Ecological Validity of the SEMS (Systematic Assessment of Motor-Based Handwriting Dysfunctions)

Anita Franken

Purpose: To assess ecological validity of the SEMS and provide preliminary prevalence data on handwriting problems (HP).

Methods: Observational study including 63 grade 2 and 50 grade 4 children in Bavaria, Germany comparing teachers’ ratings of handwriting skills and SEMS scores.

Findings: SEMS ratings agreed well with teachers’ ratings but correlated only moderately. The SEMS discriminated fast from slow writers and accurately identified grade 2 children with HP (sensitivity 100.00%, specificity 98.21%), but less so grade 4 children (sensitivity 42.86%, specificity 88.37%). In higher grades, writing tasks become more demanding and varied, increasing the influence of secondary factors on handwriting. Overall HP prevalence was 11% (grade 2) and 14% (grade 4).

Conclusion: The SEMS accurately assesses motor-based HP and can be part of a comprehensive handwriting assessment encompassing various writing tasks.