Thursday, August 22, 2013

One If By Hand, Two If By PC

(L-R) Guest Speaker Dr. Beverly Moskowitz and President Elect Sean M. Teaford

Most people don’t give much thought to the legibility of their own handwriting. Poor penmanship is something that we tend to only notice when we have to read a note, a form, or, all too often for some, a prescription. But on a day to day basis we really don’t think about this.

As I have said before, one of the wonderful aspects of Rotary is meeting people and hearing speakers who introduce concepts and ideas that we wouldn’t normally give significant consideration in our everyday lives. The importance of handwriting and the legibility thereof is something that Dr. Beverly Moskowitz has dedicated her life to for the majority of her 37 years of experience as a pediatric Occupational Therapist. In 2011, she authored the largest research study ever conducted with the primary focus placed on handwriting with her program proven to be 99.9% effective in the classroom.

During our meeting she shared with us the evidence generated from that study of why handwriting instruction still matters and how learning institutions can embed effective, efficient, measurable and fun manuscript instruction into the school day. The results, to say the least, are staggering and the need for further instruction in this simple fine motor skill is one that not only provides the basic benefit of clear written communication but it has a much longer lasting impact on the functionality and effectiveness of the written word which students carry with them throughout their lives. The ability to formulate concise thoughts and articulate them efficiently and effectively is rooted in the fundamentals of putting the tip of the pen or pencil on the paper.

This breakthrough is a result of Dr. Moskowitz’s extensive real world experience as a school therapist where she has serviced more than fifteen school districts and over 60 different schools. Her broad exposure to a variety of teaching methods, administrative styles, and treatment interventions has confirmed her resolve to insure function, participation and inclusion for all students without wasting time. The result of this lifetime of experience in conjunction with her creative background has been a body of intellectual property and products that reflect current educational policy, practices and problems alongside the latest evidence and curricular demands.

In 2010, after spending years in the field as well as authoring numerous publications (including Practical Strategies for Increasing the Effectiveness, Efficiency, and Impact of your School-Based Occupational Therapy Practice) and lecturing across the country through the Bureau of Education and Research, Dr. Moskowitz launched Real OT Solutions, Inc. The company’s mission, as both a service and product-oriented business is to provide consumers (therapists, teachers, parents and kids) with Effective, Efficient, Affordable and Fun solutions. Guided by evidence and literature on best practices regarding optimum function, independence and accessibility, they create tools to make kids successful, documentation fast, teachers cooperative, and parents satisfied.

I personally have little background in the field of education beyond my participation as a student and a few stints as a teaching assistant. However, I have spent the majority of my life putting pen to page which has made me who I am today. I know for a fact that the inability to accomplish this simple task is something that has a detrimental effect on the creative, processing, and overall mental abilities of an individual.

This is, in large part, why the annual survey results of incoming college freshmen outlined in the Beloit College Mindset List because in 2010 it was revealed that the majority, and a large one at that, of incoming students didn’t know how to write in cursive. My immediate thought is that if you can’t write cursive how do you expect to read, or more accurately put decipher, something written in the hand of someone else? It just goes to show that history is not the only thing that is lost on much of the younger generations. How long before they forget the name Paul Revere (we have already forgotten Israel Bissell)? After all, kids can’t even read anything written in his hand anyway.  

In the end this is not just a generational disconnect but also a modern social division as well. On a screen everyone seems equal but when you put pens in people’s hands there is an erosion of both confidence and the ability to communicate as well as clear evidence of the degradation that exists in the school systems. Confidence in writing breeds confidence in thought and communication. Effective communication is the great equalizer so if you want to achieve true equality in the schools you much make sure that all students can communicate.