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For Teens With Autism, Handwriting Problems May Persist
Date:11/15/2010

MONDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Poor handwriting among children with autism tends to persist well into the teen years, a new study finds.

Unlike with younger children, the reason for the poor handwriting among teens seems to have less to do with motor skills issues than with problems in "perceptual reasoning," or the ability to reason through problems with nonverbal material.

The study, by researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, is published in the Nov. 16 issue of Neurology.

In the study, 24 girls and boys aged 12 to 16, half of whom had an autism spectrum disorder, were asked to write a scrambled sentence ("the brown jumped lazy fox quick dogs over") as neatly as they could.

IQ tests showed all of the teens, both with autism and typically developing, scored within the normal range of perceptual reasoning. Researchers also tested teens' motor skills, including balance and timed movements.

The handwriting sample was scored on five measures, including legibility, form, alignment, size and spacing.

On average, kids with autism had poorer handwriting than kids without autism. The average score for autistic kids was 167 out of 204 possible points, and normally developing teens scored an average of 183.

While teens with autism were also more likely to have motor skill impairments, problems in that area were not associated with sloppier handwriting.

Yet scoring worse on the test of perceptual reasoning was associated with worse handwriting among children with autism.

"The importance of this research was not 'if' children and adolescents with autism struggle with handwriting, which many individuals can already attest to, but rather to document the extent of the challenge and determine if we could reveal anything about 'why' it is the case," senior study author Amy Bastian, director of the Motion Analysis Laboratory at the Kennedy Krieger Institute, said in an in
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