News

Handwriting help for stroke survivors at the University of Sydney


7 June 2012

Research student Bronwyn Simpson is studying how stroke patients can recover their ability to write.
Research student Bronwyn Simpson is studying how stroke patients can recover their ability to write.

Handwriting is an important part of our identity; losing the ability to write can have devastating effects on daily life. Now a team of researchers from the University of Sydney are putting together a training program for stroke survivors to help them regain the skill of handwriting.

Research student Bronwyn Simpson and her supervisor Dr Annie McCluskey, from the Faculty of Health Sciences, are seeking volunteers for the study, which will be the first of its kind in Australia.

"Due to arm and hand weakness, the ability to write is often impaired following a stroke," says Bronwyn, who is a qualified occupational therapist undertaking a Master of Applied Science in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

"Stroke survivors may have difficulty controlling a pen and forming legible letters. They may not be able to write quickly or move their arm freely across a page."

"Handwriting is used to make notes and lists and is important for paid work. Being able to create a recognisable signature is also legally important, and a person's handwriting style is an integral part of their personality," she says.

Despite the frequency of handwriting loss and the frustration it causes, there is little research into the most effective way to retrain handwriting with adults who have had a stroke.

Bronwyn decided to create the program after finding that most materials available for handwriting difficulties were directed at children rather than adults.

This study will test the feasibility of a four-week program conducted in participants' homes, which will involve home practice tasks and coaching from an occupational therapist.


Participant information

To be eligible for the study, people with stroke need to:

  • be aged 18 years or older
  • be living in the Sydney metropolitan area
  • have had a stroke at least three months previously
  • have difficulties with handwriting
  • be able to follow instructions and complete a home program independently or with the support of a family member
  • be able to speak, write and read in English
  • cease other therapy related to handwriting or similar tasks during the study and follow-up period (two months).

Participants will be asked to complete one hour of handwriting practice, five times per week for four weeks. Two sessions each week will be supervised by an occupational therapist.


To enquire about participating in the study, contact Bronwyn Simpson on bsim8092@uni.sydney.edu.au or 0430 125 223, or Dr Annie McCluskey on annie.mccluskey@sydney.edu.au or 9351 9834.


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Media enquiries: Katie Szittner, 02 9351 2261, 0478 316 809, katie.szittner@sydney.edu.au