Signs Your Child’s Handwriting Needs Help

January 23, 2019

As an occupational therapist (OT), I often evaluate children who have been referred to me because of poor handwriting skills. Many times a parent waits until a child has already developed poor habits and is struggling in school. Sometimes the parents noticed signs early on but decided not to intervene until a teacher voiced concerns. An OT can help to determine why a child is struggling and give you and your child the tips, tools, and training needed to make a change for the better.  Sometimes something as simple as a special pencil grip and simple instructions can not only improve skills but also change a child’s attitude and self-esteem, and an OT can provide the handwriting help you need.

Signs It’s Time for Help

  1. Your child’s handwriting is difficult to read after turning age 6.
  2. Your child easily breaks pencil points or writes so lightly it is difficult to read.
  3. Your child switches hands to write on the same side of the paper as the hand.
  4. Your child avoids placing letters on top and bottom lines and instead the letters float in between lines.
  5. Your child is holding the pencil in an immature way.
  6. Your child avoids placing the wrist against the writing surface such as the table or an easel.
  7. Your child tires easily when writing or dislikes it so much that he/she rushes to complete any work.
  8. Your child still reverses letters/numbers after the end of 1st grade.
  9. Your child avoids using the non-dominant hand to hold the paper when writing.
  10. Your child skips words or letters when copying.
  11. Your child is printing letters from the bottom line up or often right to left instead of left to right.
  12. Your child is leaving too little or too much space between letters/words.

How Can a Therapist Help?

Now that you understand some of the signs, how would an OT provide handwriting help? First we try to determine the cause. It could be anything from weak hand muscles to difficulty with coordinating the eye muscles to baby reflexes that should have gone away and haven’t yet. It can be very confusing without the trained eye and experience of a therapist. Once an idea of how to resolve the handwriting concerns is determined, an OT can develop a plan for you and  your child to follow by practicing exercises, using specialized tools or writing aids, and/or providing instruction that is consistent and age appropriate for your child which could include a handwriting program.

Remember to consult with your pediatrician for a prescription to see an occupational therapist if you have concerns so an evaluation can be completed. If your child is younger than five and you have concerns, check out a few of these helpful posts:

Is Your Child Ready To Learn How To Write? Part 1 

Is Your Child Ready To Learn How To Write? Part 2

Why Writing Capital Letters 1st is Key

Have a playful day!

Amy Baez, MOT, OTR/L

Amy Baez is the Founder of Playapy and Creator of the PALS Handwriting Program. She is a pediatric occupational therapist, speaker, and parent coach with over 18 years of experience. Learn more at www.playapy.com.

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