習自然是事倍功半了。
______________________________________________________________________________________ 此文章由我們的客席博客張康祺先生撰寫。張先生現為香港中文大學心理學系的研究助理。 張康祺先生 BSsc.(香港中文大學) 研究助理 香港中文大學心理學系 生命全期發展實驗室 電郵: firstname.lastname@example.org