It is important to encourage your child’s interest in fine motor tasks and drawing from an early age. Whilst a 2-year-old may appear to be scribbling, this is a crucial precursor to later writing skills. For example, circular scribble will form the foundation for the letter ‘a’.
As your child progresses to school, handwriting becomes the primary method of communication and learning. In addition, the tactile process of writing enhances a student’s ability to retain new information. If a child struggles to master handwriting, it can have a significant impact on both their learning and self-esteem. Signs that you child may be having difficulties include:
- Inappropriate letter formations
- Inconsistent letter sizing and spacing
- Poor legibility
- Failure to complete written work within the allocated time
- Avoidance of written tasks
- Difficulties organising and transferring ideas to paper
- Inappropriate pencil grasp and poor control
An Occupational Therapist can assist in these areas. Interestingly, many handwriting quality, speed and endurance issues can be quickly rectified with only minimal intervention. For example, poor joint stability or hand strength often results in a student adopting an inefficient grasp with a resultant reduction in handwriting quality. Therapy to maximise fine motor function in the small muscles in the hand can assist them to maintain a functional grasp.
An appropriate pencil grasp is vital to ensure handwriting quality, speed and endurance long term. Generally, an inappropriate grasp is an indicator of low muscle tone or joint hypermobility. For example, many students wrap their thumbs around the pencil, in an effort to maximise stability and hence compensate for their hypermobility. However, their thumb wrap prevents dynamic finger movements and consequently, it is necessary for them to initiate movements at the wrist as opposed to the fingers. These movements are gross and poorly calibrated and contribute to large, angular lettering and to thumb, wrist and forearm pain after only a few lines of writing. Clearly this has negative implications for a student in timed assessments where it is impossible for them to achieve to academic potential in lieu of their poor speed and endurance.
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Despite the use of technology, handwriting remains the primary source of communication in the classroom. Difficulties in this area can have a profound negative impact on a students’ academic performance. For example, for a student with slow, laboured writing they have difficulties completing their work in the allocated time. Whilst they may present as strong students verbally, this is not apparent in their written responses. This may result in them shortening their responses and failing to elaborate on their ideas. Some students, particularly those presenting with Dysgraphia (a specific learning disorder in written expression) may also qualify for Special Examination Arrangements in the form of a scribe, lap top use or additional working time. An Occupational Therapist can assist in securing this arrangement.
For younger students who may have variable sizing and spacing, inappropriate letter formations or letter reversals, strategies can be provided in therapy to quickly address these.
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