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March 9, 2022

Handwriting Without Tears: The “Write” Way to Learn Handwriting

A primer on the Handwriting Without Tears® program

Key takeaways:

  • Handwriting Without Tears® helps children learn to write letters.
  • The program addresses all types of learners, including auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners.
  • It helps improve fine motor skills, letter formation, spatial awareness and body awareness.
  • It uses fun, engaging activities that help kids to learn how to form letters.
  • It teaches letter formation in a progression that makes the most sense to learners.

Occupational therapy uses various methods to help children who struggle with handwriting due to cognitive, developmental, or motor differences. The multi-sensory teaching curriculum, Handwriting without Tears®, is one method that works very well with students. This program is developmentally-based and addresses all learning styles, including visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic.

At Lumiere Children’s Therapy, our Occupational Therapists use Handwriting without Tears® to help kids improve their handwriting skills. This program helps improve fine motor skills, body awareness and letter formation.

In this article, we talk about common challenges that can lead to handwriting issues and how Handwriting without Tears® can help!

5 reasons kids struggle to master handwriting

There are many reasons your child might be having trouble with handwriting. Rather than become frustrated at his or her lack of progress, remember that there could be an unidentified root cause. Some causes have to do with writing mechanics, while others could point to an underlying cognitive or physical condition. Let’s take a look at five common causes.

1. Holding the pencil wrong

Poor handwriting might just come down to mechanics. Simply holding a pencil at the wrong angle or using the wrong grip can make a child’s writing sloppy or hard to read. It can also lead to pain in the wrist, hand, or fingers. If your child is uncomfortable, they might try to avoid writing.

Most children learn to write using the tripod grasp,” which is the most functional grasp. In this grasp, a person holds the pencil about an inch from the tip, balanced between the thumb and index finger. The middle finger should be used as a resting/balance point.

2. Left-handed writers

Left-handed writers are often at a bigger disadvantage when learning to write than their right-handed classmates. The mechanics of writing left-handed are different and require a modified teaching method. Rather than pull a pencil across a piece of paper, for example, left-handed students must push it away from their hand, which can cause skipping or breaks in letters and lines.

3. Using too much pressure

If your child holds a pencil/pen too tightly or pushes down on a piece of paper too much, it can result in hand cramping, pain, and poor penmanship. They need to apply some pressure, but too much will cause problems or fatigue. Relaxing the grip can help.

4. Dyslexia 

Dyslexia has nothing to do with holding the pencil wrong. It is a language-based learning disability that affects how the brain processes and interprets language, including letters, words, and numbers. While reading and spelling can be significant challenges for kids with dyslexia, dyslexia can also affect a child’s ability to write.

5. Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a condition that impacts handwriting. Children with dysgraphia have trouble with transcription. They tend to have messy handwriting and may have challenges forming letters.

Signs of dyslexia and dysgraphia

What are some common signs of dyslexia and dysgraphia? Several signs point to a child possibly having one of these learning differences. They include:

Signs of dyslexia:

  • Delayed speech
  • Issues forming words correctly
  • Difficulty playing games or learning nursery rhymes
  • Reading well below the expected reading level for their age
  • Trouble spelling
  • Avoiding reading activities
  • Many of these signs affect reading, but they can also impact handwriting

Signs of dysgraphia:

  • Trouble forming letters
  • Tight or awkward pencil grip
  • Messy or illegible handwriting
  • Trouble staying in the margins on paper
  • Struggles with sentence structure and grammar rules

Some children with dyslexia also have dysgraphia. Children with ADHD often struggle with dysgraphia, as well. It’s important to have your child checked by a medical professional or licensed educational psychologist if you notice signs.

How the Handwriting without Tears® program works

Handwriting without Tears® is a multi-sensory approach designed to help children develop essential handwriting skills. The program uses fun and engaging activities that improve fine motor function. It also focuses on teaching kids how to form letters using tools like tracing paper or their fingers to master different aspects of handwriting.

The program includes specialized programs for students at every stage of learning, taking kids through the beginning stages of writing, including pre-handwriting strokes, and forming upper case letters and lowercase letters. It successfully combines teaching with interactive activities to address each student’s unique needs and struggles. Physical approaches are also used, including grip and posture adjustments for better writing performances.

Get help with handwriting

If your child is struggling to develop handwriting skills because of a mechanical issue or a condition like dyslexia, dysgraphia, or ADHD, Lumiere Children’s Therapy can help. Our trained Occupational Therapists incorporate the Handwriting without Tears® program to help teach students the writing skills they need to succeed in school and life. We work with you and your child’s teachers to develop a comprehensive plan to meet their physical, cognitive, and developmental needs.

Our Occupational Therapy program offers a wide range of services to help children learn a variety of skills, including:

  • Fine motor skills
  • Daily self-care
  • Visual-motor integration
  • Visual perceptual skills
  • Social and peer interaction skills
  • Feeding
  • Self-regulation and attention
  • Sensory processing
  • Strength and coordination
  • Motor planning
  • Early development for infants

Aside from Occupational Therapy, we provide other comprehensive therapy services, including:

  • Physical Therapy
  • ABA Therapy
  • Speech Therapy
  • Developmental Therapy
  • Early intervention
  • Social Work
  • Teletherapy
  • AAC

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full-service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians works to improve the lives of children and their families.

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