Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Johanna (Anneloes) Overvelde (Donders Series 125)

28 August, 2013

Promotors: Prof.dr. W. Hulstijn, Prof.dr. M.W.G. Nijhuis-van der Sanden, Prof. dr. H. Bekkering

Which practice makes perfect?

Experimental studies on the acquisition of movement sequences to identify the best learning condition in good and poor writers

Practice makes perfect, but which practice do children with handwriting problems need?

Worldwide, handwriting – Language by hand- is still the most direct manner of communication in children and adults. In the Netherlands, more than 30% of children experience less or more difficulties in learning to write at primary school. Many of them are referred to paediatric physiotherapists for intervention. However, little is known about

the motor control processes involved in the first stages of learning to write. Therefore, we designed several experimental studies to address two questions: (1) Which motor control process should be addressed first when children need to learn a new complex movement sequence? and (2) Are there differences in the acquisition and performance of these motor sequences between good and poor writers?

Above all, the results demonstrate that tracing is not the best way to teach children new letter forms. Explicit instruction provides the most optimal method for learning new letter forms and only a few trials are needed to attain this first level in motor learning. Next, good and poor writers do not need different learning conditions in the early and second stage of learning and about half of the young children with poor handwriting will profit from extended handwriting practice. Therefore, extra practice should be given before starting therapeutic intervention.