Cursive-writing instruction has proven benefits

Day by day

Cursive-writing instruction has proven benefits
By
LIZ THOMPSON
May 27, 2015
This Week News

Westerville was a village when I was born. I innately knew my neighbors — along with people at church, librarians, teachers, firemen, policemen, doctors and all people in authority — were there to protect and care for me.

School was never an option for me, nor did I want it to be, at least till third grade. On the first day, a friend of mine was talking to me, yet I was put in the corner by my teacher. No excuses. I got my marching orders.

This was the year to learn cursive writing. I was working on my alphabet on lined paper, likely sticking my tongue out one side of my mouth in concentration, when my teacher peered over my shoulder.

“Fix that F,” she said sternly.

I tried again and again and I still didn’t have the top loop open enough — and she told me so. I was near tears when she said, “You’ll never learn to write, Elizabeth.”

I hear you — if these were my worst school experiences, I got off easy comparatively. I know this now, but then I did not. I worked to write better, and with my mom’s help, I succeeded.

Writing cursive was and still is much easier than printing. As a writer who relies on her computer, I still begin all my writing in cursive on paper.

Today I know many of these same figures of authority are working to protect children in much the same way, although laws and rules have changed.

One change found lacking in the Common Core is the removal of cursive-writing instruction from school curricula. This fact is up for discussion.

Two such protectors of education are state Reps. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) and Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City). They sponsored House Bill 146 in April, requiring cursive writing to be taught in all elementary schools.

Specifically, the bill requires: “Handwriting instruction in kindergarten through fifth grade to ensure that students develop the ability to print letters and words legibly by third grade and to create readable documents using legible cursive handwriting by the end of fifth grade.”

This bill, with 13 co-sponsors, including several minority Democrats, follows a state law that went into effect last year, requiring students to read at grade level before they are promoted to fourth grade.

Even in this digital and app-based era, if they cannot write it, they likely cannot read it.

“Research proves cursive writing is essential,” Brenner said. “There is no contraindication for it. The Common Core does not require this in the curriculum and we need to have it back.”

Brenner has served as vice chairman of the Ohio House Education Committee for three years and hears from people who are surprised it is not being taught. The vast majority of those are in favor of teaching cursive writing.

“Cursive writing is a necessity, like learning to read,” Brenner said. “The arguments (against it) are that it is a modern day. Even though we have calculators, students need to know the basics of math to connect. Writing cursive is literally connecting one letter at a time.”

In Psychology Today, William R. Klemm wrote that writing cursive develops eye-hand coordination; to write legible cursive, fine motor control is needed.

“Cursive writing helps train the brain to integrate visual and tactile information. The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument,” he wrote.

Grossman said she knows technology is important, yet learning cursive is equally important for different reasons.

“Research conducted by Columbus-based research firm Saperstein Associates shows that handwriting is a foundational skill that positively can influence students’ reading, vocabulary, memory and critical-thinking abilities as well. Studies report that longhand writing has also been shown to assist kids with dyslexia, helping them to become better students. Studies indicate that individuals retain much more of the content when notes are taken in cursive,” she said.

“I have been amazed to hear from teachers, parents and friends how much they support requiring handwriting be taught in elementary school,” Grossman said. “This can be accomplished with as little as 15 minutes being spent on this per day and can also be incorporated into other subjects.”

The problems with Common Core should be replaced by common sense.

I obviously overcame my third-grade experience. What challenges us makes us stronger, so let’s challenge our children in a good way.

When we look over their shoulder, instead of saying, “You’ll never … ,” let’s say, “Here, let me help you.”

 

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Memory woes a sign of aging, or of dementia

Day by day
Memory woes a sign of aging, or of dementia
by Liz Thompson
Wednesday August 20, 2014
Thisweeknews.com

Where did I put my glasses? Why did I come into the kitchen?

Memory loss of any degree is worrisome. It can be a precursor to serious problems. I say my brain is a closet packed full of life’s “stuff” and I have to sort through to find what I want. I’m not alone.

Linda, 62, of Westerville recently retired from a fast-paced job and is learning to relax.

“I’ve decided it’s OK to forget the small things and just remember the most important, like picking up that grandchild or going to a doctor appointment. Forgive yourself for not remembering and enjoy what time we have left in this world,” Linda said.

Don, 71, of Columbus said, “Although I have had dementia in my family, I really don’t obsess about it. It’s one of those things over which we have little control.

“I was talking with a friend about the Hitchcock film North by Northwest,” Don said. “While we both agreed it was a classic, neither of us could remember the star who we were later told was Cary Grant. The friend who I was talking with is 66.”

“Bob,” 75, of Columbus, helps Habitat for Humanity build houses.

“I ride my bicycle whenever I can,” said Bob, who asked that his real name not be used.

When he’s not physically active, he is writing about his life. Both he and Don use calendars to track their activities but when busy, they sometimes forget things.

Bob has seen fellow scientists, family and friends struggle with dementia. Some made good choices when they recognized the onset of symptoms, while others chose to ignore them and eventually had to rely solely on others.

“My fear is that as I get older and need to have other people do things for me, I’ll accept some bogus, money-up-front offer. My question is how I will recognize that the time has come for me to turn such decisions over to one of my children,” Bob said.

According to the American Psychological Association, some memory loss is normal with aging, and some types of memory improve or stay the same. They urge people to watch for signs because physical conditions can affect the memory. These include anxiety, dehydration, depression, infections, medication, poor nutrition, psychological stress, substance abuse and thyroid problems.

Barb, 63, of Powell is proof. Multiple sclerosis affects her memory to the point where, at times, she may not know the names of family members. Yet she challenges herself physically by doing long fundraising bike rides.

Mari Dannhauer, program director for the Alzheimer’s Association, said dementia is a cornucopia of symptoms, not a diagnosis.

“If you get a diagnosis of dementia, ask what type it is. Ask lots of questions,” Dannhauer said. “Dementia causes short-term memory loss and confusion. Sometimes it is reversible and sometimes it is not. Alzheimer’s is the most common irreversible form of dementia.”

She urges people to see their doctor when they notice recurring problems and when others start to notice.

Amy Schossler, director of the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging, said the upcoming Memory and Brain Health Symposium was developed in direct response to a survey at an event sponsored by the Upper Arlington Civic Association.

“The survey asked many questions about the subjects seniors want to know more about. Overwhelmingly, two-thirds of all responses indicated that memory and brain health are a top priority,” Schossler said.

The symposium features Dr. Douglas Scharre, a cognitive neurologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center; Dr. Marla Bruns, a cognitive neurologist with Ohio Health; and Dr. Akhlaq Farooqui, a retired neurochemist.

Topics include brain health, diagnosis and treatment of dementia, and research associated with the disease. Scharre will discuss the Self-Administered Geocognitive Examination (SAGE) and have copies available for people to take; staff will be available to review and discuss the results.

The Memory and Brain Health Symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 23 at Upper Arlington Lutheran Church, 2300 Lytham Road.

Registration is required by calling 614-583-5326. Seating is limited to 150 people. Free lunch and a senior expo of community organizations and businesses are included.

The majority of us will learn to live with minor memory issues and even learn to laugh about it — especially since we have company.

Now where are my keys?

Help available for local seniors

Day by Day

Help available for local seniors
By Liz Thompson
ThisWeekNews

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Like it or not, we are aging, every day. When we find our first gray hair and start noticing how many stairs there are — everywhere — life starts changing.

Most of us, once settled in a home and community, want to stay there and keep our independence. To do that safely takes planning, but it can be done.

Two Ohio legislators, state Reps. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus), have taken steps to help that happen. They sponsored House Bill 84, the Ohio Home Renovation Tax Credit.

According to the legislation, it “would provide up to a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit for the costs incurred to modify an existing home.”

The bill states, “The accessibility features promoted in HB 84 represent an evidence-based prevention strategy that has been shown to reduce the incidence of falls among older adults.”

HB 84 says home modification promotes independent living. Getting the legislation passed is still in the works.

Some safety measures homeowners can take include having good lighting and working smoke alarms, clearing walkways inside and out, removing loose rugs, and installing grab bars in the bathroom/shower/tub and sturdy handrails on both sides of stairs.

If falling is an issue, especially when living alone, an optional alert system might be a good call. A person wears a bracelet or pendant with a button to push when he or she falls and needs assistance. Learning to use a cane, walker or scooter can help a person get around safely and is worth thinking about.

When help becomes a necessity, we may not know where to turn. The good news is there are answers.

The Franklin County Office on Aging has a Senior Options program that funds three suburban call centers that offer well-being checks via telephone and other services.

Judy Lewis, activity and outreach leader at the Evans Senior Center in Grove City, said its Senior Call program ( 614-277-1060) began because Jackson Township paramedics saw many seniors or people with disabilities who were alone and had few resources. They contacted her and with her help, the fire and police departments developed the program in 2004.

“We get calls from all over, not just the Grove City area, because we are in the Senior Options brochure,” Lewis said. “I can’t turn them away.”

She meets applicants in their homes to learn about their needs, when they want a phone call and to match them with the right volunteer.

“It’s a rewarding opportunity for the volunteers,” Lewis said.

Grove City offers Smart911 for residents. This free service allows citizens to create a safety profile on smart911.com for their household that includes any information they want 911 to have in the event of an emergency.

Upper Arlington offers Kind Call (614-442-4016), a telephone check-in service that is free for residents. The automated calling system tries each phone number up to three times; if there is no answer, a dispatcher tries. If that fails, a police officer checks the residence.

UA also has the File of Life program. Information pouches were mailed to residents age 60 and older to fill out with medical and contact information to display on their refrigerators. It helps emergency personnel know where to look when responding to a 911 call.

“It’s important to stay engaged physically and socially. Stay strong and have a system in place where someone checks on you. We need to watch out for each other,” said Amy Schossler, director of the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging.

She suggests contacting local senior centers for information and to find ways to stay involved in the community.

Westerville’s Safe Call (614-901-6790) is free to anyone who is homebound, disabled or elderly and lives within city limits or in Blendon Township. If no one answers the automated call at the set time, the call goes to a designated backup person to check on the resident. If that fails, a paramedic and police officer go to the home.

“It has no restrictions of age or need. Anyone who feels the need to receive a check-in call can sign up,” said communication technician Kippy Shurman.

Westerville Chief Fire Marshall Paris Smith-Higbie is in charge of fire inspection, investigation and public education.

“Prevention is important and we offer home fire safety inspections upon request,” he said. “We point out fire and tripping hazards and how to correct them and we make recommendations for things like handrails.”

Call (614-901-6600) to request an inspection.

These towns offer more than I can write here. Check your city offices for what might be available or contact the Franklin County Office on Aging at 614-525-5230 or officeonaging.org for more information about available assistance.