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Your child’s handwriting — more to it than you realize!

reading-writing disordersAs an occupational therapist, I get a lot of referrals to address handwriting.  There are several factors that relate to handwriting success, many of which can be practiced and developed at home!

Upper extremity support:

Developing the scapular muscles and upper arm strength will allow the child to improve his or her posture and have more control over the smaller muscles of the hand and wrist.  To strengthen the upper extremity, you can have wheelbarrow races, do crab walks, or play push up hockey.

Visual perception and control:

Initially, letter formation is learned through recalling a clear visual picture of the letter from memory, and later developing the motor skills to form the letter.  Visual perception, visual memory, visual discrimination and visual spatial relations are all important skills to master for handwriting development.  Some at home activities that can be used to develop these skills are balloon tossing, puzzles, shape sorters, and even matching socks.

Bilateral integration:

Bilateral integration, or using both hands together is essential for handwriting. Stabilizing the paper with one hand and holding the pencil with the other hand requires bilateral integration.  Some activities to address bilateral integration include tossing balls, playing with a slinky, rolling play-dough into balls and stringing beads.

Crossing midline:

Crossing midline, or bringing extremities from one side of the body to the opposite side of the body is essential for writing letters that include diagonals (such as A, K, R, V, W, X, Y).  Exercises that can help develop midline crossing skills include touching the knee to the opposite elbow, stretching the hands to the opposite foot across the body, drawing an infinity symbol (sideways figure 8) and racing toy cars in an infinity form.

Wrist and hand development:

Developing the small muscles of the hand and wrist are essential for developing a proper pencil grip.  Activities that can help develop and strengthen these muscles include playing with clothes pins, cutting play-dough, and playing with squirt bottles or squirt guns.

Handwriting is much more than sitting with a pencil and paper, and it can be fun!