My child has been back to school now just a little while but his teacher is saying he needs to seek help with his handwriting. What advantages would there been in working with an occupational therapist vs trying to work on it ourselves?
Handwriting is a complex skill that requires your child to manage and coordinate many variables simultaneously. These include using his or her eyes, arms, hands, maintaining proper pencil grip, cognitively recalling correct letter formation, and maintaining upright body posture when writing. The development of a child’s handwriting provides important clues to parents and teachers on how well a child is learning. Occupational therapists can assist by evaluating a child’s handwriting and identify potential underlying causes of handwriting difficulties. An occupational therapist will break down how the child writes by looking at the following components:
- Visual Motor Integration – tracing, drawing dot to dot, staying within boundaries
- Fine motor skills – pencil grip, hand dominance, upper extremity strength
- Visual perception – letter reversals, spacing and sizing of letters and words
- Cognition – letter formation, spelling
- Sensory processing difficulty – posture, attention to table top tasks
Once a therapist has identified areas of difficulty for a child, the therapist can recommend a home program including:
- Proper posture to support use of arms, hands, head, and eyes
- Provide additional equipment to assist including elevated/slanted surfaces and pencil grips
- Provide handwriting curriculum such as Handwriting Without Tears
- Provide home activities to promote development of skills identified as possible contributing factors to handwriting difficulties.
Parents and families can assist by providing praise and support to children as they progress. Encouraging meaningful writing exercises such as handwritten letters to grandparents, friends, and pen pals are a real life way to generalize new skills.
If your child continues to display difficulty with handwriting, talk to your child’s teacher about having a school occupational therapist observe your child while writing within the classroom. They will be able to identify possible areas of concern and provide assistance to the teacher to implement within the classroom. If your child does not qualify for occupational therapy through school, seek out a private provider.
Speech & Occupational Therapy of North Texas has pediatric occupational therapists who can help your child with handwriting skills. Many of our OTs are certified in Handwriting Without Tears. http://www.hwtears.com/hwt/why-it-works