“Children are judged by what they put on paper, but handwriting relies on the complex inter-relationship of numerous underlying skills.”
Handwriting is the process of forming letters or symbols on paper. Both drawing and handwriting are complex motor tasks which rely on the integration of a myriad of underlying skills including: core strength, posture, hand strength, fine motor coordination, language and visual perception. Handwriting is one of the primary reasons children are referred for occupational therapy.
Despite the explosion of technology, writing legibly in a timely fashion is still a critical skill. Keyboarding is generally slower and does not usually become a functional substitute for handwriting until late in middle school. When writing is arduous and time consuming, children are not sufficiently motivated to produce the quantity and quality of work that they are intellectually capable of, and are often judged as not living up to their potential. Older children may be deemed ineligible for accelerated classes because the teacher cannot read what they write or they take too long to write. Unfortunately, children in preschool who are not developmentally ready to write, are encouraged to invent their own handwriting, leading to bad habits that are hard to get rid of, as their bodies often find an inefficient motor solution to solve the need to write.
Although word-processing programs and assistive technology can make the lives of children with writing problems easier, they have not eliminated the need for children to learn to write by hand. Much class time in pre-school and the early grades is dedicated to writing “journals” and is part of other projects interspersed throughout the day not that do not lend themselves to using a computer. Additionally, handwriting in the early grades reinforces basic reading and spelling skills. Because handwriting is such a fundamental educational tool for taking notes, doing class work and homework, and taking tests; poor handwriting can have a pervasive effect on school performance in children of all ages. Even children who have writing accommodations in school still have to fill out job applications by hand when sitting in a waiting room, and have to handwrite the essay section of the SATs and APs.
At POTS we use a comprehensive multi-sensory approach to handwriting.. Specific programs include Handwriting Without Tears and Benbow’s Loops and Other Groups.