(PRWEB) August 28, 2004
Can decades of grossly neglecting good old fashioned penmanship be a major contributing factor in the "Dumbing Down of America" and our rising illiteracy? While some educators may scoff, ask Jeanette Farmer, one of only a few handwriting remediation specialists in this country, and she doesn't mince words. "Brain research indicates there's an absolute connection, but unfortunately, most educators are unaware that handwriting has a physiological/psychological link in the brain. Nor do they understand that the intense neural activity created by the writing process has a powerful impact on the young brain. Although stressing handwriting's movement is the vital key to learning, it's been 'missing in action' for decades so it's no wonder that reading has declined so significantly. Movement primes the brain for the reading process. Teachers must begin to capitalize on movement as it offers children a critical head start on being smart," she asserts.
Speaking at the AAHA/AHAF Handwriting Analysis conference in Tampa last week, she clarified why America has such an educational "black hole of ignorance" about handwriting, why it's so neglected and the major side effects of the neglect. "Brain research can now explain," she adds, "why nothing else done in the classroom can begin to compare with the powerful impact that repetitively manipulating the thumb and fingers over time has on the young brain. Using the left brain-right hand connection to stress penmanship provides vital, irreplaceable stimulation that not only taps the left brain, the 'brain that goes to school,' where the language capacities are located, but it enables the child to focus and attend while enhancing the ability to learn to read too."
Lecturing nationally and internationally to educate educators and parents about penmanship's criti- cal role in "training the brain," she says, "In the 'olden days,' it was stressed for a few years, not a few weeks as currently practiced. Unfortunately, when school boards elected to quit hiring penmanship teachers some seventy years ago, they didn't realize that their action would ultimately seriously affect the learning process. It deprived young brains of irreplaceable stimulation, a physical gift to the young brain, derailing the learning process for many. If educators want to improve reading scores, they must counteract TV's highly detrimental passive influence on the young brain. To strengthen the sensory stimulation a child receives, I added therapeutic music to handwriting exercises, creating the ultimate in sensory learning. While it engages the entire brain, the music calms the emotional brain so it can focus. Regulated stimula- tion via movement is more imperative than ever to counter the array of negative influences in children's vastly over stimulated world today."
She cites authorities such as Leonard Shalin, M.D., author of The Alphabet and the Goddess, for support, who states, "All forms of writing increase the left brainÂs dominance over the right. An alphabet being the abstract form of writing enhances left-brain values the most." Farmer reports that teachers rave in seeing a wave of calm sweep across the classroom as the children focus so intently. Kathy Goetz, a Ft. Myers, Fl., 3rd grade teacher, says "The kids love it and the results are great. It is amazing to see the calming effects on the class but it is especially evident on my ADD student."
Citing the sizable success with a class of emotionally disturbed first graders in a Denver inner city school, Farmer indicates those children scored in the 74 percentile in reading on the Iowa Basic Skills test when the teacher used this multi-sensory concept 10 minutes in the a.m. and the p.m.. The principal called it, "Dramatic results," the principal said.
As an intentional process, handwriting represents the emotional self. This concept consists of two different movement patterns: curves and loops and straight lines and angles. As these movements are two different physiological forces--emotional contraction or release. This can be seen in handwriting's regularity versus its irregularity. As the patterns produce a totally different effect on the brain, the goal is to achieve a balance between the two forces. A sample of the exercises can be seen on http://www.retrainthebrain.com. The therapeutic music is the real magic in this process. Combining music with movement is sensory learning which is the ultimate in its profound impact on the brain. The music has the capacity to "entrain" the brain's rhythm and pull it into the music's rhythm, which begins to stabilize how the brain is firing, calming the emotional brain. Children as young as four can produce some of the simpler patterns. As the combina- tion transforms a very difficult process into a non-threatening format, it's ideal for retraining the brain to influence a variety of conditions: learning disabilities, ADHD, at-risk children, special needs (autism, brain injury, cerebral palsy), stutterers, etc. In use over the last ten years, Farmer's program is being used by several thousand teachers, parents and occupational therapists across this country and in some 20 foreign countries.
Dr. Sharon Ford, assistant professor of education, University of Colorado at Denver (retired) states, "We must reassess our educational priorities and revamp the system to include stronger emphasis on penmanship training--the benefits of this multi-sensory learning concept are simply too critical to ignore."