Deficits in handwriting performance limit the school participation of children with developmental coordination disorder (DCD). The aim of this study was to compare the handwriting process and product characteristics of children with DCD to those of typically developing (TD) children in order to determine the best means of differentiation between the groups. Participants were 40 children, from 7 to 10 years old. The experimental group consisted of 20 children who met the criteria of DCD, and the control group consisted of 20 age- and gender-matched controls. The children were asked to perform three graded writing tasks on an electronic tablet, which was part of a computerized handwriting evaluation system (ComPET), in order to obtain measures of their handwriting process. The children's handwriting product was then evaluated by the Hebrew Handwriting Evaluation (HHE). Results showed significant differences between the groups for the handwriting process measures (on-paper and in-air time, mean pressure) and for the handwriting product characteristics (global legibility, number of letters erased or overwritten, spatial arrangement, and number of letters written in the first minute). The discriminant analysis yielded a high significant discrimination (80-90%), with the 'number of letters erased or overwritten' variable as the most differentiating variable (-.67). We concluded that an evaluation of both handwriting process and product characteristics among children with DCD provides a more comprehensive picture of their deficits. Using this method may enable practitioners to focus on children's main deficits and to tailor intervention methods so as to prevent academic underachievement and its consequences on their emotional well-being.
Published in: Human Movement Science, 2008, 27, 200-214 Special issue about Developmental Coordination Disorders (DCD).