ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Evaluation of elementary writing skills in children is usually obtained with high resolution (and high cost) techniques or with low resolution pen-and-paper tests. In this observational study we tested a quantitative method to obtain normative data to describe arm movement during a writing precursor gesture. METHODS: We recruited 226 healthy children (mean age 9,1 years [range: 6.3 -- 11.4 years]), attending primary schools belonging to the "Istituto Comprensivo" of Rivanazzano Terme (Pavia). We asked to drive a cursor through a polygonal path (labyrinth) projected in front of them using a wireless mouse. DartfishTM video analysis software was used to elaborate images and ExcelTM, MedCalcTM and Statistica 7TM to analyze values of shoulder, elbow and wrist ranges of motion, arm trajectories, execution times and gesture accuracy. RESULTS: Differences seen in motor strategies, when divided according to attended class, suggest a proximal-distal maturation of motor control. Obtained values were not significantly correlated with variables such as gender, ethnicity or cognitive functioning. CONCLUSIONS: This type of approach to a study of arm movement during childhood represents a valid alternative to other tests, considering that it can differentiate children who perform similarly in the VMI test and is non-invasive, low-cost and easily reproducible.
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