Computerized Handwriting Evaluation and Remediation

Publications ComPET -
Computerized Penmanship
Evaluation Tool

Research description Blurb

Reporting in the media
Canada-Israel Committee

Funds research grants


Canada-Israel Committee

March 14, 2007

Made in Israel Tool Diagnoses Penmanship Problems

It's estimated that dysgraphia - problems with handwriting - affects up to 12 percent of elementary school girls and up to 32 percent of boys. But poor penmanship is not only difficult to read.

By Sharon Kanon

"Handwriting problems are also clues to developmental, neurological, behavioral, or medical conditions such as ADHD and Parkinson's Disease" explains Dr. Sara Rosenblum of the University of Haifa.

To quickly diagnose handwriting problems, Rosenblum and her colleague Professor Tamar Weiss, developed ComPET (Computerized Penmanship Evaluation Tool). It consists of a wireless pressure-sensitive electronic pen and paper attached to a digital tablet, which the child (usually a third grader) uses to copy a short story.

ComPET measures on paper time, in air time (the pause time when the pen is not in contact with the writing surface), velocity and acceleration, space, and pressure of the pen on the paper. The entire process only takes about five minutes.

"We provide a graphic, visual computerized analysis," says Rosenblum. "It is much more reliable than a teacher's subjective observation."

Poor handwriting is typified by irregularly spaced and formed letters, the number of corrections and deletions, and an abundance of thin lines indicating more in air pauses. Children with handwriting problems use more pen movements to form individual letters and tend to hesitate between certain letters.

"Our software uses novel algorithms to track the number of segments (the stroke sequence) used in a letter or word. It also illustrates direction reversals, when a child goes back to make a correction. This is a clue to how well a child can plan and execute a motor task," said Rosenblum.

"One of the most important findings of our studies is that children with poor handwriting held the pen above the writing surface for a significantly larger percentage of the total writing time than those who were proficient."

Around the world, other academics and researchers are making use of ComPET, including Katya Feder, a post-doctorate researcher at the University of Montreal.

Feder explains that she is using the tool in a study of children ages 8-11 who were born prematurely. "Handwriting competency is often overlooked in evaluating children born pre-term. It's important to include it in a study of pre-term children (born in less than 36 weeks) to see how visual deficiency may be contributing to difficulties."

Rosenblum hopes that ComPET will lead to better ways of improving handwriting difficulties. "We already use it to involve the child in the intervention process. The child can see a graphic picture, receive motivating feedback, and improve performance."

Rosenblum will be speaking at the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) conference in St. Louis, April 23-24.