Cursive Writing for Learning Disabled Students

Shot of an unrecognizable young boy writing in a book at school

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It's not uncommon for special education students to struggle with writing. Dyslexia, dysgraphia, and various kinds of language-based disorders make themselves very pronounced when children are learning to write. But it's less common for teachers to make this counter-intuitive move: Try cursive. 

Generally considered to be more difficult for children than writing in manuscript (block letters) and losing ground in the battle for productive class time, script is finding a late-career resurgence with the special-ed crowd. Not only are there benefits to cursive writing that bleed into other skills (for example, the fine-motor workout of cursive writing has salutary effects on similar fingerwork), some scientists believe that children who can write neatly in script are better at math and other analysis.

Why You Should Consider Cursive

If handwriting is a struggle, give cursive writing a shot. Don't worry that handwriting (and reading handwriting) is becoming something of a lost art — all students, especially special ed kids, benefit from successes. Here are some reasons you may want to flip the script in your classroom:

  1. The letters flow much more easily, and usually, only one movement is necessary. Children often struggle with the many fine movements required to print. For children with motor planning issues, remembering where to put the "circles and sticks," crossing t's and dotting i's, and remembering the orientation of each letter is no easy task. How often have you seen these children confuse b's and d's and put the circles on p's on the wrong side?
  2. Spaces separate words in cursive, while the letters are joined. Therefore, phonetics are joined together. Many students find that script writing is conceptually easier to grasp in this regard. 
  3. Rarely will you see reversals in cursive writing, unlike printing. Children respond well to the left-to-right flow of writing.
  4. Teaching cursive saves time. Why spend time learning printing first, when children will learn it through reading? It's simply not essential to have students print and learn cursive at the same time. 
  5. Most teachers report that children who learn handwriting exclusively show no difficulties reading print. That's not always the case when children learn printing first. In fact, many teachers moving to cursive writing instead of print report that it was the best move for their students.

Tips and Advice for Teaching Cursive

  • Stick with it.
  • Begin with the letters without loops (t, i, d, p, m, n, r).
  • Show the child how to slant the paper to make writing more natural.
  • Begin with lowercase letters.
  • Remember that the motor skills of children with learning disabilities are often weak, provide dotted cursive writing paper for ease and guide the child's hand. Direct teaching is recommended.
  • And finally, remember to be patient — in the long run, you're saving teaching time.
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Your Citation
Watson, Sue. "Cursive Writing for Learning Disabled Students." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, Watson, Sue. (2021, February 16). Cursive Writing for Learning Disabled Students. Retrieved from Watson, Sue. "Cursive Writing for Learning Disabled Students." ThoughtCo. (accessed April 11, 2021).