Cleveland occupational therapy

Handwriting Helpers From Our Cleveland Occupational Therapy Team

Lots of kids struggle with handwriting, especially early on. But if problems persist, it may be time to consult with a Cleveland occupational therapy provider.

Handwriting is an important skill for schoolchildren – and well into adulthood. It’s a basic tool used in the classroom to allow kids to express their ideas, create stories, and take tests. What’s more, handwriting goes hand-in-hand with reading and spelling skills. When a child has a tough time consistently writing letters clearly and easily, they’re going to have a tougher time with interrelated skills as well.

Some parents assume the problem is primarily that the child is “just being lazy.” However, issues that commonly contribute to handwriting hardships among kids have nothing to do with the child’s lack of motivation. Often, the underlying issue has something to do with the child’s fine motor skills or learning and attention issues. These things may not be obviously visible, but they are no less real.

According to the State of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the 1 in 5, more than 1 in 5 kids has a learning or attention issue. It’s not a cause for alarm, but early intervention can help them keep pace with other kids their age so they don’t fall too far behind.

Cleveland Occupational Therapy Handwriting Milestones to Note

Although all kids develop handwriting and other skills at their own pace, it’s a good idea to keep tabs on the timing of certain milestones to know whether they’re starting to fall behind the average. This helps determine whether intervention from a Cleveland occupational therapy team may be beneficial.

  • Preschool. During this time, we should be seeing the first circular scribbles as your child tries to write their name and starts attempting the shapes of other letters.
  • Pre-K and kindergarten. Kids in this age bracket usually enjoy drawing and labeling objects, using invented spellings (often skipping over the vowels), and start to get a handle on upper case letters that (for the most part) are correctly formed.
  • First grade. This is where we see fine motor skills strengthening as the child becomes more confident in controlling their writing. In learning the difference between upper & lower case letters, they may still be a bit inventive with their spelling.
  • Second grade. At this stage, we should start to see kids’ handwriting get neater and smaller. They have the ability to pay closer attention to the thought behind what they’re writing rather than solely the mechanics of making the letters.
  • Third grade. This is where a lot of kids start to learn cursive – and in so doing, they may sacrifice speed to focus once more on letter formation. Some class assignments may be in cursive, so they’ll take longer.

How Do I Know if My Child’s Poor Handwriting is a Problem That Requires Intervention?

Very few kids are going to have zero handwriting struggles. But where we raise the prospect of intervention is when a child shows signs of fine motor skills difficulties indicative of a learning disability called dysgraphia.

Dysgraphia is when a child struggles to write with a pen, pencil or crayon. It will also show up with other tasks requiring fine motor skills, such as cutting with scissors or zipping up their coat. It can sometimes be co-occurring with other conditions like ADHD and dyslexia, but not always.

Some telltale signs of dysgraphia include things like:

  • Handwriting that is all different sizes and not legible
  • Trouble writing for reasonable lengths of time
  • Avoiding activities that require writing or drawing
  • Awkward pencil grip and body position

If you notice these issues, it’s a good idea to raise the with the school’s special education team. They may suggest additional testing to see what services your child may qualify for.

Another option would be to consult with a private Cleveland occupational therapy provider, such as Therapy & Wellness Connection. We can work with your child over the course of weeks or months to help them tackle these challenges.

Tips to Get in More Handwriting Practice

In addition to seeking professional intervention, you can absolutely try to help them get in as much at-home practice as possible.

Some exercises to consider:

  • Letter formation drills. There are lots of resources for this online, and they involve practice with things like mixing upper & lowercase letters, going from top to bottom, etc. Make it fun, offer rewards for getting better results each time.
  • Multi-sensory exercises. Set the pencils aside for a moment. Instead, work on letter formation with different types of tools and toys that incorporate more sensory input. Have them trace letters in sand or salt with their finger, use a stick to carve it into the dirt, using shaving cream on the driveway – anything that allows them to get in that letter practice without actually using a pencil.
  • Make sure the pencils your child is using have a good grip. This helps set them up for success. Consider buying grips for pencils that will help them hold the utensil properly and have a firm grip. Chances are you will see some improvement.

If you have further questions about dysgraphia or handwriting help, contact our experience Cleveland occupational therapy team for more information.

Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – provides speech therapy to children in Akron, Cleveland, Brecksville-Broadview Heights 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:

Dysgraphia, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke