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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2005 Mar;47(3):163-70.

Handwriting performance in preterm children compared with term peers at age 6 to 7 years.

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  • 1Rehabilitation Science, School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Preterm infants are at high risk for developmental impairments at school age. However, the impact of these impairments on important life skills, such as handwriting, is unknown. Forty-eight first-grade children (27 males, 21 females; mean age 6y 7mo, SD 3.9mo; range 6y 1mo to 7y 3mo) born preterm (birthweight < 1250g; gestational age < 34wks), without major physical or cognitive disabilities, were matched to 69 healthy, term control children (32 males, 37 females; mean age 6y 10mo, SD 3.6mo; range 6y 3mo to 7y 4mo) by sex and school class. All children were assessed using the Evaluation Tool of Children's Handwriting-Manuscript and several sensorimotor measures. Preterm children demonstrated significantly lower legibility and slower speed scores (p < 0.01) compared with control children for most of the handwriting tasks. Factors associated with legibility were visual perception and eye-hand coordination (r < 0.50; p < 0.05) and sex (r < 0.12; p = 0.01). In-hand manipulation and finger identification (r < 0.43; p < 0.01) were significantly correlated with slow handwriting speeds. Behaviour difficulties associated with hyperactivity and poor attention (Connors Abbreviated Symptoms Questionnaire) had a confounding influence on both legibility and speed. These findings may help guide early identification efforts and medical/therapeutic interventions for preterm children.

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