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Handwriting

Handwriting at Therapy Space

Handwriting is often a major concern when parents want to come for an assessment and often between the ages of 7-10 this becomes more pertinent as workloads increase at school. There are usually problems with handwriting from a young age but parents and school staff hope the child will progress earlier. I assure you it is much better to get it checked out earlier as more effective changes are possible with a younger child. 4-5 is a great age to start.

I use a number of programs but the one I like best for children with significant difficulties forming letters and knowing which way to start writing is the Handwriting Without  Tears program written by Jan Olsen, a Canadian OT ,who was inspiring when I attended her course many years ago in 2004.

HWT uses  a sensory motor approach to letter formation and starts by teaching the child how to make letters out of wooden shapes, 4 basic shapes are all that is needed for making the alphabet in capitals. A big line, a little line, a big curve and a little curve.

They start by making the alphabet then they start to make the shapes using the WET,DRY,TRY method which encouraged fantastic tripod grasp through the use of small pieces of chalk and sponges and tissues. The child uses a chalkboard and copies the adults letters first then practises on their own. They always copy a good model so rarely make mistakes. It is very effective but best when younger as they establish bad patterns as they grow older.

Once children have mastered the capitals they move on to lower case quite quickly. If children keep making mistakes with things like reversals and remembering rules and sequences they may well need an assessment for dyslexia as this can show up early in a child too, even though many schools say you cannot test until 8!!! This is not true. It can be identified by age of 5-6 I would say.

I include aspects of HWT in my sessions and can run an individualised program for children if they want to work specifically on this.

Much of the handwriting work needs to be backed up by shoulder stability and core stability work as this is often an issue. Many children improve writing without practising writing but by doing a physical program which enables them to understand spatial awareness of themselves in relation to things around them e,g , playing skittles, jumping in and out of hoops, push ups etc. My treatment makes the best of both so a session would entail both physical and handwriting intervention strategies.

Attention levels are often low too so children need lots of breaks. Their negative emotions can also inhibit progress if pushed too much to just do handwriting so I work on getting the child regulated and happy before attempting too much.

Another program I use aspects of is the Speed Up Program is by Lois Addy OT . This offers some great warm up exercises and can be effective for children whose main concern is to be able to write more fluently and smoothly. I love the two handed activities and often get kids to do this against a door using chalk.

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