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Occupational Therapy for Handwriting Woes

BY CAITLIN SMITH, MS, OTR/L, OTD

While we live in a technology-dependent age where handwritten communication is less and less frequent, every child should still master this important skill. Handwriting is a dynamic process that involves both fine motor and visual motor skills. Improved handwriting has been linked to increased literacy, increased composition skills, and improved reading acquisition. Schools are spending less time teaching handwriting, which leaves many children struggling to write legibly and parents fighting tearful battles at home. While the best way to improve handwriting is practice, many children benefit from developing their visual motor and fine motor skills. Winter lends itself to increased time inddors and is a perfect chance to incorporate fun activities to target these skills.

Examples:

  • Board games: With small pieces, most board games provide ample practice of eye-hand coordination. Increase the challenge by having your child act as “scorekeeper” and keep a written account of the score.
  • Ditch the paper/pencil: Get outside and practice writing with a stick
  •  in the snow, or use powdered beverage mix, such as Kool-aid® or food dye to make environmental friendly snow paint. Cookie cutters can be used to create snow designs. Too cold to go outside? Play tic-tac-toe on a fogged up window or use icing to decorate cookies.
  • Try alternative seating during homework to increase your child’s attention span: Have your child sit on a yoga ball, tape homework to the wall or have him or her lay on the stomach to increase attention, as well as increase core strength, provide movement breaks, and increase muscle endurance.

Occupational Therapy Evaluation:

  • Handwriting still a struggle? Consider an occupational therapy evaluation.
  • An occupational therapist can determine whether your child may be struggling due to some underlying component such as muscle weakness, core/postural weakness, visual motor difficulties, or decrease motor control.
  • An occupational therapist can develop a treatment plan to address any identified issues and work with you to provide support at home to increase your child’s success.

Caitlyn Smith, MS, OTR/L, ODT, is an occupational therapist at PhysioPartners.

References
James, K., & Englehardt, L. (2012). The effectiveness of handwriting experience on functional brain development on pre-literate children. Trends in neuroscience and education, 1 (1), 32-42.

AOTA (2002) Handwriting Fact Sheet. Retrieved from http://www.aota.org/About-Occupational-Therapy/Patients-Clients/ChildrenAndYouth/Schools/Handwriting.aspx

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