Saturday, March 12, 2011

Handwriting Skills

         Writing is a multifaceted activity in which a child has to pay attention to many separate tasks at one time. Initially, a child has to think of a topic about which he is going to write, or formulate an idea for the text. He has to remember how to form each letter, and make sure to write the letters in the designated space and in the correct sequence on the page. Finally, there are the rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation that must be attended to; all of this while staying focused amidst the many distractions that might occur. Considering all of these components, it’s no wonder that many children find handwriting to be a challenging task.
As I said in an earlier post, the foundation for good fine motor skills is postural control, so this is usually the first area that I assess when a student is referred to me for poor handwriting skills. If core weakness is present, the child will most likely have difficulty sitting at a desk with a proper “handwriting posture”. I address this issue by having the child work on the exercises described my post on Tuesday, March 1st. These activities are fun and easy and can be carried out in a therapy session as well as at home.
Once I know that postural stability is being addressed, I typically look at some of these basic hand skills:
  • Can the child rotate a pencil with one hand to use the eraser?  
  • Can he bring coins from the palm out to the fingertips, as if putting money in a soda machine? 
  • Can he perform that same task, with several other coins held in the palm, while bringing each coin out one at a time?  
  • Can he pick up a handful of change from a table, one coin at a time, bringing each coin into the palm and storing it while picking up the rest? 
  • Is he able to rapidly and sequentially touch the tip of each finger to the thumb?

If the child has problems with any of these skills, it might be an indication that there is weakness in the muscles of the hands and fingers. The activities listed on my March 3rd post are great for strengthening the muscles of the hands and they are also good for fine motor coordination. 

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Reference: Marsh, D., Hanft, B, Cohn, D. (1993). Getting a grip on handwriting. American Occupational Therapy Association, Rockville, MD.

2 comments:

  1. Huh, that's actually interesting to read. I'm 19 and I've been complained at for years over my terrible handwriting and my horrible posture. While writing I generally lean my head onto my arm and watch the paper as I'm writing the letters. It's all very messy and I've never been able to really understand why.

    reading this makes sense though. I'm not really able to do half of the things you mentioned.

    * Can the child rotate a pencil with one hand to use the eraser? Sometimes. Other times the pencil flips out of my hand across the room, or just across the table. Very irritating. :(
    * Can he bring coins from the palm out to the fingertips, as if putting money in a soda machine? I've always used two hands to do that.. Never been able to just use my one hand without dropping a few coins in the process.
    * Can he perform that same task, with several other coins held in the palm, while bringing each coin out one at a time? Not easily.
    * Can he pick up a handful of change from a table, one coin at a time, bringing each coin into the palm and storing it while picking up the rest? Not easily. Usually end up dropping half the 'held' coins.
    * Is he able to rapidly and sequentially touch the tip of each finger to the thumb? Yes but I end up messing up somewhere along the line, sometimes.

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  2. Please practice these skills, and work on the postural control as well. It's never too late! :)

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