Answer: (Pencil Grasp)

 

Your son seems to exhibit a difficulty with force modulation (the ability to regulate pressure exerted during fine motor tasks). One reason may be poor upper body strength and stability, causing him to compensate for shoulder weakness by gripping his pencil tightly. Activities to improve upper extremity strength and stability such as animal walks and working on a vertical surface, such as an easel as an easel may be helpful. 

Another cause of poor force modulation arises from difficulty processing sensory feedback from his fingers. Some children can improve in this area by playing games that improve their attention to fingertips. If this is an issue with your son, then have him try to identify objects through touch alone (not relying on vision.

Games such as "Topple", "Don't Spill the Beans", "Chairs", "Jenga", and building block towers help a child to develop a delicate touch.

TM

                    Q & A . . . 

Designed by Lisa Marnell, MS, OTR/L

Occupational Therapist

Question: (Pencil Grasp)

 

My son holds his pencil far too tightly. He breaks pencils all the time and even pokes holes through his paper. Telling him to change this makes little difference. What can I do?

Question: (Pencil Grasp)

 

My son holds his pencil far too tightly. He breaks pencils all the time and even pokes holes through his paper. Telling him to change this makes little difference. What can I do?

Question: (Fine Motor Skills)

 

I have a little boy who has never been very interested in coloring or writing. He started out by holding his pencil like a dagger, and now he usually holds the pencil like everyone else. He's a really bright boy who can read well and do math well, but he has a problem finishing handwriting. I welcome your help.

Answer: (Pencil Grasp)

 

Your son seems to exhibit a difficulty with force modulation (the ability to regulate pressure exerted during fine motor tasks). One reason may be poor upper body strength and stability, causing him to compensate for shoulder weakness by gripping his pencil tightly. Activities to improve upper extremity strength and stability such as animal walks and working on a vertical surface, such as an easel as an easel may be helpful. 

Another cause of poor force modulation arises from difficulty processing sensory feedback from his fingers. Some children can improve in this area by playing games that improve their attention to fingertips. If this is an issue with your son, then have him try to identify objects through touch alone (not relying on vision.

Games such as "Topple", "Don't Spill the Beans", "Chairs", "Jenga", and building block towers help a child to develop a delicate touch.

Answer: (Fine Motor Skills)

 

As an Occupational Therapist, I have often found that some of the most engaging and intelligent children are challenged with handwriting and find motor tasks. So often I have seen boys have a hard time. 

I have found in my experience that teaching handwriting works best when it is broken into two main components: 1- Mastery of fine motor skills and visual motor skills. 

                                            Try to work on hand skills that he enjoys. These may include playing                                                      games like "Battleship", "Operation", "Lite Brite", and "Connect Four".

                                   2- Learning letters

                                             One of the best (and most fun) way to learn letters is to write them on a                                               variety of media (try sandpaper, finger paint, shaving cream and hot                                                     chocolate). Writing letters on a chalk board is a great next step. 

You mentioned that he has never been interested in coloring so I wonder about fine motor skills. You may wish to speak with his teacher or his pediatrician further about his abilities. 

Question: (Illegible writing)

Hi, I am a middle school teacher and I have several students with barely legible handwriting. How do I teach them handwriting skills at this age without embarrassing them in front of their peers? Many times I have them type their assignments, but this too causes a problem due to time constraints. Any suggestions?

Answer: (Illegible writing)

 

I suggest introducing the subject of handwriting to the class as a whole. Convey to them that people have all different styles, strengths, and weaknesses. Your objective at this stage is to have the kids analyze their own writing to help them understand how they can improve. Provide a sample of your own writing with clear errors in it (such as poor letter formation, letter size, not aligning the letters on the line or not spacing words appropriately). Just one sentence is plenty. Have each child rewrite it. 

Addressing handwriting difficulties can make kids feel frustrated. As they develop insight regarding their areas of weakness, we want to help them focus on specific skills they can improve. In regards to not embarrassing them, try a short class on writing, explaining the four main areas of legible writing (letter formation, sizing, alignment on the writing line, and spacing between words). Explain that writing can look much better when a kid or teen improves even one of these areas.

Answer: (Illegible writing)

 

I suggest introducing the subject of handwriting to the class as a whole. Convey to them that people have all different styles, strengths, and weaknesses. Your objective at this stage is to have the kids analyze their own writing to help them understand how they can improve. Provide a sample of your own writing with clear errors in it (such as poor letter formation, letter size, not aligning the letters on the line or not spacing words appropriately). Just one sentence is plenty. Have each child rewrite it. 

Addressing handwriting difficulties can make kids feel frustrated. As they develop insight regarding their areas of weakness, we want to help them focus on specific skills they can improve. In regards to not embarrassing them, try a short class on writing, explaining the four main areas of legible writing (letter formation, sizing, alignment on the writing line, and spacing between words). Explain that writing can look much better when a kid or teen improves even one of these areas.

Question: (Cursive Writing)

 

Please help me! 

My daughter is very bright and inquisitive. She loved kindergarten, first, second grades. Now they have started teaching cursive at school and she hates it! 

I am concerned that she is going to start hating school as well. 

Please help me with any suggestions you may have to motivate her to try cursive. I think she'll like it once she masters it. Thank you in advance for your response.

Answer: (Cursive Writing)

 

Good for you for addressing this handwriting difficulty right away!

My answer to your question is twofold:

1- Get involved at home and approach teaching cursive in a systematic, well thought-out manner.

 

2- Try to make it fun!

3- I have provided occupational therapy to help children in grades 3 through 8 master cursive writing. I find that success comes most easily when letters are grouped according to the way they are formed. For example, once you have mastered "i" in cursive, you are just a step away from mastering "t". Like wise for "a" and "c".

4- Practice cursive by making a weekly grocery list and try other fun writing activities. 

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