Poor Handwriting Skills
Difficulty with Handwriting can be very frustrating and it is often hard to pinpoint why your child is having difficulty.
Handwriting is a routine daily task for most kids and adults.
Handwriting is both a motor and memory task which needs to be practiced. Once handwriting is automated, the motor component of handwriting can be performed virtually unconsciously. Allowing your child room to consciously think through what they plan to write.
So why do kids have difficulty mastering Handwriting?
Underlying causes of handwriting include: –
• Letter Knowledge – Not knowing, or remembering what the letter looks like. These kids can’t consistently remember what the letter looks like and can get the names and sounds of letters mixed up.
• Where does the letter start and end? – Not yet knowing the stroke order of alphabet letters. Every time a child writes a letter they write it in a different order to the last time they wrote it. This consequently does not lay a strong ‘motor memory’ for alphabet letters.
• Difficulty remembering what the letter looks like and/ or how to start writing a specific letter– Some children within an average class of kids just need more practice than the average child to be able to remember the stroke order of the letters. More practice allows motor memory to improve and automate smooth coordinate movement to get a well-formed word. The more children practice using fun activities the more they are likely to finally make handwriting automatic.
• Mechanics of holding the pencil is tricky – Children can find the feeling of holding a pencil uncomfortable or unfamiliar and therefore struggle to focus on what they are writing and learning. Some kids need more practice holding tools (pencils, paint brushes, scissors, cotton wool buds etc.) foundational skills are usually practiced at kindergarten. As they practice using their fine motor skills in Kindergarten they are learning how to use their fingers in more refined ways ready to hold a pencil for intricate handwriting. Some children avoid fine motor tasks at kindergarten and therefore have a reduced foundation of skills practiced to then start handwriting in prep.
• Reduced attention to task and/ or reduced amount of practice – Some children have not yet got use to, or have difficulty sitting for extended periods of time – long enough to practice handwriting. Handwriting is a complex intricate motor task that requires lots of practice and subskill practice (I.e. drawing, drawing shapes, hand manipulative development, muscle strengthening of the hand, arm shoulders and back) to feel confident enough and motivated to continue mastering the art of handwriting.
• Fearful, Emotional, Reduced Confidence – Some children are fearful of handwriting. Emotions can play a large role in learning. If your child is overwhelmed they are less likely engage, learn and participate in the handwriting activities.
Occupational Therapists assess children’s handwriting skills to determine if there are alongside the above, other underlying causes that maybe contributing to difficulty with handwriting.