Cleveland occupational therapist

Why is Handwriting So Hard? A Cleveland Occupational Therapist Explains.

Learning how to write is one of the most vital skills a child learns early on in their education. As a Cleveland occupational therapist can explain, the skills needed to be successful in this task actually start much sooner than kindergarten – or even pre-school.

Some of the complex skills needed for handwriting include:

  • Knowing the letters of the alphabet
  • Visual motor skills
  • Letter formation
  • Sequence following
  • Visual perception skills
  • Maintaining control of the paper (to stay in the lines)
  • Bilateral coordination
  • Recognition of left-to-right progression
  • Recognition of top-to-bottom progression
  • Movement tracking of the hand, pencil and paper
  • Crossing midline skills
  • Fine motor skills (in-hand manipulation, pencil grasp, visual hand-eye coordination)
  • Gross motor skills (muscle memory, posture, body control)

Not all teachers have formal training in how to teach handwriting skills. When a student struggles with handwriting, a Cleveland occupational therapist can help.

Why Handwriting Struggles are Cause for Concern

Sometimes even with proper instruction, a child may struggle with handwriting. They might not form their letters correctly. Their letters may be uneven or labored. They could be illegible or tough to read.

It’s common for beginning writers to have a tough time forming letters, spacing their words and assuming the correct posture to make it all happen. However, most are able to print clear, legible text by around second grade. A child who battles with the mechanics of handwriting beyond age 7 or 8 probably needs intervention, though we can start earlier if problems become apparent before then. Starting sooner allows your child to keep pace and avoid falling too far behind.

Although it’s true that so much of our communication these days is done with computers, it’s still necessary for children to know how to write by hand. Not only is it a means for self-expression, it’s one of the main ways our education systems determines how well a child is learning. It’s central to most curricula. That means trouble with handwriting can not only impede your child’s academic success (difficulty completing assignments, failing assignments), they can adversely impact self-confidence as well as success in other areas. A child who has difficulty with handwriting may try to avoid handwriting tasks, as they become a source of stress, anxiety, frustration and even embarrassment.

It should also be noted that handwriting problems can be an indication of other problems, including manual dexterity, visual motor control, hand development, strength and cognitive development. It could be an indicator of dyslexia, dyspraxia, dysgraphia or ADD/ADHD.

We can help children develop handwriting skills using clinically studied methods that prioritize positive reinforcement.

How a Cleveland Occupational Therapist Can Help

There are a wide range of handwriting difficulties, depending on the underlying cause of them. Some of the most common include:

  • Problems with letter shapes.
  • Problems with spacing.
  • Problems with grip and posture.
  • Mixing capital and lower case.
  • Letter reversals.
  • Punctuation misuse.
  • Mixing print and cursive.

Handwriting Without Tears is a nationally-recognized program and arguably the most popular, though there are a few others. A Cleveland occupational therapist can create handwriting interventions that are tailored to the individual needs of each child. We start by preparing the body, which means ensuring proper strength, grasp and posture and then from there, move on to control. All of our sessions are play-based, and we offer reinforcement strategies to help parents work on carrying over and strengthening those skills at home.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides occupational therapy to children in Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights, Akron and surrounding communities. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email

Additional Resources:

Handwriting, American Occupational Therapy Association

More Blog Entries:

What is Motor Planning? Cleveland Occupational Therapists Explain, July 15, 2020, Cleveland Occupational Therapist Blog