Kids often struggle with handwriting, and this difficulty is referred to as dysgraphia. Handwriting skills are very important. In fact, around 30 to 60 percent of the class time spent in elementary schools is spent on writing activities and fine motor skills.
It’s important for your child to learn prewriting skills so they will be able to hold and move a pencil effectively and fluently in order to produce legible printed and cursive handwriting. If your child’s handwriting skills are underdeveloped, it can lead to your child not being able to ‘keep up’ in class and produce legible handwriting. This, in turn can frustrate them and lead to resistance in class.
Readiness is where your child learns the foundation skills before learning a new task. In order for your child to meet the requirements of handwriting readiness, they must first learn a number of sensorimotor abilities. Forming letters requires your child to be able to integrate fine motor coordination as well as motor, visual, perceptual and sensory systems.
There are a number of prerequisites your child should have before beginning handwriting with some including:
- Eye-Hand Coordination
- Small Muscle Development
- Ability to Hold Writing Tools and Utensils
- Ability to form basic strokes like circles and lines smoothly
- Ability to notice differences and likeness, recognize forms, provide accurate verbal descriptions of what they see and infer movements important for producing form
- Visual analysis of words and letters, left and right discrimination and other orientation to printed language
There are some activities you can have your child perform to help them improve their handwriting readiness. You can have them practice lacing and threading shoe laces, opening up jars and containers to enhance finger strength or creating crafts using egg cartons, old boxes, paper and masking tape.
Play-Doh activities that involve a rolling pin or rolling with their hands is great as well. They can build Legos or other construction toys or engage in scissor projects. Any of these activities can help get your child get ready for writing.
Even though most of the responsibility of handwriting instruction falls on the teachers, your child’s pediatric occupational therapist can also play a vital role in identifying any underlying motor, perceptual, postural or sensory-integrative deficits that could lead to or be responsible for bad writing skills. The pediatric occupational therapist can analyze your child’s handwriting readiness skills as well as any cognitive, environmental, sensory-motor or psychosocial factors that could interfere with his or her legible handwriting development.