Are We Giving Up on Our Children – Only to Accommodate the System?

Accommodations in school are generally offered in response to a student’s academic, social-emotional or physical discrepancies. With rare exception, a student’s academic struggles are symptoms of underlying developmental delays, anxieties, sensory-motor or sensory processing delays.

If a student’s academic deficits are related to missed lessons or lack of instruction, then targeted academic remediation may be a simple and relatively quick remedy. However, when those academic struggles correlate with developmental delays, attempting remediation without giving attention to the underlying concerns is short-sighted and ineffective.

For example, a student may show signs of Dyspraxia, a lack in coordinated movements and fine motor skills. In school, a child will have challenges with physical coordination, dexterity, holding a crayon or handwriting. Typically, schools would eliminate handwriting and move to an iPad in an effort to curb a child’s frustration and keep them with the class.

Handwriting is often dismissed as a lost art and no longer necessary; however it is not just about the handwriting. Consider this. Roger Kneebone, a professor of surgical education is noticing that “students spend so much time in front of screens and so little time using their hands that they have lost the dexterity for stitching or sewing up patients.” He understands first hand the need for a surgeon to have not only the necessary dexterity but also the perception, spatial awareness and coordination to be a good surgeon.

An iPad might accommodate for the immediate struggle with writing, but it will not make up for the fine motor skills and eye, hand, brain coordination developed through the act of handwriting. A complex skill, handwriting engages cognitive, perceptual, and motor skills simultaneously.

Of course handwriting will be a struggle when fine motor skills are under-developed. Accommodating the immediate frustration without building up the coordination and dexterity will have consequences throughout a child’s school years. More than the obvious consequence of a frustrated child and messy handwriting, not teaching handwriting will result in deficits in reading, spelling and eye tracking. To say nothing of the child’s self-confidence.

Schools can be quick to offer accommodations that make it easier for students to remain in the classroom and teachers to get through the lessons. Are we giving up on a generation of students in order to accommodate the system?

Caulbridge School works to balance a child’s sensory-motor, social-emotional and cognitive development. This becomes a solid foundation for the deeper learning outcomes of critical thinking, collaboration, self-confidence and ethics. Strong intellectual capacities and personal resilience are the natural products of our developmental model.