For this post I wanted to talk about a very frequent subject that I encounter; Handwriting (groan now). While in OT school the idea of developing any sort of expertise with handwriting never crossed my mind. Actually, when I first started working in the public schools OT’s didn’t do handwriting (dating myself). We worked on underlying skills. Over the years things have changed. Now, it feels like, no one is concerned with underlying skill deficits except me. Handwriting objectives and data are the top concerns. Show me your data!
However, there are a few basic things about handwriting that I know to be true and if ignored progress will be minimal:
1. Handwriting requires direct instruction that is often lacking or given minimal attention in public schools.
2. Children are being asked to write before they are developmentally ready.
3. Proximal shoulder stability and trunk stability are needed.
4. A dynamic tripod grasp is good to have but kids can learn to write with grasps that differ from the norm.
5. Ability to follow 2-3 step directions.
6. Students have to understand position words; top, middle, bottom, up, down, left and right.
7. Students need top, middle and bottom lines to guide letter size and formation through at least second grade.
8. Let’s not forget motor-planning. Repeated tracing to establish the motor-plan for each letter until it becomes automatic.
These are just a few that were at the top of my mind. No wonder handwriting is so hard especially for children with underlying deficits. Who can add to the list?
Next question, What do we do about it? I’ll save that for the next post.