Hilliard 10-Year-Old With Autism Recognized Nationally For Cursive-Writing Ability


They say you can tell a lot about a person by their penmanship.  That's especially true for a Hilliard 10-year-old, who is receiving some serious recognition for his writing ability.  In a time when most kids prefer to communicate via touchscreen, he’s a fan of good old pencil and paper.

In this age of tech and texting, some call handwriting a lost art.  Some schools have gone as far as deleting cursive from their curriculum.

But don't tell that to Jacob Donahue

"I go to St. Brendan's and I am 10-years-old. I'm in fourth grade,” said Jacob.  He and the written language of longhand go back a long way.

"In second grade,” he said. "I liked it right away."

Why is that?

"It looks like curly lines,” he said. “It looks pretty."

Any other reasons?

"I write neater and faster than print."

But getting to neat didn't come fast for Jacob.

"Erase the letters...and keep practicing,” he said of his mistakes.

Jacob has required a little more practice than his classmates at St. Brendan School in Hilliard.  His mother explains why:  "He has Autism Spectrum Disorder,” said Haithi Donahue.

That’s why Jacob works with classroom aide Amy Friloux.  "Having autism, fine motor skills are very difficult,” said Friloux. “He works really hard. He works with an (occupational therapist) every week. And they work on those skills and practice, and so for him to have won this award it's just huge."

Did we mention Jacob won an award?

"I won a contest,” he said.  Not just any contest.  "The National Handwriting Contest,” he clarified.  “I feel good about that."

For his mom, the feeling is better than good.  "When I was pregnant, I had appendicitis and the doctors gave him a forty percent chance at living.  So for him to be where he is and doing as well as he's doing is kind of a gift to me."

That's not the only time Jacob would be counted out by others.

"You know every once in a while you hear something like, ‘Oh well, maybe he can do this instead of maybe being an engineer, maybe he can just be a technician or something.’ It's a little disheartening."

For her, this award is a statement about more than her son's way with a pencil.

"You can reach higher,” she said. “You can go for the same goals everybody else goes for."

And while not all of Jacob's friends are sold on script.  “I would say ‘You can do it.’ And I would tell them to practice. And say ‘Never give up.’" …like the boy with the golden pencil, don't write off cursive just yet.  "If I can do it, they can do it too."

The National Handwriting Contest is held by Zaner-Bloser, a Columbus-based company that develops educational resources for schools across the United States.  They selected two winners- a Michigan girl for her print writing, and Jacob for his cursive.   He will be presented his award in a school assembly later this year.