How does your LD subject open a small bottle of water? The bottle opening observation is one of several activities that can reveal a information about a child indicating the potential for problems with written language skill development.
Try the test yourself. You probably wouldn’t even think about the task unless you read this post. How many different ways can a bottle be opened?
When the bottle is offered, do you grasp the top? Which hand do use to grasp the cap? Is that grasping hand your dominant hand? When removing the cap, do you hold the bottle still with one hand and rotate the cap with the other? Are you rotating the cap with your dominant hand, or grasping the bottle with it?
Some people hold the cap still with one hand and use the other to rotate the bottle. In this situation the bottom hand is the actor, and “feeling” the rotation from bottom up. In the study organized by Benson Ginsburg and Rowe Young, a majority of subjects already identified as LD, were found to use the bottom hand to rotate the bottle while holding the cap still with the other hand. The subjects were however, able to thoughtfully use alternative processes to remove the cap once that process was demonstrated. That’s very important. Subject can learn to feel and execute movements correctly.
A second assessment involved laying both hands and arms on the table with palms down. The subjects were asked to close their eyes then describe how the hands felt. Were they in the same or different positions? The majority of the bottom-rotators reported that the hands felt different, one palm facing down and the other facing up. Both palms were facing down, but they sensed the position of one in reverse.
It is not easy to imagine this reverse sensation, but it is easy to see that it would cause havoc and enormous frustration when learning to write letters. It is also easy to imagine that the frustration and confusion would make it very difficult to attend to activities designed by teachers to help children learn written language skills. The reversed sensation feels reversed movements – mirror letters if you will.
Bright youngsters compensate eventually, apparently by rotating the wrist outward, often hooking it severely to get the hand above the image area. It is the only way they can make the bottom-up movement they feel, move in the top-down direction they are being taught. This accommodation position makes it extremely hard, if not impossible, to write legibly and fluently. When asked which finger was pressing to push the pencil, they reported that the ring or pinkie (depending upon the grip posture) was pushing up from the bottom.
The most important point is this. Teaching good position skills for the paper, wrist and writing hand, to the point of comfort and fluency, allows the top-down sensation to be felt eliminating the reverse sensation and the negative effects on written language skill development.
The number of people who have the RPS syndrome may be as high as 10% of the population based upon the incidence within the study group which was close to 1,000. The incidence among the subjects identified as LD was very high indeed.
It appears that good instruction of handwriting positions skills early on, could greatly reduce the incidence of written language disability and ADHD problems.
Instructions for administering the rather simple tests for identification of the RPS condition are being prepared and will be made available for download from the Peterson web site soon. In the interim, watch for the hooked wrist approach to coloring, drawing and handwriting. Make sure the student learns good position skills and has ample opportunity to practice them to achieve automation of proper process.
If you can’t wait for the site development to provide access, contact Rand Nelson at Peterson Directed Handwriting to obtain a copy of the paper and/or the instructions for testing to identify the condition. They can be attached to email.