Coordination, or Writing at the Speed of Thought

Coordination, or Writing at the Speed of Thought

My handwriting sucks. I’m often the only person who can decipher it and sometimes even I struggle which defeats the point of writing stuff down. I can type faster than I can write but it’s not always convenient unlike just scribbling a note on a piece of paper. So I still fall back on longhand on a regular basis.

I started typing essay assignments in English class when I was at school. I found that it was easier than writing by hand and much less tiring – my hand gets tired very quickly when I write longhand. It’s noticeable after just a paragraph or two and the legibility declines rapidly thereafter. I’m sure my teacher also appreciated being able to read what I’d submitted.

I can write reasonably neatly if I take my time and concentrate on forming the letters. But it’s no good if I’m trying to put down my thoughts as they come to me: my writing just can’t keep up so I either scribble or lose my train of thought. It doesn’t help that my fine motor control is not great, which is not uncommon in people with ASD.

Can you read these?

You can see from these two samples that even when I concentrate there’s some variability in the size and slant. When I’m scribbling (sample two) there’s little consistency – contrast the two quickly‘s in the second sample. (Hint: it says “Sample two: I’m writing this quickly to keep up with how quickly I think.”) And that example isn’t close to the worst it can get – it will wander up and down around the ruled line on the page, whole sequences of letters will be indecipherable or even missing and sometimes it more closely resembles shorthand than English.

This lack of coordination seems to affect my typing a little less than my writing but then I’m only a two-finger typist. Even after over 25 years of using a keyboard I still look at the keys while I type and have failed repeatedly to learn to touch-type. I have certain typing errors that I make fairly frequently – I hit the adjacent key (such as r instead of e), I press two keys out of sequence when using fingers on both hands (and end up with teh instead of the) and I keep the Shift key depressed a fraction too long and capitalise two letters (HEllo). Despite not looking at the screen I maintain a mental picture of what I’m typing and I am aware when I’ve made a typo – I often even correct it without looking at the screen.

This is related to the problem I had learning piano as a child: I had trouble timing separate movements by separate fingers. It also affects me when I try to drum my fingers on a table – tapping them in a repeating sequence. After a couple of repetitions (1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4) I start to make mistakes (1-2-4-3) and then it all goes completely wrong. And if I try it with my left hand I have trouble even getting started despite concentrating intensely. I am strongly right-handed and my right hand is considerably better-coordinated than my left. I always use my left hand for tasks involving less fine control such as holding something in place while I adjust it with my right – I’m almost unable to use tools like screwdrivers or scissors with my left hand (cutting the fingernails of my right hand requires a lot of concentration and holding the scissors in some very strange positions).