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Conversations About Handwriting

• Parents in New York are so obsessed with getting their kids into the right schools that they are hiring occupational therapists to teach their pre-schoolers how to write, according to the New York Times.

One father on the Upper East Side said anxiety about his son’s grip — his 3-year-old holds crayons in his fist — propelled him to seek therapy.

“The nursery admission people tell you they want your child to be ready to learn how to write,” said the father, who spoke anonymously so his son wouldn’t run afoul of nursery school administrators. “And I knew they would take one look at the way my son held a crayon and he’d be out of the running.”

And even kids with less status-conscious parents are getting help with their handwriting, apparently.

For some grade-school children, occupational therapists are also filling the void left by schools, many of which no longer provide instruction on the mechanics of handwriting. According to a survey conducted by the American Occupational Therapy Association, about 30 percent of their members now work in schools, up from 18.6 percent in 1999. Those therapists, said Ms. Berg of Washington University, tend to spend the bulk of their time helping children write legibly.

“Many teachers don’t know how to do it,” Ms. Berg said. “O.T.’s can help.”

Presumably they're not cracking kids across the knuckles with rulers. But therapy because a child doesn't grip his crayon just the right way? Sheesh.

• James at jkOnTheRun has written a brilliant little tutorial how how to make your handwritten notes searchable using a mobile phone and Evernote.

This works for handwriting, too, so turning handwritten notes into searchable text is quite simple. Take the notes on paper as usual, and when done you’re ready to bring them into the Evernote cloud. Fire up the Evernote app on the smartphone with a camera, take a photo of the page and send it to your online Evernote notebook.

Once it’s there, the Evernote processors take over and scan the image for any recognized words. It may take a while as Evernote is doing a lot of this in the background, but once the scanning has taken place the entire page is now searchable in the Evernote desktop app.

The process is a bit labor-intensive for someone who takes a lot of notes, but is handy for the occasional telephone number or directions.

You know the old cliche about doctors having poor handwriting? A study of a small group of doctors in New York found that prescriptions written electronically were seven times less likely to involve medication errors than those written by hand, Reuters is reporting.

Kaushal's team found that over one year, the e-prescribing practices cut their average prescribing error rate from 42.5 per 100 prescriptions to 6.6 for every 100 prescriptions.

In contrast, practices that stayed with paper saw their error rate remain nearly the same; at the outset, about 37 percent of prescriptions contained an error, and one year later that figure was 38 percent.

As expected, e-prescribing eliminated the problem of poor handwriting, Kaushal's team found.

So four out of every 10 prescriptions written by hand had some kind of error? That's a little frightening. And the Telegraph recently reported similar problems involving handwritten prescriptions for diabetics in the UK.

In one in 20 cases medication instructions could be easily misread, a new study suggests.

One in six contained some kind of error, the research found, including that they were illegible, undated or unsigned by the prescribing doctor.

• Prankster Bill Geerhart has spent years sending handwritten letters to famous politicians, actors and serial killers...all in the guise of 10-year-old Billy. His letters, written in a childish scrawl, sought advice on everything from whether he ought to drop out of school to how to keep his sister out of his treehouse. Now, he's put his collection of responses together in a book, Little Billy's Letters.

From the description:

What do Tori Spelling, the Church of Scientology, and Donald Rumsfeld all have in common?: They – and many others – have answered letters from "Little Billy", a grown man with a cache of stamps and far too much time on his hands. Funny, touching, and delightfully quirky, Billy's letters cover a broad range of subject matter:

  • Operation Drop-Out: Considering dropping out of elementary school, Billy writes to serial killers and celebrities seeking their wise counsel.
  • Billy's Law: Which Supreme Court Justice prefers the Big Mac to the Whopper? Who is Janet Reno's favorite crime fighter? What do Robert Shapiro and Congressman Gary Condit say is the best defense for being framed for murder? Billy finds out.
  • The Making of the Class President: Billy runs for class president and collects "endorsements" from Nancy Reagan, Dick Cheney, George HW Bush, Gerald Ford, Bob Dole, Ken Starr, and Colin Powell.
  • Choosing My Religion: Billy asks representatives from the Catholic, Presbyterian, Mormon, Raelian, Satanic, Scientologist, Hare Krishna and Unification Church (Moonies) what is "cool" or "easy" about their religion.

Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, Celebrities, Heads of Corporations, Serial Killers, Robot Makers, and the NesQuick Bunny have all replied to "Little Billy's" scrawled questions.

As you can imagine, some of the letters he got back are hilarious, and some, such as those from Charles Manson, are just plain creepy. The book is definitely recommended reading.

3 thoughts on “Conversations About Handwriting”

  • Pete

    I am all for children being taught how to write correctly but I certainly think that some folks in New York are taking it too far with pre school. Also I would of thought that it should be the corner stone of their education that once children reach grade school they are taught the proper mechanics of handwriting.

    Reply
  • bob

    Interesting that all the endorsement Billy received when running for class president appear to be from Republicans - trying to tell us something?
    Evernote is a great tool and I use it a lot (helps me keep up with all the demands from the boss!!) but not so far for handwriting recognition so must try this. Another great post, Tony.

    Reply
  • Smithb1

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    Reply
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