Anna Barnett is a Professor in Psychology at Oxford Brookes University. She is Research Lead in the Department of Psychology, Social Work and Public Health and teaches on a range of postgraduate and undergraduate psychology courses at Oxford Brookes.
Anna’s general area of research is perceptual-motor development in children and within this she has a special interest in both Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD) and in the skill of handwriting.
Understanding children with movement difficulties
While completing her first degree in the combined subjects of Psychology and Physical Education, Anna became intrigued by the unexpected and unexplained movement difficulties experienced by some children who were otherwise healthy and typically developing.
She had the opportunity to study this group in depth for her PhD at the Institute of Education, University of London. As part of this work she published an important longitudinal study showing that young children with DCD continued to have motor difficulties into their teenage years.
More recently Anna has published several papers in academic journals on the diagnosis, assessment, description and developmental course of DCD. She is currently engaged in a programme of experimental work investigating the nature of the perceptual-motor difficulties in both fine motor (reaching) and gross motor (walking) skill in DCD. Anna is chair of the steering committee for DCD-UK, a group that organises a national DCD conference in the UK every two years.
The Movement Assessment Battery for Children (Movement ABC)
Much of Anna’s work is concerned with the identification and assessment of children with motor difficulties, including those with DCD. She became very familiar with the original version of the Movement ABC, which was originally co-authored by her PhD supervisor, Sheila Henderson.
More recently, Anna has been funded by Pearson Assessment to coordinate the revision and re-standardization of this assessment tool, resulting in the publication of the Movement ABC-2 Test and Checklist. With up-to-date UK norms, these are now popular instruments in health and education settings, being used by teachers, therapists, psychologists and doctors. Anna continues to deliver training in the use of these instruments both in the UK and around the World.
Handwriting skill and the DASH
Anna has a special interest in the teaching and learning of handwriting – an often neglected motor skill required throughout a child’s schooling and beyond. Anna’s research on handwriting has included an examination of handwriting policy and practice in English primary schools.
She has been on the committee of the National Handwriting Association for many years and is currently an expert advisor to the group. Aware that many children struggle with handwriting, Anna has been involved in developing an assessment tool to help identify and support those with difficulties in this area.
She is principal author of the Detailed Assessment of Speed of Handwriting (DASH), the only properly standardised tool with UK norms to assess a range of handwriting skills. Originally developed for 9-16 year olds, this now has extended norms for 17-25 year olds (DASH 17+) so that the test can be used with students in further and higher education settings.
Anna delivers training on use of the DASH and uses the test in her own research to examine the nature of handwriting difficulties in different groups of children including those with DCD and dyslexia.