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Messy Handwriting: Cause for Concern?

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Handwriting is a complex skill involving your child’s coordination of visual, cognitive, sensory, language, and motor abilities.

Your child requires these abilities to:

· Hold and control a pencil

· Maintain good posture and correct arm position when writing

· Holding paper with one hand while writing with the other

· Apply the right amount of pressure on paper while using the writing tool

· Form letters

· Make correct sizes of letters

· Make good spacing between letters and words

· Put thoughts into words and sentences

When children struggle with these, it may result in messy handwriting that is difficult to read. Having trouble with handwriting doesn’t mean that your child is lazy or careless. He or she may have been trying very hard but needs support to improve.

Occupational Therapists can assess a child’s underlying issues for handwriting problems and assist in making improvements. They will assess the child’s baseline function and identify the major deficits or difficulties in areas such as fine motor skills, visual-motor integration, etc. The therapy interventions include:

· Consolidating fine and gross motor skills

· Improving pencil grasp and control

· Improving hand dominance and strength

· Maintaining good posture while writing to minimise hand fatigue

· Improving handwriting legibility

· Promoting better letter/number formation and sizing

· Correct use of lines

· Recommending accommodations at home or school environment such as lighting, different types of pencils, etc.

· Developing a variety of activities or tasks to be integrated into the child’s daily routine to broaden handwriting skillset.

Parents and teachers can help children improve their handwriting skills by giving regular encouragement for writing or drawing tasks (e.g. writing a thank you letter to friends). Children can also be engaged with household chores or school tasks involving their hands and bodies. Children should also be encouraged to use cutlery and utensils during mealtimes to foster their handgrip. Games and physical activities involving motor and visual coordination such as ball games and puzzles can be played at home or school. Speak to your Occupational Therapist today to find out more.

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