In a world full of technology, handwriting seems to take the backseat but there are many benefits of handwriting. Children who are able to physically transfer the mental image of a letter onto paper have a clearer understanding of how letters form words. Handwriting is a key component to literacy development, as well as reading comprehension, memory recall, critical thinking, and creativity. Handwriting can be extremely challenging for some children possibly impacting their learning and schoolwork. Occupational therapists can evaluate and create individual based curriculums to improve handwriting.
What factors attribute to handwriting challenges?
• Unrecognized vision problems
• Poor grip strength/endurance
• Poor eye-hand coordination
• Poor posture or shoulder stability
• Proprioceptive/kinesthetic issues
• Nonfunctional pencil grip
• Motor planning difficulties
• Delayed fine motor development
What are the consequences of poor handwriting?
In elementary school, there is a strong emphasis on legible handwriting for assignments, tests, and note taking. Poor handwriting my result in lower grades due to difficulty completing assignments. Children who are focused on the difficult task of writing can often miss parts of the assignment, lecture, or directions. Children may experience lowered self-esteem when comparing their handwriting abilities to classmates.
How do Occupational therapists target handwriting?
An OT first determines the cause of handwriting difficulty by assessing all components of writing. The following all contribute to handwriting success:
• Postural control and trunk support
• Fine motor skills in order to coordinate and manipulate the pencil. OT will determine the hand dominance and the ability to firmly grasp a pencil with a functional grip.
• Fluency of pencil movement.
• Visual motor skills: The ability to transfer what one sees into motor expression.
• Visual perception: OT will assess the child’s ability to discriminate between numbers, letters, and words that are similar. Also, the organization of the writing including spacing between letters, placing letters on the writing line and using margins correctly.
• Letter and number recognition
• Letter and number formation
• Cognitive: Letter memory, language comprehension, and specific learning difficulties that may contribute to writing difficulty.
• Possible sensory processing difficulties that may interfere with handwriting
Once an OT determines the root of the handwriting difficulty, they can develop and evaluate handwriting curriculums most appropriate for your child.
What can families do at home?
• Provide fun fine-motor activities at home such as playing with Play-Doh cutting cookies with cookie cutters, or cutting a pizza.
• Encourage using silverware during meals to help develop hand grip.
• Enroll children in sports and games that can improve visual, motor and coordination skills.
• Encourage writing by handwriting cards for family members, pen pals, and thank you notes.
If your child is having difficulty with handwriting, contact Lumiere Children’s therapy for a consultation with one of our occupational therapist.
“Handwriting.” Aota.org, www.aota.org/about-occupational-therapy/patients-clients/childrenandyouth/schools/handwriting.aspx.
“Handwriting and Writing.” Your Kids OT, www.yourkidsot.com/handwriting-and-writing.html.
“Handwriting.” Occupational Therapy for Children, 22 Feb. 2011, occupationaltherapyforchildren.over-blog.com/article-handwriting-67838149.html.
“The Benefits of Handwriting vs. Typing [Infographic].” National Pen® Official Blog, 27 July 2017, www.pens.com/blog/the-benefits-of-handwriting-vs-typing/#.WcLTO63My8U.