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Open Access Research article

Arm trajectories and writing strategy in healthy children

Matteo Chiappedi1*, Rosella Togni2, Elisabetta De Bernardi2, Ilaria Maria Carlotta Baschenis1, Sara Battezzato1, Umberto Balottin3, Elena Dalla Toffola1 and Maurizio Bejor12

Author Affiliations

1 Don Carlo Gnocchi ONLUS Foundation, Piazzale Morandi 6, Milan, 20121, Italy

2 Department of Surgical, Resuscitative, Rehabilitative and Transplant Sciences, University of Pavia, Via Aselli 45, Pavia, 27100, Italy

3 Child Neuropsychiatry Unit, IRCCS “C. Mondino” Foundation, University of Pavia, Via Mondino 2, Pavia, 27100, Italy

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BMC Pediatrics 2012, 12:173  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-12-173

Published: 7 November 2012



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.


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. Dartfish™ video analysis software was used to elaborate images and Excel™, MedCalc™ and Statistica 7™ to analyze values of shoulder, elbow and wrist ranges of motion, arm trajectories, execution times and gesture accuracy.


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.


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.