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handwriting programs

Handwriting is complex perceptual-motor skill that is dependent upon the maturation and integration of a number of cognitive, perceptual, and motor skills, which is developed through instruction (Hamstra-Bletz and Blote, 1993; Maeland, 1992). It is an academic skill that allows individuals to express their thoughts and feelings and communicate with others. It is a complex process of handling language by pencil grip, letter formation, and body posture. Handwriting efficiency requires mastery of multiple skills, including vision, coordinating the eyes, arms, hands, memory, posture, and body control, as well as the task of holding a pencil and forming letters.

Schools depend on written work to measure what children are learning. Handwriting is a basic tool used in many phases of our daily life e.g. for taking notes, taking tests, and doing classroom work, homework. Poor handwriting can have a significant effect on school performance and children who lack some of these skills may miss learning opportunities and lack self-esteem.

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What are the signs and symptoms the children with handwriting difficulties present?

  1. Children may exhibit strong verbal but particularly poor writing skills.
  2. Random (or non-existent) punctuation.
  3. Spelling errors (sometimes same word spelled differently); reversals; phonic approximations; syllable omissions; errors in common suffixes.
  4. Clumsiness and disordering of syntax; an impression of illiteracy.
  5. Misinterpretation of questions and questionnaire items.
  6. Disordered numbering and written number reversals.
  7. Generally illegible writing (despite appropriate time and attention given the task).
  8. Inconsistencies: mixtures of print and cursive, upper and lower case, or irregular sizes, shapes, or slant of letters.
  9. Unfinished words or letters, omitted words.
  10. Inconsistent position on page with respect to lines and margins and inconsistent spaces between words and letters.
  11. Cramped or unusual grip, especially holding the writing instrument very close to the q paper, or holding thumb over two fingers and writing from the wrist.
  12. Talking to self while writing, or carefully watching the hand that is writing.
  13. Slow or labored copying or writing - even if it is neat and legible.

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Children with an attention deficit disorder (especially with hyperactivity) often experience rather significant difficulty with writing in general and handwriting in particular. This is because children ADHD also have difficulty organizing and sequencing detailed information. In addition, ADHD children are often processing information at a very rapid rate and simply do not have the fine-motor coordination needed to "keep up" with their thoughts. Some children can also experience writing difficulty because of a general auditory or language processing weakness. Because of their difficulty learning and understanding language in general, they obviously have difficulty with language expression. Recall that written language is the most difficult form of language expression. Although most children with dysgraphia do not have visual or perceptual processing problems, some children with a visual processing weakness will experience difficulty with writing speed and clarity simply because they aren't able to fully process the visual information as they are placing it on the page.

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Although handwriting instruction is mostly the responsibility of teachers, an Occupational therapist plays an important role in determining the underlying postural, motor, sensory-integrative, and perceptual deficits (Stevens and Pratt 1989, 321) that may be causing the bad writing. The Occupational therapist also analyzes writing readiness skills, and the sensory-motor, cognitive, psychosocial, and environmental factors that interfere with the development of legible handwriting. The Occupational therapist provides intervention wherever appropriate (Schlussel 1998) by devising exercises to develop necessary skills, providing teachers with strategies to improve classroom performance, and by suggesting supporting home activities (AOT 1998). An Occupational therapist will look for prewriting skills, which must be developed before penmanship instruction can begin (Beery 1982b, 1989; Klien 1990). Occupational therapists look into the small details associated with the components involved in handwriting (as described above) and design an intervention plan to tackle those specific issues.

On the home front, sports, games, and everyday activities help children improve many of the skills involved in handwriting. To improve motor control, require the use of silverware with proper grip. Any activities involving hand-eye coordination are helpful- cutting, crafting, cooking, baking, etc. To improve visual memory, teach card games, marbles and jacks, and engage in hand sports- using large then smaller balls. Use dictation or a computer for homework assignments when a child's poor muscle strength and low endurance cannot sustain written work despite high intelligence. Encourage letter writing to family and friends (AOT 1998).

When evaluating the actual task of children's handwriting, following 4 areas are considered:

  1. Domains of handwriting – copying (near and far point), manuscript to cursive transition, ability to integrate auditory directions and a motoric response (dictation).
  2. Legibility components - letter formation, letter alignment, spacing, size and slant
  3. Writing speed – the number of letters written per minute
  4. Ergonomic factors – writing posture, upper-extremity, stability, mobility and pencil grasp pattern.

During handwriting assessment; sensorimotor, cognitive and psychosocial components also are evaluated

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At FIVE we conduct very comprehensive programs to improve on handwriting techniques. We have a specialized team who are qualified and dedicated in improving hand functions . We will be able to assess the exact causes of difficulty in handwriting and provide necessary activities to improve the same. We look into the small details associated with the components involved in handwriting and design an intervention plan to tackle those specific issues.

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Handwriting readiness can be developed by activities to improve children's fine motor control and isolated finger movements, such as;

  1. Rolling 1/4 - 1/8 inch balls of clay or therapy-putty between the tip of the thumb and tips of the index and middle fingers.
  2. Picking up small objects with tweezers
  3. Pinching and sealing a zip lock bag using the thumb opposing each finger while maintaining an open web space.
  4. Twisting open a small tube of tooth paste with the thumb, index and middle fingers while holding the tube with the ulnar digits.
  5. Moving a key from the palm to the finger tips of one hand.

To promote prewriting skills in children the following activities may be tried;

  1. Drawing lines and copying shapes using shaving cream, sand trays or finger paints.
  2. Drawing lines and shapes to complete a picture story on chalk boards.
  3. Drawing pictures of people, houses, trees, cars or animals with visual and verbal cues from the practitioner
  4. Completing simple dot-to-dot pictures and mazes.

Activities to enhance right-left discrimination includes

  1. Playing/maneuvering through obstacles and focusing on the concept of twining right or left
  2. Connecting dots at the chalkboard with left to right strokes.

Improving children's orientation to printed language may be achieved through the following activities;

  1. Labeling children’s drawings based on the child’s description
  2. Having children make their own books on specific topics such as favorite foods, special places etc.
  3. Labeling common objects in the therapy room.

When planning any handwriting intervention program, the following aspects should be included;

  1. Preparing children’s bodies for handwriting
  2. Providing sequenced handwriting instruction
  3. Using various multisensory writing tools, mediums and positions for writing
  4. Recommending that children use practical techniques and approaches for functional handwriting
  5. Offering methods for children to have success, reinforcement and social competence with in the handwriting program.



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