Occupational Therapists Recognize National Handwriting Day
Handwriting is a part of our daily lives, whether we’re jotting down a shopping list or taking important notes at a meeting or filling out forms at a bank. Right or wrong, people make judgments about us based on our handwriting, and a failure to conquer this skill can prove a hindrance in basic tasks. Fort Myers occupational therapists at FOCUS are committed to helping children in Southwest Florida master the skill of handwriting.
January 23rd marked the recognition of National Handwriting Day, as designated by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association in 1977 – coinciding with John Hancock’s birthday. (You may remember from history class John Hancock was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence who infamously penned his signature in an over-large font).
It’s not just our signature that says a lot about us. Handwriting is a form of communication, and our occupational therapists believe it’s essential for the promotion of clear thought. Issues with handwriting can be a red flag of certain developmental problems in children, and it can potentially hinder one’s ability to learn because so many instructors rely heavily on written coursework to grade progress. While it’s true that an increasing amount of our communications are conducted via keyboard these days, handwriting has not been abandoned. We see it in medical notes, prescriptions, journalistic work and more. The ability to write legibly helps us not just in student coursework, but in many tasks of everyday living – and that’s ultimately what occupational therapy is all about.
How Occupational Therapists Assess Handwriting
Handwriting is a complex skill that involves managing written language via coordination with one’s eyes, hands, arms, pencil group, letter formation and body posture. When a child is struggling with handwriting, our pediatric occupational therapists will want to assess their level of functioning in several key areas.
- Visual perception. This involves how well they can discriminate between letters, words or numbers that are similar, how much space they put between those letters, how well they place the letters on the writing line and whether they are using the margins correctly.
- Fine motor skills. This is where we look at which hand is dominate, whether they are properly manipulating the writing utensil in their hand, whether they have a functional grip of the pen or pencil and how their muscle tone, hand, arm and shoulder strength (or lack thereof) plays into that.
- Visual motor integration. This is their ability to transfer what they see or understand into a motor expression.
- Cognition. This involves analysis of their ability to memorize, comprehend language, and identification of certain learning disabilities that impact problem-solving, reasoning and spelling.
- Sensory processing difficulties. Sensory processing disorder encompasses a wide range of issues that can interfere with a child’s tactile or visual ability, their posture and their attention – all of which can have a negative impact on their handwriting ability.
Any one of these or a combination could have a potential impact on a child’s handwriting ability, and it’s important to determine the underlying cause before we get to work.
What Can Occupational Therapists Do to Help Improve Handwriting Skills?
There are numerous individualized approaches our Fort Myers occupational therapists can employ to help your child’s handwriting skills improve. These often involve targeting the underlying issue. For instance, if the problem has to do with fine motor skill deficits, there are a number of exercises we can do to help children hone this skill.
Other skills we can practice include:
- Demonstrating the right posture necessary to support good handwriting;
- Measuring the physical strength and endurance of the child, and targeting key deficits;
- Working through proven handwriting curriculums in therapy and suggesting at-home practices to carry over improvement.
If you have concerns about your child’s handwriting ability, our occupational therapists offer free screenings to help you determine whether a full evaluation is necessary.
FOCUS offers pediatric occupational therapy in Fort Myers and throughout Southwest Florida. Call (239) 313.5049 or Contact Us online.
Handwriting, The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc.
More Blog Entries:
Occupational Therapists Can Assist With Motor Planning for Children With Cerebral Palsy, Nov. 21, 2017, Fort Myers Occupational Therapists Blog