Our recent series of articles have centered on handwriting and the benefits that it brings to students. From helping build reading skills to calming nerves, writing helps people life a rich life. But imagine for a moment that you couldn’t write; you weren’t able to write a letter to family, able to write a list, or even to write your name. While statistics are readily available on adult Americans who can’t read – about 32 million people – it was much more difficult to find any information on adults who can’t write, we actually didn’t find any solid numbers at all.
Because reading and writing go hand-in-hand, it’s important to shed light on the fact that there are adults who can’t write. For 72 years, Butch Jennings was one of them. Jennings resides at the Arkadelphia Human Development Center in Arkansas which helps individuals with intellectual disabilities live an independent and quality life. Many of the residents have no knowledge of the alphabet and aren’t able to write.
“A lot of these adults had no basic skills. Public schools had not prepared them and there was such a lack of reading and writing skills. I suggested that maybe using the Pre-K level Handwriting Without Tears program could help Butch learn those skills,” said Dr. Elizabeth Dewitt, handwriting and curriculum expert with Learning Without Tears.
The center took DeWitt’s advice and began using Handwriting Without Tears, which teaches letters, numbers, recognition, and motor skills that help build writing skills. With a step-by-step approach, residents participated in modeling activities and hands-on projects. The program helped Jennings and other residents learn the correct way to grip a pencil, taught the difference between upper and lowercase letters, and promoted correct positioning of both body and paper.
The teachers helped give residents an understanding of the alphabet and how it can be used to communicate. On February 15, 2017, Butch Jennings wrote his name for the first time in his life without any assistance. Butch, and a handful of other residents, showed increased writing and communication skills after completing the Handwriting Without Tears program.
“It brings tears to my eyes. Butch wrote his name three times that day and you could tell he felt so confident,” said DeWitt. “It really is amazing.”
No matter what age, handwriting is an important life skill for everyone. “You see a change in people, a confidence, a smile of success, when they can write,” explained DeWitt. Thanks to the implementation of this program, adults like Jennings can write independently for the first time.
To learn more about the Handwriting Without Tears program, click here.