One of the topics that comes up often in occupational therapy is handwriting. So here are some handwriting tips for special needs children.
Handwriting can often times be the first indicator of a motor problem in fine motor development. A lot of our families will call and say, “The teacher (or someone else working with the child) told me to call because my child has really sloppy, poor handwriting.”
What does poor handwriting mean?
Poor handwriting is often a first indicator that there may be a fine motor problem, but it’s also an indicator that occurs at the end of the picture rather than the beginning of the picture. What do we mean by that? Well, we develop from inside out. Our proximal control, or our core development, develops what motor control is going to look like in our hands. So if a child spends time strengthening her hands and not developing her core, her handwriting is only going to be compensatory. It is never going to move over to a learned skill, because it doesn’t have the right foundation underneath.
In occupational therapy, when you come in we will also test gross motor development and core strength, because we know that if your core isn’t strong, we’re not going to be able to get what we want in your hands. And if we strengthen the core, often times the hands will naturally get better.
So when we do a handwriting assessment (and we have some very skilled handwriting therapists here) we look at letter formation, sizing, spacing, and orientation. We will sometimes work with adaptive papers, pencil grippers, a dry erase board, or a chalkboard. The reason we have a chalkboard on the wall is not because we want your children to write on the wall, but because we know that if you work while you are upright, standing up, you are strengthening your core! Plus, working with letters on the chalkboard is more direct visually, while bending to look at the letters on a desk is more difficult—and sometimes our children have handwriting problems because there’s a visual/perceptual issue. We really don’t know that until we look at your child and assess them in detail. The thing to remember is that there are many things that affect motor development in both fine and gross motor categories.
So if handwriting is an issue, give us a call! We are more than happy to do that assessment for you. We work with print and cursive, and we do handwriting therapy with many of our kids in conjunction with the other therapy we do.