The development of handwriting skills begins as early as 4 months of age. This is when the palmar reflex begins to integrate and the baby begins to intentionally initiate grasp. Typically, larger muscle control develops before smaller muscle control. Achieving crawling, walking, and climbing milestones is imperative to good fine motor control. The child needs to be able to have strong core and proximal upper extremity control to effectively guide the hand to the position needed for writing. The breakdown in fine motor development, and thus, poor handwriting skills can occur anywhere along the gross or fine motor developmental chain.
As technology continues to be introduced at younger ages in our school system, handwriting has taken a lesser role in the curriculum. There is even debate over eliminating cursive writing. This change in emphasis leaves less time for the child to practice and develop these important motor and visual perceptual skills. Difficulty with handwriting can leave a young student frustrated and behind in classroom work, which in turn can affect self-esteem and even result in lower grades.
Occupational Therapists can improve handwriting skills by:
- Teaching proper application of pressure, letter formation, and spacing.
- Demonstrating good posture and arm position for writing and proper use of the arms, hands, head, and eyes.
- Analyzing fine motor control, such as the ability to hold their utensil.
- Determining visual and perceptual ability that influences a child’s ability to form letters and shapes using a writing utensil.
- Helping develop and evaluate handwriting curriculums and collaborating with parents and teachers on effective strategies.
- Suggesting home activities or practice based assignments that promote the development of skills needed in good handwriting.
Your Axes Occupational Therapist will evaluate the child based on normative developmental milestones, functional strength, visual perceptual ability, and attention to task. Fun activities like wheelbarrow races, crab walking, writing letters in shaving cream, and playing with putty can be used to achieve handwriting goals.
Is your child’s handwriting sloppy or illegible? Not as polished as their classmates’? Inconsistent? Does your child tend to avoid writing tasks? Intervention by an Axes Occupational Therapist can help correct this. If your child’s handwriting skills are causing difficulty in functional performance at school, a referral to an OT can provide appropriate interventions to build skills and confidence.
With 12, soon to be 13, Greater St. Louis area locations and an expert staff – we are here to help.