STNR handwritingAwhile ago, I wrote about the effects about typing vs printing or cursive on the brain. Last time, we learned about the Handwriting Without Tears program’s neurodevelopmental approach.

Today, we’re going to look at the more visible reflexes needed to have legible handwriting happen in the first place– and the benefits of having good handwriting!

Almost everything with ideal neurodevelopment contributes to

  • a torso stable enough to write (think of writing while you’re on a small ship in the ocean!)
  • shoulders, arms and hands with Goldilocks-good muscle tone (not too high and not too low — just right!) to grasp a writing instrument
  • vision and balance which are each developed enough to ensure that both eyes can focus on the paper on the desk, as well as to follow where the pencil is going.

The very beginning of learning handwriting well begins well before birth! When you’re about 13 weeks in utero, your brain starts learning about the right and left side of the body via the Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) and THAT helps to develop hand-eye coordination. People who don’t have this learned have difficulty writing with the paper in front of them, and writing with the paper in the center of your body.

Handwriting learning continues with birth!  The Rooting reflex (stimulating near the edge of the mouth has the baby turning his face toward the stimulation, looking for food), as well as learning the , to fold its tiny hand around an awed parent’s finger all help to mature handwriting capabilities. Other reflexes from our earliest days  that have significant impact on our ability to write not only legibly, but with reasonable speed:

Palmar Reflex – fingers close when palm is stimulated.  While there are about five different ways this helps handwriting, suffice it to say that it helps thumb and fingers move independently.

Babkin Palmomental – helps baby explore both the sides and the middle, with hands and mouth.  If not learned, the palm remains hypersensitive, and muscle tone doesn’t mature as it ought.

Fear Paralysis and Moro – Two of the most primitive reflexes that, if not learned, will interfere with others not being learned.

Tonic Labrynthine Reflex – important in helping head (and thus vision) stability, also muscle tone and ability to sequence

Landau – first in freeing our hands to be able to grasp and manipulate, as well as visual

Symmetrical Tonic Labrynthine Reflex (STNR) – coordinating the position of the head, with whether your legs and arms are straight or bent, along with strengthening upper arms and learning to change from near to far vision.  The handwriting above is an example of what I call “STNR handwriting.”  To the degree it’s not learned, handwriting is laboriously slow, with the person frequently slouched over the desk.  His posture, clothing, behavior and even his mind are all very disorganized.  Is it any surprise that these kids have tremendous difficulty with focus and attention?  They can’t organize well enough to pay attention!

If you can’t write fairly rapidly
— how well are you going to take notes, do your homework, take a test or even make out a shopping list?  Remember, while keyboarding is a coping mechanism many opt for, it puts them at a further disadvantage as they don’t learn as thoroughly and the nerve nets in their brain (useful for other things as well) don’t develop as well.

If you can’t write legibly — well, imagine if you had to always write with your non-dominant hand!  What’s your self-image like?  How competent do you feel, and how efficient are you?  Does that attitude then translate into other things?