Therapist and child practicing handwriting sat at a desk

Handwriting Improvement Therapy


An occupational therapist can improve your child's handwriting. The occupational therapist would use a combination of assessment and treatment to address poor handwriting. Handwriting is a complex process and is not as simple as people think. An occupational therapist can analyse the underlying aspects behind your child's poor handwriting and offer treatment sessions to improve handwriting.

What exactly is handwriting and what does it involve?


Handwriting is the integration of a series of complex fine motor movements, visual-perceptual skills and language comprehension needed to accurately control a pen or pencil to produce representative patterns that form letters and words as a means of communication.

For a child to accurately perform such complex movements required for handwriting, they need to have developed crucial underlying skills that support the various aspects of writing. From a therapy point of view, handwriting can be broken down into three fundamental areas, language comprehension, motor skills and visual-perceptual skills. Therefore successful handwriting development must involve all three of these aspects:

Language comprehension: The ability to understand, recall and vocalise letters and words, including a distinct understanding of how letters are correctly formed, spaced and aligned on the page.

Motor skills: The ability to accurately control the hands, fingers and stabilise larger muscle groups (such as the shoulder, forearm and core) in order to provide legible and accurate writing that does not drift across the page.

Visual-perceptual skills: The visual skills needed to distinguish and comprehend lines on a page and how they relate with each other to form pictures, letters and words.

Why do we need good handwriting?


Handwriting is an important aspect of childhood, both during school life and at home, good handwriting enables your child to display their cognitive ability. Legible handwriting allows the class teacher to accurately test and analyse if the child understands set work. For example, a child who struggles to write may often be left behind in group classroom activities (such as writing a story and mental maths). Poor handwriting could lead to an inaccurate representation of your child's ability because of their difficulty to communicate through writing if they understood the concept. There are also links to further education and professional life, in English GCSE tests for example, a slow writer may struggle to record all their thoughts in the allotted time, or in professional life, medical notes are often handwritten, poor handwriting could lead to key information being misunderstood.

How can we help improve handwriting?


As an occupational therapist, we have the knowledge and expertise to not only analyse which aspects of handwriting your child is struggling with, but offer precise and tailored treatment sessions to improve handwriting. As with many difficulties, it is beneficial to address handwriting as soon as possible. There is a lot of research to support that children are capable of adapting and re-wiring their brains better than those of older age, therefore by employing therapy sooner rather than later the changes and improvements are more likely to be made.

Problems that may require handwriting help

  • Poor fine motor control
  • Struggles to draw circles (often looking like squares)\
  • Poor legibility of writing
  • Handwriting appears cramped or unusually spaced
  • Writing drifting across the page
  • Letters poorly formed/formed backwards
  • Poor posture
  • Unable to identify mistakes made
The theory behind using OT to improve handwriting is by allowing the child to play, write and learn through various sensory inputs, meaningful activities and writing programmes, which will develop the underlying skills needed for successful handwriting. The therapist will use a variety of approaches that may not always involve a pencil to improve writing, for example, by using activities that require the child to pick up objects using only their thumb and index finger will improve pincer grip strength and manipulation, subsequently improving handwriting as a result.

Underlying skills:


There are many underlying skills that influence good handwriting, some of which are listed below:
  • Figure-ground discrimination,
  • Pincer grip
  • Finger strength
  • Finger manipulation
  • Visual perception
  • Shoulder stabilisation
  • Core stabilisation
  • Wrist strength and control
  • Pattern formation
  • Acute fine motor finger control
  • Pencil tripod grip
  • Understanding of the importance of spacing, alignment, letter size and slope in writing
An occupational therapist can help address all of the underlying aspects of writing, offering a high quality analysis and treatment plan. For example, to improve pincer grip, the therapist can play games that involve picking up objects using only the index finger and the thumb to strengthen the grip, this improved grip would then be transferred when holding a pencil during writing.

Suitable conditions that may require handwriting improvement


Below is an inconclusive list of conditions that may result in poor handwriting: Occupational therapy can aid in any of these conditions, however occupational therapists do not work exclusively with these conditions, and if you feel that your child is struggling to write, or would prefer a second opinion on how to improve your child's handwriting then please contact us.

Benefits of handwriting improvement

  • Increased legibility of writing
  • Able to accurately record information
  • Able to display cognitive ability
  • Function at a level similar to their classmates
  • Improved fine motor skills
  • Improved visual-perceptual skills
  • Increased confidence

Summary


In summary the occupational therapist would use a combination of assessment and treatment to improve handwriting. Handwriting is the integration of a series of complex fine motor movements, visual-perceptual skills and language comprehension needed to accurately control a pen or pencil to produce representative patterns that form letters and words as a means of communication. Handwriting is an important aspect of childhood, both during school life and at home, good handwriting enables your child to display their cognitive ability. An occupational therapist can help address all of the underlying aspects of writing, offering a high quality analysis and treatment plan, if you would like to speak to one of our team regarding your child's handwriting then please email office@otforkids.co.uk or call us on 0330 223 0888

Child writing on a sloped writing board, leaning forward
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Please contact one of our experienced occupational therapists today and we will gladly discuss how we can help and what services we can offer you.

Why choose us?

  • Caring and Professional Service
  • Variety of services available
  • First class Occupational Therapists
  • Modern clinics
  • Saturday and Sunday appointments available
  • Able to see you at home, in school or in one of our clinics
  • Registered with the Health Professions Council and the British Association of Occupational Therapy

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What people say about us...

OT for Kids have been a great help in aiding my son Jake with coping with his dyspraxia both at home and in school. They came out to our house and completed the assessment at home.

The assessment and report proved beneficial in our discussions with Jake's school and we are very pleased with the outcome the report has helped us achieve.
Jackie, parent.
At our school, there are many children who have difficulty forming letters correctly, concentrate or perform well in P.E, which can impact greatly on their learning. With the support and OT Groups available from OT for Kids, these children have made great progress and are now at a level which is not so concerning. As a teacher and SENCO, I thoroughly enjoyed working (and learning) from the Occupational Therapist.
Emily, SENCO and Teacher.
As a case manager, I regularly deal with many private companies. I found OT for Kids to be highly professional, reliable and provide me with flexible appointments that suited both me and my clients. The OT completed a comprehensive assessment and report, which was not only clear, concise and an accurate reflection of the difficulties, but it was returned to me quickly.
John, Case Manager.
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