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Your Kid May Need Handwriting After All

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CHILD HANDWRITING
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On a quiet Friday night right before Christmas, Jane Corbin was finishing up her final edits on an article. A chime signaled an incoming email, one which requested the password for her Yahoo account. She mindlessly complied. And then all hell broke loose. Her email account snapped shut. Her phone started ringing off the hook.

For you and I, that email, "I'm abroad, in dangerous circumstances and have lost my wallet," sounds contrived and irrelevant. As a journalist, though, Corbin routinely travels to remote countries. That message seemed plausible to the hundreds of friends and colleagues who received it. She spent hours quelling the tsunami of concern and days trying to regain access to her email account.

You've received those emails. You've never sent money. Yet, unsuspecting victims, convinced that they are helping friends in need, are bilked out of thousands of dollars every year.

Not for that much longer, though. New technology is on the horizon, a new mobile input device that allows users to handwrite on virtually any surface, creating messages that instantly load into any device and can be sent by text or email. Imagine handwriting your emails, bypassing those tiny, awkward keyboards, so people can know that the message really came from you.

You're thinking that handwriting is done, right? A thing of the past? This input device, called Phree, was crowd funded, raising $1 million for production... in only 45 days! Not bad! Maybe handwriting will make a come-back, particularly when using it makes our online identities harder to steal and our devices easier to use.

What if handwriting is once again integral to the worlds of communication and commerce? Is this new technology an indicator of what we can expect around the corner? If so, your kid, down the line, may end up needing handwriting more than we thought. But will she ever be able to achieve real graphic fluency, given that cursive is no longer taught in many schools? Or will her scrawl resemble that of, say, Elvis Presley, whose famous handwritten letter to U.S. President Nixon seemed to reveal not only his politics, but also his learning disabilities.

Any exercises that get kids handwriting will help them gain fluency.

If you are thinking ahead, you might want to encourage your kids to practice their handwriting now, in anticipation of what may be coming down the pike. Amy Baez, an occupational therapist, notes that young kids can enjoy the sensory experience associated with writing. She recommends giving kids a range of experiences, such as having kids write with a finger across a tray with whipped cream on it or write on mirrors with markers. Another occupational therapist, Brittney Weinerth, recommends having kids write out the fun activities on the schedule before they get to do them. Linking handwriting to interesting activities can be a good motivator.

Former teacher Jeffrey Pflaum advocates getting young people to do contemplative writing. He would have his students listen to music for 10 minutes and then have them handwrite whatever spontaneously came to mind. Any exercises that get kids handwriting will help them gain fluency.

Malcolm Gladwell describes the 10,000 hour rule whereby people must invest 10,000 hours in practice to gain mastery; whether wielding a hockey stick or a pen, putting in those hours will bear fruit.

Believe it or not, sometime down the line, handwriting may once again play an important role in day-to-day life. Think about what you can do now to make sure that, in that event, your kid will be prepared.

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