The Truth About Printing
Printing is one of those things that parents and teachers tend to put into the “just try harder” category. The thought is that more practice is needed. However, most unique learners who are struggling with printing have a physiological reason for their messy printing. In other words, the problem is in the way they use their body.
When students start out in Kindergarten, they have immature writing skills but progress in both speed and neatness over time. If a unique learner could have changed their messy printing, they would have. Believe me, there isn’t a fourth grader on the planet who wants their writing to look like a Kindergartner wrote it.
Why do doctors have such terrible handwriting? Why do elementary teachers have such precise, neat printing? Can you become a doctor if you write like an elementary teacher?
No one really knows. But what we do know is that the fine art of manipulating a writing utensil in order to print words, as in the fine art of mastering the use of any tool, is the result of a highly integrated sensory-motor system.
Strategies to Try:
Developmental Visual Exercise
Step 1: Have your child print the alphabet three times while lying on their tummy, propped up on their elbows.
Step 2: Have your child print the alphabet three times while on their hands and knees. (Place weight on both knees and the left (or right if left-handed) hand. Write with the right handed lifted just enough to print on the paper.)
Step 3: Have your child print while on hands and knees, but have them lift one leg off the ground and extended straight behind. Print the alphabet. Repeat with the other leg. (Place weight on one knee and the left (or right if left-handed) hand. Extend the other leg straight behind. Write with the right handed lifted just enough to print on the paper. Then switch legs.)
Step 4: Have your child print on a piece of paper attached to the wall. Print the alphabet while stand on one foot. Repeat while standing on the other foot.
Often this particular learning challenge does not fully present itself to the student, parent and teachers until third or fourth grade when the arithmetic computations begin to incorporate two and three digit equations. Students who have tracking challenges will have trouble keeping straight the different columns that numerals are placed in to answer equations correctly. Single digit math problems can accommodate a student whose eyes don’t track independent of the head and neck. Two and three-digit math, however, is less forgiving.
Students who are unable to view a horizontally moving object across their near visual field without also moving at the head and neck will have difficulty writing. It is essential to maintain the head and body still while the visual system, alone, tracks the printing activity. Slow speed of printing as well as frequent errors can usually be attributed to a student who is unable to move the small eye muscles independent of the head and neck muscles. As a result, the student must move at the head and change the upper body and neck posture in order to copy from text placed at the desk level or up at the front board. The posture must alter, again, to view the paper and begin to print. Frequently, the student loses their place and must slowly retrace their steps in order to ensure accuracy or concede to inevitable errors.
The memorization strategies employed by these students for simpler addition and subtraction, become highly confusing when the head must move to view each of the numerals. Imagine computing a complex math problem in the dark with a pen-light flashlight that’s beam could accommodate the size of only one or two digits, not the whole problem. You would have to keep rescanning back to a previous digit to ensure that you remembered to “carry over”, etc. The exercise would be both fatiguing and would hold a high potential for error.
This is the truth about printing. There is a lot more involved than meets the eye. Your unique learner’s messy printing may just be symptoms of what is happening inside their brain and body.
Read more on this topic through my blogs on this website and by purchasing my book (CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE), Unique Learner Solutions.