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Better Handwriting Skills Through Occupational Therapy

Posted by Brian Spence on Nov 29, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Occupational Therapy, Allied HealthPeople may think that handwriting is a basic skill most children pick up in school, observing how students often use handwriting to take notes during class, work on take-home assignments, or answer essay questions on a test. However, they probably wouldn't associate poor handwriting skills with a decline in school performance.

According to a study conducted by K. McHale and Sharon Cermak, they discovered that fine motor skills enable students to succeed in a typical elementary school setting. Specifically, fine motor skills are categorized by the coordination of small muscle movements, in which a person's hands and feet will work in-sync with their eyes. The results show that students spent 30-60% of a school day fixated on fine motor tasks, with more focus on their handwriting skills.

Schools Seldom Provide Students with Handwriting Lessons Anymore

Students who had legible handwriting would be able to achieve a higher grade. This is understandable given that teachers can only give full credit on answers they can read clearly. The problem still stands as schools are dedicating more time to computer labs rather than handwriting skills, preventing students from having opportunities to practice their writing.

The good news is, occupational therapy has branched out into assisting with fine motor skills as well as handwriting. These specialists are trained to teach children and adults techniques that would improve their handwriting, even if they've experienced an injury or stroke.

How Can Occupational Therapists Help Children Develop Readable Handwriting?

An occupational therapist begins by evaluating the patient's ability to write letters on a line while keeping them consistently spaced apart. They might also look at characteristics of handwriting including the size and uniformity of printed letters.

Occupational therapy narrows down certain physical aspects of writing, a few examples being ways to hold a pen or pencil, to write with the proper motion and strength of one's fingers, or to apply pencil pressure without puncturing the paper. In that regard, they also assess one's writing skills in terms of overall speed, letter reversal rate, and directional changes. 

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