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Advice about Handwriting
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Advice about Handwriting
I am curious to find out what kind of handwriting instruction your
Kindergartner receives. Does their teacher show them how to hold a pencil
and proper letter formation? If so, are these skills taught throughout the
whole school year? If not, what is the teacher's philosophy about why
they do not teach pencil grip and letter formation?
Our son is Kinder at Thousand Oaks in Berkeley. The first thing they were
taught was how to properly hold a pencil. ''Pinch it, flip it & got it.''
was the saying they used. For learning letters, one method used is
Handwriting Without Tears. Also they use phrases to learn to write each
letter. I think it's call SFA (Success For All) Alphabet Phrases. Example,
for a lower case ''a'' they would trace and/or write an ''a'' while saying
''around the apple and down the leaf/stem''. Writing letters correct is
practiced throughout the year and we're also given homework to reinforce
what's being taught at school.
Mommy of a 2nd Grader & Kinder
My daughters go to Emerson Elementary in Berkeley. Two weeks into
kindergarten, my younger one got taught the proper grip, and her
handwriting as well as her drawing changed instantly from the worst in her
preschool to among the best in K. It was simply amazing. There is a lot of
work on handwriting, and I think they will even learn cursive before too
I know there was a similar posting a few weeks ago but I
didn't catch the advice offered. My 10 year old 5th grade
son has always had a difficult time with handwriting and
drawing. His penman ship is now legible but far from neat,
he still mixes lower and uppercase letters and really only
draws stick figures and very simple objects (his work
looks more like that of a 6 year old) He is dexterous with
other fine motor skills like working with tools or beads,
his hands are very strong and he grips the pencil
normally. He has no problem with spelling,vocabulary,
comprehension or sentence structure but writing is VERY
slow and exhausting. His hand can't keep up with the
thoughts so he despises writing and generally writes just
enough to get by. He has always complained about hand
fatigue and that it is physcially painful to write despite
holding the pencil correctly and sitting with good
posture. We do plan to work more on touchtyping but at
this age writing by hand is crutial for school. Any
advice on how to make this less painful would be much
What you describe is pretty classic dysgraphia. How are his other
language skills (reading, writing, spelling)? If it is only the
handwriting, you can work with an occupational therapist or an
educational therapist who handles dysgraphia. If he works well with
you, you could also use the Handwriting Without Tears program, which
is available online (HWTears.com), and designed for either classroom
or home use. It's pretty great.My own kids learned with it in public school,
and I wish all schools used it. If you want to go with a
professional, you can call Michelle Ross, E.T., at the Scottish Rite
Temple in Oakland, who uses HWT, and I'm sure there are plenty of
others around who do too. Tell her I sent you, and good luck whatever you
choose. If you think there are other issues in play (spelling,
reading etc.), I would be happy to talk with you. I'm not a
handwriting specialist, but I do work with language-based learning
differences, and handwriting is often a piece of that.
Get the workbook, ''Handwriting Without Tears''. My son has sensory integration
disorder and his OT has him work on handwriting with this book. My son is
never excited to do ''homework'' so I would have to say that the title
may be a bit
misleading as they still have to do the work, but his penmanship has improved.
I would have him tested or seen by an Occupational Therapist or Learning
Specialist. Maybe even look into a Developmental Pediatrician. There is
something called Dysgraphia, which I don't know much about, but just list it to
let you know that there are diagnoses out there that may apply to your son.
Once you know what the problem is you can get OT or other help for him as
well as looking into a 504 plan with the school which would allow him
''accomodations'' like extra time for writing, less writing, or the use of a
computer, to assist him. Re the 504, typically the schools are reluctant to do
them and you may need an advocate to come in with you to get it. This is
someone who does this as part of their job and you would hire them on your
behalf. Good luck.
I recommend that you see a pediatric occupational therapist.
They will work with your child on a series of hierarchical
exercises to enable her to hold the pen properly. In Orinda,
I recommend Lee Ann Williams, Gail Gordon, and Kristine
Hubner-Lavin. I'm sure you'll find others nearer to you. The
public school districts also have OTs. You can request an
evaluation to see if she would qualify for school services.
Least expensive option: Crayon Rocks (soy based tiny crayons that are shaped so
you have to hold them in the elusive ''tripod'' grip).
More expensive option: Pediatric Occupational Therapy. That's what they do.
My son is in 3rd grade, and has never been a happy writer.
He has a long history of staring at a blank page and being
completely unable to come up with anything to write. Even
if he's given prompts, pictures, ideas, questions... he
can't get himself to start. It creates a lot of stress at
our house, as his schoolwork is increasingly report-oriented.
His handwriting, which has always been quite poor, is
getting a bit better, but he still needs constant reminders
to put spaces between his words. If he tells me the words,
I can take dictation for him, and he can copy it over, but
he still doesn't like that. At least he gets the words on
paper. And he often has quite a lot to say, although
sometimes his wonderful verbage will get cut short because
he doesn't want to have to write it all.
Everything else he does is above grade level, but that one
thing is not only nowhere near grade level, it's also just
going to get harder as he goes into 4th grade. His 2nd
grade teachers gave him 'handwriting without tears' which
actually did cause quite a few tears and not much
improvement, and his 3rd grade teacher has been giving him
extra time, extra help, and visits to the language
specialist [that's recent]. Finally, he also gets extremely
frustrated with his inability to type quickly - not that it
helps transfer his thoughts to the page either.
What is this? What else should we do?
-frustrated kid, frustrated parent!
Just wanted to let you know- you're not alone. You just
described my 9 year old son EXACTLY! Unfortunately I don't
have any advice but we have had the same struggles and
same advice/interventions from teachers. We've tried it
all but his writing is still sloppy, the process is still
torturous and he always underachieves in writing because
the process of putting thoughts on paper is so
frustrating. And just as you describe typing is only
slightly easier for him than handwriting. I too have had
the most success with letting him dictate to me and then
copy over my handwriting (otherwise he will write less
just to be done with it). The best advice I have received
is to have him really learn to touchtype. It seems that
many teachers in the upper grades allow kids with
handwriting difficulties to use computers if it improves
Still hoping it's a phase
Hi - My son is 14 but had similar experiences. My advice
is to get a good tutor to help him with writing, and get
him evaluated ASAP for learning disabilities.
My son learned to read but never liked it and had a lot
of trouble writing. We had him evaluated by the school
district and Caroline Johnson (neuropsych and one of the
best). He was diagnosed with AD/HD and a mild/moderate
language processing issue (dyslexia). He also has issues
with handwriting (dysgraphia) and started keyboarding in
3rd grade. Problems with writing are common with learning
disabilities, but can be missed if kids learn to read
without extra help. Schools don't want to evaluate kids,
you should make a request in writing for an evaluation
under IDEA and/or a 504 plan to get special services at
school. You can do a private evaluation and either pay or
see if insurance will cover the expense. You will need to
be aggressive to get real help from public schools, and
outside services are often of better quality.
My son has worked with Pam Marquardt at Grasshopper
Tutoring for six years now. She's a former elementary
teacher who understands learning disabilities. She is
competent, compassionate and respectful of kids with
learning issues - the kind of teacher we all pray our kids
encounter in their life. You can google her web site.
Having a tutor makes it easier for kids, who are less
likely to act out with a third party and you can have a
less charged relationship with your child.
My son is doing basically very well, but still struggles
with some issues at school. He is happy, and self-
confident, and learning to develop his skills in areas
outside of academics. For these kids the real challenge is
surviving school with their sense of self intact, and not
letting their academic issues define who they are as human
By the way, the best advice I got was to bolster your kids
areas of strength, even at the expense of spending time
and energy reinforcing their weaknesses. They are more
likely to spend their life doing the things they are good
at then the things they struggle with. We all hopefully,
play to our strengths when choosing a career. For my son
it's art, music, friends, outdoor skills. I think the
best book in this area, if you are into reading is Mel
Levine's ''The Myth of Laziness'' (the title may not be
exact). Good luck.
typing may be your long-term solution. i believe that having read-able
handwriting is a life skill (how 20th century!), so I've been holding off on
In terms of writing as a skill, I'm pretty convinced it's something you have to
do to improve. It depends on your son's temperament and whether your
relationship could handle it, but why not have him write every day over the
summer? Attach it to something he wants that he can earn. Or, just say it's
the price of all the summer fun. The fall-back topic is always what he did
yesterday. Get a notebook, and he will be able to see the progress he made
by the end of the summer.
My mother made me write much more than the school required and (only in
retrospect) I realize how much it helped. I do it now with my son (who is
another stare-into-space-guy because he doesn't know what to write).
Other people will recommend learning to type programs, but even then I still
argue for daily writing on the computer. And, turn off spell-check so he
learns to spell.
My motivation is simple. I'd love to have other kids forced to write so my son
can't say ''everyone else doesn't write over the summer...''
wielding a whip
Our son had difficulty with hand writing and it got in
the way of his writing for content. We used the summer to
teach him typing skills. We got the teacher to agree that
if the assignment was handwriting (letter formation with a
pencil or pen) he would use a pen or pencil. If the
assignment was ''brainwriting'' (writing for content) he
would use the computer.
Getting the letter formation out of the way made it
much easier for our son to express himself. There is a
tool called an AlphaSmart. Most schools have some. It
looks like a keyboard with a small screen. The alpahsmart
can plug into any computer so your son can write his home
work on it using it and then plug it into the computer at
school to print out the finished work or to continue
working on it at school.
I've been a writing tutor and also have a son in third grade
with messy handwriting. For some people, the act of writing
itself is anxiety-producing. I've found that if you ask the
topic question of someone, then write down the response
YOURSELF, the spell of anxiety is released. This way the
person can concentrate on the content of what he or she has
to say, rather than getting it neat or ''right.'' You
mentioned that your son has a lot to say so I think this
might be true in his case. In my opinion it's much more
important to feel confident about writing and to concentrate
on the what (the content) than the actual physical act of
writing. If your son's teacher feels strongly that he
practice handwriting or typing, he can always take what
you've written down (of his words) and write it or type it
Substance Over Form
You are describing my child. He has had the same problem all of his school
years (he's in 3rd grade also) -- but with us, we knew what was happening
because his father had the exact same problem.
Your child most likely has a learning disability. Sometimes it's referred to as
But the problem seems to be that the act of writing takes up so much of the
child's working memory that there's no room left for what they are going to
write. Typing is a similar problem, though it can be less severe.
We have done several things for my son:
1) we got him classified with an IEP, so that he can have extra time, and time
in the resource room (and help from the lovely resource teacher) with fewer
distractions, to complete more complex assignments. They also provided
some occupational therapy for him.
2) I do exactly as you say with what we call ''composition'' assignments (i.e.
where he has to write a paragraph about something) -- he dictates, I write
down, he copies. That way he can learn the skill of composition uninhibited
by the physical act of writing
3) We did a series of writing exercises, every single morning before school,
for over a year. They came from the Handwriting without Tears book. Every
day he did a page, and for a week's worth of pages, no muss no fuss, he got
a reward (in his case a pack of Pokemon cards).
If you would like to contact me, you can email me with your phone # and we
can talk more about this.
I was a career elementary school teacher at the same time
a mother of a young son. My son like many boys had
terrible handwriting in elementary school. Once he
learned to decode the words he became an avid reader, but
the decoidng part was a challenge. (He learned to read in
second grade, rather than first).
He is now an adult, with a background in the building
trades, and has acquired the writing of buildters and
architects which is - printing.
Boys' fine motor coordination may come later than that of
grilds, and expecting him to have the neat penmanship of a
girl may be too stressful.
I opt for the dictation option. Query-does typing demand
the same fine motor coordination that he seems to be
lacking right now?
Lynn Mother of 45-year-old son who had handwriting issues
Son had similar struggles with handwriting and with writing
output, ie extreme difficulty writing in English and later
history, etc. We did not think to have him tested until
8th grade. Didn't know that public schools will test,upon
request. The tests were not conclusive and we had him
privately tested in 9th grade. There were a number of issues
including ADD, dysgraphia and expressive language issues.
It went undetected for so long that he also became anxious
and depressed. I encourage you to request that your
school test your son. The sooner you figure out if your son
has any LD, the sooner you can get a 504, IEP, and get him
the accommodations he needs to succeed. Don't delay.
My daughter's oldest child just turned 4 last month. She also has a 2 year old.
The 4 year old was very slow learning how to talk; Wisconsin (where she lives)
sent out a therapist once a week to teach him sign language but then he
started talking, esp. when she put him in a nice day care last year half day.
Now, he can write and read ''H'' and likes to proclaim ''H is for Harris!'' (his
name) but my daughter is concerned because he can't write his entire name.
She says the other kids in his class do. I know nothing about any of this, but
told her that kids ''get it'' at different ages, and he will get it, just be patient.
I wonder if there is a correlation between learning to talk and learning to
write? Also, is this variation in learning amongst kids in this age normal?
Meaning, it's normal for some kids to be writing their name at 4, and others
to not be?
I might add that the 2 year old is completely different: he is babbling words
(single and double syllables) trying to put sentences together (and is SO
CUTE!!! with his soft baby voice!!!). The contrast with the 4 year old is striking.
We are unsure if it's because he has an older brother to talk with and the day
care, to stimulate language, or something innate in him.
Dear Nanni, I think you are right that kids ''get it'' at
different times. Not all kids can write their name at 4.
My very bright daughter was an early and precocious
talker, but didn't learn to write her name until age 5,
and often got the letters out of order or backwards. Or
added extra letters. It was adorable! She started reading
and writing pretty well in a very short period of time
when she was almost 6.
Talking late is correlated with dyslexia. Dyslexic kids
struggle with writing and spelling as well as reading.
Early intervention can make a big difference. You could
read the book Overcoming Dyslexia.
It has two charts, one of development of speech, language,
prereading and reading skills for typically developing kids
and one for dyslexic kids that can help you decide whether
what you are seeing is cause for concern. You may want to
encourage your daughter to have her son evaluated through
the local school district.
He may be young to get a diagnosis of dyslexia, but he is
not too young to play lots of rhyming games and work on
identifying initial and final sounds in short words.
Your grandson is lucky to have a grandma on the lookout.
It is VERY normal for a 4 year old not to write yet. While there is sometimes a
correlation between late speech development and hitting expected writing and
reading milestones, if he is learning his letters, and their sounds, that is
perfectly age appropriate. Please don't let him be pressured to write his name
now, this early kind of well-intentioned academic pressure easily backfires, and
causes a lot of frustration for kids. If he can't write his name at 6, that would be
We came from cultures where cursive handwriting is taught
before manuscript. We have been visiting some schools (public
and private) for our prospective kindergartner and we noticed
that the emphasis is given to manuscript writing and reading
instead of cursive. We also realized that the transition from
manuscript to cursive in the second or third grade is harder
than beginning in K or first grade with the cursive handwriting.
That is a cultural value that we’d like to preserve in our
family, and for that reason we’re looking for a school
(public/private) where the kids learn first to write/read in
Unfortunately, homeschooling is not an option. We live in
Berkeley, so we are open to Berkeley, Oakland, Albany and El
I know that the East Bay French American School (Ecole Bilingue)
starts kids out learning cursive handwriting before printing. I
was quite amazed to learn that this is actually easier for
children to do.
My three girls attended the same Montessori school starting at
age 2 and into the elementary years (the Renaissance School in
Dimond District of Oakland). The first two learned block
lettering first and then moved to cursive which was a hurdle
(but not insurmountable, and their cursive over time has
improved). The third child learned cursive first in
preschool/K and at 6 years old, her cursive is beautiful. The
children still end up learning block because most reading books
are in block, but our school has been trying to locate more
early reader books in cursive to reinforce that lettering a t
the young age. In the long run, my children did recognize both
and my 6 y.o. can write in block as well (it is also
improving). A parent of one of her classmates says her son's
cursive isn't so great, so there is probably an element of fine
motor control, but I suppose that affects both cursive and
When the school said that my youngest would learn cursive
first, I was concerned that it would affect her reading ''block''
books, but the school mentioned some evidence about a more
natural progression from cursive to block (I can't remember the
details anymore and it is probably similar to your cultural
philosophy). In the end, I have observed with my child that
learning to write cursive first was NOT a problem in terms of
reading ''block'' books... in case anyone is wondering.
1st grader with poor handwriting skills
Hello to all, My 6 1/2 year old is in a two-way English/Spanish curricula
embedded in Cragmont Elementary School's regular school year. Her primary
language is English, but she does seem to be acquiring Spanish along with
most of the tasks required of 1st graders. Problem is this, her handwriting
is poor. She has never liked to color, is better but still resistant to
writing assignments. Her fine motor skills for writing/art/painting seem to
be slow in coming. She also struggles to tie shoes. Otherwise she can and
does everything else within the scope of fine motor just fine or better. Any
suggestions on games, tricks, exercises, etc. on improving handwriting?
Thanks in advance.
My son, now a secondgrader, also struggles with his handwriting. He
writes like a three year old. He also never colored as a preschooler and
avoids writing whenever possible. He is 7 and just learned to tie his shoes
last week. The resource teacher at his school suggested activities to build
large motor skills and upper body strength (such as karate) so that he
would be better able to develop his fine motor skills and suggested
activities such as using his fingers to draw in the sand (for better
tactile understanding of the relationship between hand and page), but
because his academic performance was excellent in all other aspects, he was
not eligible for the resource teacher's ongoing help. We then had him
assessed by a developmental pediatrician (after getting a referral to one
by our Health Net pediatrician) who then referred us to an occupational
therapist. He has several activities that he does with his therapist:
theraputty squeezes to strengthen his hands; bead stringing and pin pushes
to develop his fine motor skills; drawing curves and circles for better
control. In school he uses a special pencil grip (called Smart Start, I
think) and a band that goes over the pencil and his finger to give him
better form and control.
I highly recommend occupational therapy because as your child progresses
in school, and writing becomes more and more important, there is going to
be a real gap in how your child performs, and it can take forever to get
resource help for your child. We have been trying to get the school to
provide resource help since he was in kindergarten and haven't been
successful so we went the private therapy route.
I have an eight year old with very poor handwriting, an issue we have been
dealing with since kindergarten. I can suggest a few things.
We did occupational therapy in kindergarten with Gail Gordon,an occupational
therapist, who worked with him on writing and other fine motor skills.
We reinforced this at home.
Many of his issues have to do with how he holds a pencil, which usually
can be corrected with a pencil grip. These are readily available at
(Lakeshore Learning in San Leandro, the Oakland Parent Teacher store, and
also on the web at: http://www.thepencilgrip.com/thegrip.htm ). When we bought
them we bought LOTS of them for all of the kids in his classroom. His pencil
grip remains problematic. We are in the Oakland Public Schools, and while
OT is available in the schools, our child didn't qualify (not bad enough,
yet). We didn't deal with it much during second grade.
Now in third grade, where there is so much more writing, it's started
to make life very complicated for him. We've decided to get what is
called a 504 plan for him for dysgraphia. This is a disability designation.
What Gail Gordon and Dr. Brad Berman told us is that the earlier
he gets this in his file, the better it is for him. Because of the ADA,
it compels the school to accomodate his disability. They are going
to provide some OT, but more importantly make some accomodations in the
classroom. Among these accomodations, he will be given a keyboard to use,
longer time for written tests. Since it's in his file, these accommodations
will follow him to middle and high school where it so much more of an
Note that health insurance will in all likelihood not pay for your child's OT
unless prescribed by your child's pediatrician, and even
then, if you are in Pacificare/ABMG most likely still won't since it's
not a medical issue according to them. I tried to get them to pay, or
to give me an example of what they would pay and the only example of one
that they would pay was for a downs syndrome child with tone problems.
In any case, they only refer to the group at AB/Herrick, and Gail was
Dr. Berman whom we trust, so we paid out of pocket. This is not an inexpensive
option ($65 a session) and probably not a choice for everyone.
Most likely, this is more than your child will need. If you'd like to discuss
this further, I'd be happy to.
Someone wanted recommendations for her child who was having trouble
with writing. These activities develop the muscles and the coordination
that is needed.
Some fun fine motor activities are: stringing beads, clay (spongy
modelling clay is easy to work and can be used in small pieces), legos
(also builds spatial reasoning), bristle blocks, making collages, sewing
and lacing. Most of this you can make on your own, but Amsterdam Art has a
selection of kits, and there's a company "Lauri" 8004510520 that has
attractive lacing projects (Lakeshore Teacher's Supply carries some of
My 6 year old, in first grade, hates to write. He's doing fine with reading
skills. He loves art projects, puzzles, building things, etc, but has never
liked coloring. I think some children develop this skill later than others.
My 10 year old also hated to write and eventually he got better at it and it
wasn't an issue. Their little muscles aren't used to holding pencils and
doing this fine motor skill. It takes practice which can be frustrating.
Now that Kobi can sound out words he enjoys filling in the missing letter of
3 letter words (and drawing the picture of it) ie: If the given letters are P
E ___he might fill in a "T" and draw a picture (very basic pencil drawing) of
a cat or dog.
He loves connect the dots, which improves his number reading. This works for
us. Fighting with him did not work. My suggestion to you is not to worry
about it and let her progress at her own speed, with encouragement but not
pushing. Good luck.
My daughter faced all the challenges you describe. My advice is to
immediately request an evaluation by your school districts Special
Education Department. Your request must be in writing and send a
courtesy copy to your child's Principal. If possible, hand deliver
your letter and ask for a dated receipt. The district must respond
to your request within 15 days. I also suggest asking your pediatrician
for an occupational therapy evaluation referral. The school district
will do it's own evaluation. If you private evaluation supports the
need for the school to provide services, the school is more likely
to do so. The School District should provide occupational therapy
as well as classroom support if her fine motor abilities are
interfering with her abilities as a student.
I recommend you contact your
district's special education dept. We live in Albany, and my son has been in
speech therapy for two years (he'll be starting kindergarten next fall, but
will be five this month). Last week, the speech therapist brought in an
occupational therapist to work with him on his handwriting and other related
skills, like painting and scissors. Apparently, these two are related (speech
and fine motor skills). In his case, his neurological functioning is either
delayed or different, but it's subtle, and is just enough to make such tasks
very frustrating (resulting in avoidance behavior and alot of reluctance).
The O.T. was able to figure out a better way for my son to hold the pencil
than the usual, "correct," way that seems to allow him to write much smaller
and more comfortably. The school should be able to refer you to the
appropriate specialist, and as it's public school, it should be free (it's
actually covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act). Maybe even one
time would be enough to get a feel for what's going on with your daughter.
Best luck!Roxane W.
First let me tell you that a lot of first graders are
struggling with this issue. It is good that you're
taking notice and trying to help, especially since
children will have to do increasingly more writing and
you don't want your child to become frustrated. The
finemotor skills can often impede the flow of ideas
and make writing a painful experience. I have had
much success with a program called "handwriting
without tears." They are on the web. Also, buy as
many different pens as you can: different sizes,
shapes, colors etc. will make drawing more enticing.
Playdough, chalk, writing in the sand, fingerpainting
in the bathtub: all this is good. A keyboarding class
would also be helpful for writing assignments in the
meantime. Get dolls or other toys that teach how to
tie shoelaces, zip zippers etc. Finally, you may get
advice from an occupational therapist. A good one to
call would be Liz Isono at 9252530788. Most
importantly, keep praising your child and don't make
this a big issue. You don't want her to become
selfconscious and start comparing herself to her
peers or worse, start to dislike school.
My second grade son has had trouble with writing and drawing all along. His
written work has consistently been the messiest and his drawing the least
developed in his class. He is also very intelligent, verbally adept, and
athletically gifted. He's reading about at grade level but has some fluency
issues. His (private) school has recommended that he work with an educational
therapist over the summer on the writing and reading fluency. I spoke with the
therapist and she charges quite a bit...in fact if we did what was recommended
it would cost around $1000. That's a lot for us, we are really stretching to
afford his school. On the other hand we want him to get the support he needs.
Has anyone else had experience with this? Did you get the extra support and
feel it was money well spent or did you wait it out and just teach him to type
or some other solution? Thanks for your help!
Hello, When my son was in first grade he had trouble with his
writing skills. Fortunately, he went to a wonderful montessori
school and we were instructed by his teacher to teach him to
cross stitch. Since I knew how, I easily taught him, and he
would spend hours doing simple projects. It did improve his fine
motor skills (writing/drawing). As for the reading issue--I
would spend more time reading with him (both you reading to him
and him to you). Hope the advice helps.
mother who has been there
Our son, now in second grade, has had similar writing
difficulties since kindergarten, as well as other fine motor
issues, and still does. Two years ago, we signed him up for
some OT (occupational therapy) at a local hospital and they
spent LOTS of time, much to our surprise, on improving
handwriting. They use a pencil grip and his handwriting did
improve to some extent, although the spacing is still a problem,
and he is not yet writing cursive. You might check this out, as
many health plans will pay for OT services.
Perhaps you could investigate some alternative rather than
traditional methods. My son, too, is sloppy with his writing,
not that advanced in his drawing (although he loves and is very
expressive in water colors), and performing well above average
in math and reading. We created a project last summer where we
had a journal conversation. I expected his neatest writing and
we had a great deal of fun with this. And again, you can also
let him find other ways to express himself artistically
(painting, sculpture, legos?). Also, my kids godmother has done
some very interesting and non-traditional tutoring work where
she just helps kids relax with what they are doing. It isn't
always necessary for kids to be on par with some expected
average at that age, so if you do work with him, I suggest that
it be in a very relaxed way so he doesn't feel some pressure to
perform. Good Luck!
Sounds like your child may need Occupational therapy in
particular, rather than general educational therapist. Among
other things, Occupational therapists teach handwriting and
drawing in systematic way to kids who don't acquire it from the
mainstream class/ life route. Last I looked, private OTs were
$80 per session (45 min or one hour I can't recall which -- so
once a week for a 10 week summer would be like $800). You
should ask your pediatrician/ look into your health insurance,
it's possible to get it through insurance although that could be
limited to kids with more overarching disabilities (I have no
idea). In any case, insurance might pay for an evaluation if
your pediatrician recommends it. Another cheaper route would be
to get materials from Handwriting Without Tears (www.hwt.com I
think) and do it yourself at home. But, I think HWT is just
handwriting (so won't address drawing skills), and without
professional intervention you won't address or areas that might
require expertise such pencil grip or arm movement.
My teacher was told by an OT that my eight year old's sons
illegible handwriting cannot be corrected because it is habitual.
My husband and I started taking him to a speech therapist and an
occupational therapist and there has been some major
improvements. He is doing well in school--except delayed
reading--now we know--because we went for outside help that he
has visual and processing issues. His math scores are high. He
is fine. I wondered if the school's occupational therapist
overloaded or uninformed?
I had poor handwriting until about the age of 10. At that point, my
mother sat me down and made me practice out of a handbook every night
for about 15 minutes before dinner. I'm now in my thirties and still get
compliments on my handwriting. I did not have reading set-backs or
anything, though, so I don't know if that makes a big difference.
The point is that my mother helped me to change the ''habit'' of poor
penmanship into excellent handwriting.
I hope that's encouraging.
Talk to Liz Isono (510-717-1300). She is an expert on children with
My son is only 5, not 8, but we've seen enormous improvement with a
program called Handwriting Without Tears. Check it out on the
web--perhaps you can order some workbooks and supplies yourself, or work
with an O.T. (We found the program through our O.T.). There are
separate programs for printing and cursive.
You can purchase a book on how to write in calligraphy and make a
pursuit of this yourself. Your son will be interested in what you are
doing. He is pretty young for creating repeating forms but if he sees
you doing it he will be interested. In addition if you write down in
pencil what you would like him to learn and have him trace it with a
felt tip pen he will learn to guide his hand in better formations. Also
in Walgreens they have books for kids to form their printing letters
correctly. You can get one of those and spend some time with him. In
time he will retrain.
show a love for doing these things and he will respond.
When I hear any professional saying there's nothing that can be done, I
think what they often really mean is THEY don't know what to do. If your
son has shown improvement with outside help, you are on the right track.
continue in that vein and is someone tells you something is hopeless,
seek another opinion.
Handwriting can often be corrected, and it is especially likely that you
could do it with an eight-year-old. Talk to your pedeatrician, who can
reccomend a specialist.
Your kid sounds VERY much like mine -- my boy is now 12. He also has
had somewhat ''global'' problems but at a fairly low level -- speech,
visual processing, fine and gross motor (fine motor is the handwriting).
And like your son, he was very smart and good at math. I'll bet your
kid has a very highly developed memory, to compensate for his struggles
at getting information down on paper or out through speech.
My experience is that a good OT and lots of work can help with the
handwriting, but at around age 8 I bought my son an Alphasmart -- small
word-processing computer, see http://alphasmart.com/ and sent him to
typing classes at the Center for Accessible Technology in Berkeley, see
What we found is that the process of producing words on page with a
pencil/pen was so agonizingly difficult that all the cognitive stuff
would just fall by the wayside.
Typing overcame that to an enormous extent. He is now an avid creative
writer, on the Alphasmart.
Keep working on the handwriting -- have you seen ''Handwriting Without
Again: http://www.hwtears.com/. Because there will always be times when
he must write things down (math, for example). But let go of the idea
that his handwriting will ever be beautiful. Good luck to you --
this page was last updated: Sep 10, 2011
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