Why Do We Still Need to Teach Cursive?

Updated on November 22, 2014
S.H. asks from Santa Barbara, CA
46 answers

So I am one of the rare parents who gets teaching math and having the children understand WHY and to solve a problem in addition to memorizing equations. I have no issue and actually can not even tell there is 'new math' mainly because I had so much fun finding out why I would get the answer and not just saying 'because'

Anyway, why on earth do we need to teach cursive? So they can read ancient letters from 1940? I think calligraphy is beautiful and can understand this being an enrichment class. I can understand art and this being added to the program, but please explain cursive to me. I think I used it in 3rd to 6th grade and then we were allow to type or write like a normal person.

edit: This is interesting. A child can be taught to read cursive without having the skill to write it: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/04/30/should-sc...

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So What Happened?

My comment about 1940 was making light of something (trying to be funny here does not always translate). No, it is not actually ancient.

My child is 7 and on the Autism Spectrum and his handwriting is so hard to read (hours/years of OT and still a struggle) that I am not looking forward to cursive. As many of us with kids are heading to parent teacher conferences and learning what's around the corner, it just got to me. My daughter will have fun with handwriting and different styles, yet I am dreading it with my son.

'type or write like a normal person' translate to "I have 2 sick kids and am up with little sleep, so not the be overly analyzed." It was just a question that popped in my head after the conference.

Handwriting tutor, Thanks for the words of encouragement. I'm checking out your site.

Momma W and Anne L, Hopefully my son will have a good reaction to it as your kids. I didn't complain to the teacher about what is expected in the future, but I think my eye had the oh, poop (or deer in the head lights) look...okay this last part was supposed to be funny, but still not sure if it translate well since you can't see my face doing it.

wow so much input!!

OMG, gotta love those mortgage doc. The last 2 homes I sold had me do some sort of auto online signature. I honestly do not have time for cursive on those docs. The chicken scratch that shows up (well I think it might start out pretty) has no resemblance to letters. Okay, maybe the s. I swear, it looks so different from start to finish. I actually recall most being initials.

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answers from Columbia on

This might be the first time I agree with Diane B. Whoa.

Writing in script is an art. You might as well be asking "why don't we get rid of all art because it's silly, a waste of time, and has no value." Is math more valuable to society than art?

I find this question to be a rather trollish.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Because they still have to write essays for some tests. Because they need to be able to write a thank you note after an interview, and a hand written one is more personal. Because they may need to be able to write fast if their laptop runs out of power.

Because it is still one of the major ways we communicate.

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answers from Atlanta on

The fact that you're asking this question is very telling. Perhaps you need to ponder this and get some clarity.

You're only talking about the history of mankind. Why do you think people came up with writing in the first place and what is the history.

What will happen to the evolvement of humanity without writing? How well a person uses their hands is equal to their use of their brain, writing is essential as well as many other movements/skills.

This hardly touches this subject but hopefully it'll give some food for thought.

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answers from Boston on

Because it's faster than block letters.

Because you have to be able to write a check or write things when you aren't next to a printer and computer.

Because not everyone in the world has a printer or computer.

Because college students cannot reach the professor's comments in the margins of a paper because they cannot read cursive. No kidding. I've seen this in professors' columns about some of the most uneducated college students they've seen.

Because it's a fine motor skill. And it's a discipline.

Because it helps you learn to spell if you go through the effort of connecting one letter to another vs. just writing one block letter after another. (If you don' think this is a huge problem, just look at the horrible spelling in blogs, Mamapedia posts, even newspaper articles - and I'm not talking about true dyslexics). Spell check doesn't catch everything, not even close.

Because nothing says "I love you" like a handwritten note or message on a greeting card. You actually have to think about what you're going to say and concentrate on letter formation and connection - the thinking and concentrating part is important to brain development.

Writing in cursive is much more natural than separated block letters, which is why cursive evolved over the centuries to begin with. The pen moves in a flowing manner instead of the start-stop motion of write/lift pen/write/lift pen. So writing "like a normal person" actually means writing in cursive.

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answers from Washington DC on

You don't want your child to be able to read "ancient" letters from 1940?
I do.......

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answers from Danville on


I just can NOT get past the idea that letters from the 1940's are ancient.

Just cannot.

I have a feeling that 'you' might wish to diversify YOUR education to encompass other areas such as history, art and literature.

The US is a relatively new country. I would suggest some world travel to places and spaces that are truly 'ancient'.


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answers from Washington DC on

because you still need to sign contracts. If technology ever "breaks" God help those who are dependent upon typing to do anything...

Signing your drivers license
Writing a check.
Buying a home
Buying a car...

signing for a credit card purchase....

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answers from Washington DC on

I typed out a long response and then went back for the link and lost it ... So here's the link ....


The bottom line is cursive instills fine motor skills and activates different parts of the brain than printing ... Studies suggest this improves spelling and can help people with dyslexia. Also some people with TBIs can retain the ability to read cursive, but not printed material.

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answers from Amarillo on

ETA: No one can read shorthand anymore because it went away. Now people speak into machines or try to type out their thoughts. Shorthand was something to consider when you went to college because you could take class notes and transcribe lecture notes. When transcribing the notes, you were actually learning again because you had to remember what was said and put it in a form that was legible. If you didn't understand the swirls and dashes and such you could say it was "ancient" but many letters were written this way and it was an important skill. Another thought.
Normal cursive writing helps with motor skills and thought processes. Just like you think about math and all that goes with it, so does the writing process.

I write all the time things that I want to accomplish and date them and put them up sometimes. Down the line I run across what I had written and can see if I have done what was written or not. The actual act of writing cursive letters with a pen is a lost art.

My son has never been able to write but he will sign his name and it is legible.

If people only printed how much easier would it be for people to steal your identity? You could just print it and be done and get all the information you needed. It is the same thing as a robo signature computer and you must actually type in the words so that you can join the group or send the e-mail or order the product.

Technology is great in many ways but it is also a curse in the fact that our young people are not being prepared for the global world and how to live within it. We (Americans) always think about us and not the connected world in which we must compete. Hence the resumes and the jobs or careers in fields that take you to other countries.

Sorry you feel the way you do about things. Life is ups and downs and adjustments. Many main manuscripts are in cursive. Many main ideas are in cursive and that cursive could be in another language and it makes it all the more important to know how words are formed.

Let the art continue to flourish.

the other S.

PS I enjoy the ancient letters of 1940 and before.

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answers from Norfolk on

How do you write and sign a check or a contract without being able to write?
A written out love letter is a keepsake forever (my husband saved every note I ever wrote to him - and some still have some scent in them).
How do you keep a text or email (guess you could print it out but it's not the same) for 50+ years?
How long do you think the Magna Carta or Declaration of Independence would last if they'd been written in electric based media?
Part of being literate is being able to read AND WRITE.
When in the past people were forbidden to learn reading and writing some slaves learned it in secret.
Are you actually IN FAVOR of promoting illiteracy?

I know it's hard to have a sense of history when tech gear is 'ancient' inside of 2 years.
I feel that losing the ability to write is a big mistake.

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answers from Boston on

Um, normal people write in cursive, that's why it's taught. It's faster to write in cursive.

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answers from Houston on

To be an educated person.

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answers from Washington DC on

I think it's still valid and my 6 yr old wants to learn. She wants to see what I write to my grandmother, and I use cursive or printscript all the time. I think that it's beneficial not only to experience history first hand (we recently came across old letters from the family from the 1800s...that beats your 1940s), but for them to write quickly and efficiently. I have a college-aged stepdaughter, too, and she still has to take notes by hand in many of her classes, even if she also has a computer with her.

Your normal is not my normal. I prefer cursive and always have. Your choice to not use it anymore is personal to you. Even if my SS writes like a cave man, he can still read cursive. At the very least, children need to know how to read something that isn't in print form and sign their names.

ETA: Great minds think alike. I found that Times article, too.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Some schools have eliminated it.
Ours hasn't. And I'm glad.
What's next? Making an "X" on a signature line?
Kids are taught all kinds of things that the moms might dread learning (again) or having their kid struggle through. That doesn't mean those things are a waste of time or effort.
At 51, it's O. thing I learned in elementary school that I still do daily!

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answers from San Francisco on

We teach it so we can read it...and a host of other reasons.

1940's ancient?? I really hope you were joking with that comment.

My 3rd grade son is going bonkers over cursive right now. I mean overly excited, off the wall bonkers. Every day he comes home to show me the new letters he has learned. He even asked me to buy him a little composition book strictly for him to practice his cursive. I picked one up out of a 50% off pile of school supplies and when I got home and showed him you would have thought I gave him a million dollars. He is not a studious kind of kid so I am thrilled with this newfound joy!!

Many kids don't have legible printing until they start to write in cursive. My oldest was in that department. Now his cursive is simply lovely.

Cursive is faster
Cursive is used for signatures
Cursive helps fine motor skills which helps in so many areas of development
Cursive has been proven to help with other areas of cognitive development as well. There are studies to back this up.

Studies have shown that when we write things down we will remember them better. So, writing notes during a lecture will help you better than typing those notes. Therefore you are going to want to write fast, hence using cursive instead of printing.

And, when you state, " type or write like a normal person", what do you mean?? Most people I know can write in cursive...to me that is normal. It is strange to me when people can't write or read cursive. It actually seems very ignorant to me when people can't write or read cursive.

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answers from Williamsport on

Google the studies. It exercises the same spatial awareness drawing does. It reinforces spelling. It's a discipline which builds hand-eye coordination. Many studies show that college notes which are handwritten from lectures are remembered much better than notes which are typed or simply read from internet sources or recorded.

Because all of us adults of yore can print, write cursive, and type. Kids today aren't any dumber. Why should they do less?

Lucky for you lots of schools don't teach it anymore. They barely make the kids print legibly.Too busy letting little kids "keyboard" all day.

Really, they let you write like a "normal person" after 3-6th grade? I'm only 44 and everyone I know writes cursive as well as prints. We're all pretty normal.

***You should have stated your Autism issues in original post. If your child is not ABLE to write cursive, then that's different.

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answers from San Francisco on

My girls both have beautiful cursive. My youngest had *horrible* penmanship in the younger grades, and my grandmother, who taught in the elementary grades for 45 years, suggested that I teach her cursive to improve her fine motor skills. So I did. My daughter now has gorgeous handwriting! Her cursive is neat and flowing, and her printing is very nice as well.

They use cursive to write thank-you notes, and it comes in handy for signing their names, reading cursive, and doing calligraphy (which you can't do if you can't write in cursive). Since we use the Waldorf method of education, my girls are used to writing in unlined notebooks (9x12 blank pages) - they have learned to write in level lines and use a consistent size of lettering without any pre-printed lines to guide them. Overall, this orderliness and neatness carries over into other areas of life for them, for which I'm grateful. :)

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answers from Houston on

I write in cursive all the time. For everything. So does my husband and kids. I don't think it is as outdated as some would like.

What I think is so sad is we are not writing properly. I receive letters that are written in text form. Very informal letters inquiring about employment opportunities. Very annoying.

So yes, I want my kids to be able to read ancient letters from the 1940s.

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answers from Springfield on

I'm going to go with "signature" as well.

I do wonder if it's a dying "art." I don't have a problem with it being taught. My boys are taught the D'Nealian style of writing (the one where they put a "monkey tail" at the end of almost every letter), so I'm guessing they will be learning cursive.

I would almost rather schools spender more time on the proper way to write letters and emails. I work at a university, and most of the emails I receive from students are way too casual. Most of them begin with "Hey" or "I'm not going to be in class today because ... " There's no "Dear ... so and so" or even "So and so ... " They simply do not recognize that emails at instructors (potential employers) need to be much more formal, formatted properly, use complete sentences and proper grammar. My students are quite familiar with "text talk." I wish they were better with emails.

Ok, now I feel old ...

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answers from New York on

I think bc it's much quicker than printing. My handwriting is a hybrid now but if I don't use some cursive mixed in and print each letter, it's way slower.

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answers from Detroit on

To read signs and advertisements

You will need to read cursive for research and manuscripts in High School and especially college! All college professors write in cursive.

Think of all the books written in cursive

Museums have artifacts written in cursive (Declaration of Independence for example)

Employers will want a person who can read and write in cursive.

No matter what job field you enter, cursive is the normal way of communication. Especially postal carriers!

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answers from Dallas on

I see your "what happened" your child with Autism actually will greatly benefit from learning Cursive. Research shows that cursive help build fluency of taught and especially for children with Autism not having to pick up the pencil after every letter actually helps. We except our children to write in schools and also decided we should not be teaching them how to write legibly.

There are many great handwriting programs that help. I don't want to post links but please research Cursive and Autism and you will see all the research.

I tell you from personal experience working with hundreds of children.

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answers from Washington DC on

cuz it's good for the brain.
autism is a different issue. if your kid CAN'T learn to write cursive that's one thing, but doesn't mean it's not a Very Good Thing for most kids. and a bit odd from someone who refers to printing and typing as writing 'like a normal person.'
i need to brush up my cursive.

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answers from Washington DC on

Done correctly, cursive is actually faster to write than printing. And believe it or not, your children will indeed still have homework and tests that require them to hand-write answers -- not everything forevermore will be done on computers. Yes, more and more is done that way, but when a child does need to write legibly and fast, in a timed test etc. -- cursive would be a real advantage for those kids whose parents encouraged it!

It's interesting that you say that you were allowed to "write like a normal person" once you were allowed to dump cursive. So "normal' means printing everything? Sounds laborious to me. Maybe if cursive is tough or just never taught well, printing is easier, but for those who are fine with it, it is faster.

My mom did calligraphy. It's not merely cursive though cursive can be a form of it. Teaching cursive for everyday use isn't the same as teaching calligraphy as an artistic pursuit.

Unfortunately the schools seem to feel like you do about cursive, so kids can just struggle along printing on everything until they type -- and since few of them learn to touch type formally and properly, they can just hunt and peck the rest of their lives. Touch typing is much faster and more accurate, just like cursive is faster than printing. But we all expect kids to move so fast now that we don't want to take time, or have schools take time, to teach them skills that require time to learn initially but pay off in faster, better work later.

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answers from Portland on

I'm a woman who can write print and cursive neatly and touch-type as well. I see proficiency in all of these areas to be an attribute.

Drawing, printing and cursive writing all should be taught for the well-being of our brains as well. Here are some interesting articles:



If you choose to do more research, that's fine. My son has an eye dysfunction and his therapists and other resources have suggested that cursive writing can be easier to both read and write for people dealing with this. I wish it were more assertively taught in the curriculum and may have to supplement, but it will be well worth it.

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answers from Anchorage on

I like that they still teach cursive at my kids school, it has forced my son to slow down and focus on how he makes his letters. His handwriting is so much neater now that he has to write in cursive for class.

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answers from Kansas City on

My daughter can't read the things my grandmother and her grandmother write her because she can't read cursive. I write naturally in cursive so she can't read half of the grocery list. It is necessary not just for "ancient" letters but for current ones.

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answers from Washington DC on

Cursive is actually faster when you are proficient at it. That really comes in handy when you are taking notes - especially in the higher grades. When I learned cursive as a kid, that is what I was told and I believe it's true, at least for me.

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answers from Albany on

I absolutely think we should still include cursive writing in the elementary school curriculum.

In a similar way we teach roman numerals.

Or include it in an art curriculum.

But no, I don't think we need to make 3rd grade 100% about perfecting cursive writing and memorizing times tables anymore. Like my kids did.


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answers from Grand Forks on

What do you mean "write like a normal person"? I thought cursive was the only way to write. Anyway, cursive is still important for note taking, as writing is much faster than printing. While many students do have devices to type notes on, many still have to take notes longhand.

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answers from Atlanta on

Five years ago, I might have asked the same question, partly because I'm someone who has terrible handwriting and decided in 4th grade that I was going to just print because my script was so hard to read. I've printed ever since, except for signing checks and when I took the GREs and had to affirm that I had done the work myself by writing in script. It looked like a 3rd grader's writing (naturally). I teach college and I print.

That was then. Now, I would say we need to still teach cursive because my son (who has terrible handwriting...) was thrilled in 4th grade when he learned it and found that he could write faster that way. It isn't necessarily more legible than his printing, however if he likes writing that way, fine. Our daughter already loves using cursive, and she's in 3rd grade. Basically, while some kids are apprehensive about the switch to cursive, there are some real benefits to making them learn it.

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answers from Chicago on

I just had my parent/teacher conference last week for my 1st grader. This is actually something we talked about. Besides the child/adult being able to read cursive, cursive helps with motor skills. She told me that she cannot believe how bad some people are with even printing words. She has seen some 5th graders and their writing is horrible. Typing on a keyboard does not work any motor skills. Having to properly hold a pencil, and write out the words does. We are so concerned with making sure our kids read at a higher level, we don't bother with basic things anymore. I saw books my daughter should be able to read in the next few months. She told me that the books were 2nd and 3rd grade level just last year.

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answers from Seattle on

My son has a hard time with handwriting too, but he is SO proud of his cursive skills!! I'd highly encourage it with your son, you might be surprised to find that he feels more confident while writing in cursive. You never know.

As far as why we teach it still..it's an art form, part of our history, great for coordination and fine motor skills. We all read it on printed pieces everywhere and probably don't even realize it. Many fonts are script fonts. And it's fancy!

It is kind of like driving a stick shift though. Does anyone really need to learn that anymore...in most situations anyway. I plan on renting a stick shift car to teach my kids. I am grateful that I learned how to drive one, just in case.

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answers from Asheville on

Well, I still write in cursive to this day- it's just faster. And, no one I know actually prints their signature. That's why they have a line for signature and another line for printed name.
It's like doing common core math and regular math like we learned it. It's just two ways to do the same thing.

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answers from Washington DC on

Of course it should still be taught. People write it a lot, it's all over the kids notes from teachers, it's on menu's at restaurants, signs for advertisements, etc. My kids all learned it in 2nd grade and used it moving forward from there (youngest is still in 2nd). My 6th grader opts to do cursive OVER typing her assignments quite often. Most kids don't sit in front of a computer all day at school, so they need to know how to write and read.

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answers from Los Angeles on

Think of all the people you are close to and how distinct their writing is. Whether it is cursive or print or a hybrid. Our handwriting becomes part of us, and I know I feel a little sentimental when I come across notes from grandparents or others who have passed, just recognizing their handwriting. So I think learning cursive is a just a way to help everyone develop and personalize their writing style. Some kids take to it, others do not, But it is not as hard to learn as you would think. I don't think it takes very long to teach. It is just something they throw in there throughout the whole year (usually in 3rd grade). They definitely don't seem to emphasize it as much anymore, but they do teach it.

My daughter can read cursive pretty well, but can't write it yet. She is a 2nd grader in a 2/3 split class this year and sometimes she gets the cursive practice pages the 3rd graders are doing, I think as bonus work.

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answers from Kansas City on

There are a lot of schools that are no longer teaching cursive, or at least not focusing on it.

The main benefit I see is for a signature.


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answers from Boca Raton on

i understand your case is somewhat special, and you may dread teaching your child how to write in cursive, but it should absolutely be taught and used starting from second grade.

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answers from Salinas on

To read some of these answers it seems like people are doing a lot more writing (pen to paper) than the people I know.

I am educated, well read, and a business person. I communicate constantly with clients, teachers, friends and family. I have not used cursive in decades. I have nice printing and write personal notes and cards in clear, neat, block print quite quickly, everything else is typed.

My kids can read & write cursive but honestly their writing form is sloppy. If they write for school, they print. Taking notes is a bit of a hybrid which is fine for personal stuff others won't read. If they have a story board or picture board to present, printing looks much better than cursive.

They have not been allowed to turn in handwritten papers or projects since grade school and printed homework is just fine. My HS girl was given a google chrome by the school, everything is turned in virtually except for math and some science work.

I think kids should know how to read it but honestly the people saying they should master cursive are hanging on to the past. It won't even be a consideration in a few years, time marches on.

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answers from Cleveland on

If u have worked w kids. ....well girls. ..they hit an age and start making their own fancy writing....I think people developed their own cursive themselves. So the signature thing to me is invalid. I also don't feel we need to teach it. But I was never good at it and mine now is a mix..

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answers from San Antonio on

I wish my kids were being taught cursive, kids today don't know how to write their signature when asked to do it. Sad sad sad

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answers from Boston on

I believed that ship has sailed. I mean the ship of needing a signature or needing to use cursive to be an educated adult. Many successful adults, who were taught cursive, have now reverted to printing their signatures and notes. That means that many well-educated parents are printing in their homes as well. I do think it's helpful to offer cursive instruction in elementary schools and then to allow individuals to use what is more helpful to them. And this opinion is from a teacher who loves to write in cursive!

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answers from Seattle on

I think it's lame too.
I am in college now (eek! 37) and have YET to turn in one single assignment that is written.
My 6th grader has assignments in "his neatest printing" or typed up.
There doesn't seem to be a need for cursive, so I don't know why we waste our time teaching it.
Weird, as I read what others wrote. Um, I have a "signature" when I sign stuff, but I certainly don't NEED to be able to write in cursive. They don't care HOW you sign things, they just want them signed!

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I too would have answered differently if the Autism part had been mentioned.

Teaching something to a child with autism is a judgement call. I'm going to say thins but please don't take it that I'm being mean or disrespectful okay? I have almost 15 years of work with people with developmental disabilities.

I've spent hours and hours, days and days, months and months working with people to achieve one step towards a goal.

For instance...a person has a goal of becoming more independent.

The steps to implement this goal are various.

Writing letters and numbers so they can write a check and manage their own money

Learning to do basic math so they can buy a pop at the sheltered workshop

Learning to do their own laundry, making a shopping list off their own made up menu, finding items in a grocery store, and more. The list is endless.

In business, to get funding, we have to show we're teaching people skills that will make them less dependent and more able to live on their own.

When it comes right down to it most of the people who live in group homes and even in sheltered living situations aren't ever going to live outside of a supported environment. They can work for years learning to write basic letters/print and they'll never ever have to use cursive.

If your son's autism is going to limit him as an adult then the skills he's learning now aren't going to really really really make a huge difference, this is the part that's not meant to be mean.

He can learn, obviously, and some people with autism live, marry, work full time high stress jobs such as physicians, nurses, teachers, and more. They can learn and be productive. If your son's autism falls within the boundaries where he's higher functioning then he does need to work on these skills because he'll eventually be able to go to college and out in the work force.

But if his autism limits him so much that he won't ever be able to go out and do those things then help him focus on the things he will need or hope to need as an adult. Like printing and doing basic math and reading.

I don't mean to be negative or unsupportive. I've seen parents who put their small children in institutions because they were told their kids were ineducable, not able to be educated. One of those ineducable kids grew up to work in a grocery store, stocking, running a register, ordering stock, etc....his parents take his entire paycheck and give him a $10 allowance because "he's retarded, you know". This guy can function quite well and when his parents die off he'll finally be able to move out and have a life.

Then I've seen other parents who'd beat their kids while they were trying to do homework and those kids had learning disabilities where that topic was impossible for them to learn.

So please, take what I've commented with and consider what he'll use as an adult, only you have the information that says what his levels are, and try to focus on things that will make his adult life more able for him, where he can function at his highest level and be happy.

If writing in cursive isn't one of those then don't fret over it so much.

They don't teach cursive anymore.

The school teaches handwriting so it won't be anything on you even if they do teach it where your kids go.

I do think they need to know how to do it. I can write a lot faster if I use cursive. I also think that the kids are growing up in a different world and learning to type is way more important that cursive. Learning cursive should still be taught in my opinion but not totally focused on for hours and hours.

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answers from Chicago on

My kids don't learn it.
They are learning to print. It's not even in the curriculum in a lot of schools around here.



answers from New York on

I always felt it was a waste of time - but they are teaching it this year and my daughter is so into it that she practices at home (she has neat handwriting and now loves to write her name in script). I planned to teach her some basics myself since she was interested.

But in this day of technology - I think it's a total waste of time.

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