| Why Is Handwriting So
is one of the most
challenging fine-motor tasks a child is required to learn in school.
There are many different skills involved and if a child has difficulty
in any of these areas she may find writing to be frustrating.
Before we go over these skills, please remember that
use of paper and pencil is just a medium for the much more
important skill of communication.
children are highly successful with use of a keyboard, voice
activated computer, scribe or tape recorder to compensate for writing
difficulties. Just think of the brilliant cosmologist and author,
Stephen Hawking who is almost totally paralyzed or the highly
who can barely write legibly (some take handwriting courses
designed for physicians!) and you will realize that a person can
overcome the disability of dysgraphia.
the inability to
write legibly. Many children with learning disabilities experience
difficulty with handwriting, but the term Dysgraphia refers to extremely
poor handwriting. My
experience as an occupational therapist has
been that many children learn how to form letters
and words legibly
when copying in a quiet, one on one situation such as during an evaluation.
But their performance deteriorates when they are
asked to write sentences in a
busy classroom where they need to
creative thoughts, grammar, spelling, punctuation
formations often under a time restraint. This is often
with children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
difficulty organizing and sequencing, children with weak language
processing and children with
visual or perceptual processing problems.
Skills are Required for Handwriting?
begins at a very young
age when parents point out objects in the
environment and pictures in books. Parents
can encourage longer
attention spans by
activities that are of high interest such as musical
simple black and white books. Babies
who visually explore the world
from a carrier are also receiving the movement
that lays the ground work for developing fine motor
Television does the
teaches children to attend for
periods of time, in a stationary position with little eye or
As a child gets older,
must be able
to smoothly move the eyes along
increase. Preschool age children learn to
discriminate shapes and find their
favorite toy in a packed closet.
the paper to read or complete a maze and
move the eyes back
book to a blackboard or paper in
It might be a
challenge to find a math problem on a busy page
full of words and pictures. Please visit the page Promoting Visual Skills
more information on visual skills.
Planning Skills and Body Awareness
Toddlers are very
busy learning about how to
bodies in space. Motor
that refers to the ability to plan, organize
and execute a sequence of
little girl is practicing the sequence involved
climbing up the steps, rotating her body in order to
down and then running back to repeat the fun.
She is also developing body awareness and
judges the distance she has to move her foot
to reach the next
step and how much force to use
as she swings her legs over the
of activities such as this set the ground work for children
develop the motor planning skills
to move the pencil to
form letters and the body
awareness to move the hand
right amount to control letter size and spacing. An
child with good body
awareness will be
able to write his name
with his eyes closed. For
more information on motor planning
please visit the page What
is Sensory integration?
Upper Extremity Strength and
naturally love to
engage in gross motor
activities. Putting weight on the arms while
wheelbarrow walking or hanging from a bar
strengthens the upper extremity. Strong shoulders
enable the child to stabilize
controlling the pencil. A child also needs a strong
order to maintain her sitting posture at a
motor activities such as these
promote the bilateral
to control paper and pencil. Bilateral
a fancy term for using both hands together.
A child must be able
use both hands together
well in order to stabilize the writing paper
while using the pencil with the dominant hand.
Of course, many
fine motor activities such as
opening and closing
fasteners on a doll also
to develop bilateral
coordination. Bilateral activities
also help the child to
develop a hand dominance.
children have a hand dominance by age 7 years although
many have a
dominance much earlier. Consistent use of the
same hand to write
is important in order to develop skill with
This girl is rubbing
a crayon over a piece of
paper placed over a textured wall paper
sample. She needs to press down hard in
order for the designs to appear
on the white
paper. Her left hand is also working hard to
paper stable. A child needs good
hand strength to
control the movement of
writing tool and to stabilize the paper.
A Child needs to
position the wrist correctly
in slight extension (the position your
in when waving).
Working in the vertical plane
like this girl is doing at the chalkboard
the wrist in the correct position for writing.
Some children hook
difficult to control the pencil and may
benefit from using a slant
board at the desk.
Writing requires the
to control the hand
with fine movements and eye-hand coordination.
Activities such as cutting with
using toy pliers to pick up small objects help
control. This is the same control
required to manipulate a pencil in a
The tripod grasp is considered the most efficient
comfortable writing grasp. However, many
people have different types of
grasps and don't
have any writing problems.
The tripod grasp uses
the middle and
index fingers and thumb to
the fine movements required for handwriting. In a mature
grasp the middle finger provides support below the pencil.
The ring and
pinky fingers are bent and resting
comfortably on the table.
Left and Right
to know their left from right in
order to understand the directions
letter formation. They also need to learn that
in America writing moves
left to right
and top to bottom directions.
This girl is working left to right to
match pieces of
their backings. This also teaches her that the short
lines fit between the long horizontal lines much like letters
fit between writing paper lines.
must have sequencing skills
order to form letters correctly, spell
and form sentences. Many fine-motor activities
putting little Lego
before attaching them to a board require
young children learn
sequencing skills as they recite the ABC song
perform movements while singing Head Shoulders Knees
discrimination refers to
the ability to
and writing require the child to make many
perceive differences in visual stimuli. Many
toys are designed to teach differences
in size, color, shape and the
between one part of the toy to another part
such as puzzle pieces when
they fit into a board.
discriminations such as whether the
letter is a b
or a d ,
are the big C and
small c the
same letters and is
the 0 still
an 0 if the circle is not completely closed?
Spatial relations is the
of the position of oneself or objects relative
to other objects. Good spatial relations skills
required to copy dot designs, play Tic
Tac Toe, draw a picture of
person and makes
spaces between words.
A child must
the visual memory to be
able to retain the learning required for reading
Many games such as the card
game Concentration help to develop visual
memory. This girl is
turning over two cards
trying to find a pair that matches by
remembering each card's position from previous turns.
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