In our fast paced society, the ever changing race towards technological advancement has inevitably rendered some skills a relic of the past.
Some think that includes handwriting, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Handwriting is an essential skill for children to learn, for many reasons.
They’ll need to know how to write to succeed in school and beyond.
Writing helps to build other skills that lead to success in academics.
And more careers than you might think still require handwriting.
Therefore, early identification and treatment of childhood writing difficulties will help to prevent more serious, lifelong issues.
That’s where we come in.
We’re New Horizons Wellness Services, a pediatric occupational therapy in Portland with a passion for helping children develop all types of skills.
In this article, we’ll look at the causes for poor handwriting in children and how an occupational therapist can help.
What Causes Kids To Have Poor Handwriting?
But what exactly is poor handwriting?
We typically evaluate a child’s handwriting by assessing a variety of factors, such as:
- Letter formation
- Letter size
- Spacing between words
- The ability to write in a straight line
Therefore, many factors can play a role in childhood handwriting difficulties.
Effective writing requires constant, cohesive feedback between your mind and body.
It also requires the concentrated effort of multiple different types of skills, including:
- Visual perceptual coordination
- Core strength
- Fine motor skills, including pencil grip
- Hand strength
- Sensory motor skills
- Executive functioning
- Frustration tolerance
- And much more
An issue or deficiency in any one of these skills may lead to writing challenges.
A common misconception about poor handwriting during childhood is that it’s simply a result of laziness.
In reality, poor handwriting is most commonly a result of a learning, attention, or motor skills issue.
Next, we’ll go into more detail about a few such issues.
1. Poor Fine Motor Skills
Your fine motor skills help you perform a wide range of small movements, including:
- Brushing your teeth
- Using eating utensils
- Using scissors
- Using a zipper or buttons
- Turning a doorknob
- Playing with blocks
And that’s just to name a few.
Fine motor activities utilize the numerous small muscles in your hand to perform tasks, such as writing.
Therefore, an issue with any one of these muscles may hinder your child’s writing skills.
If your child’s fine motor skills are impacting their writing ability, you might notice that they struggle to properly write letters despite knowing how to properly form them.
2. Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism spectrum disorder is a type of neurodevelopmental condition which may impact a variety of your child’s skills, including their:
- Social skills
- Communication skills
- Emotional regulation skills
- Academic success
Writing problems are sometimes a challenge for autistic children.
However, this isn’t due to a lack of intelligence.
There are a couple of possible explanations for this.
For starters, some autistic children may experience unpleasant sensory stimulation while writing.
For instance, they may struggle to tolerate the feeling of a pencil between their fingers, which can lead to feelings of sensory overload.
In other situations, autistic children may have poor handwriting due to a comorbid condition, such as dyslexia or dysgraphia.
Finally, many autistic children face trouble when it comes to their fine motor skills, and thus display poor handwriting as a result.
Dyslexia is a learning disability which causes significant reading and writing difficulty.
It’s caused by differences in the language processing area of the brain.
Symptoms may include:
- Delayed reading skills
- Difficulty understanding verbal communication
- Difficulty identifying differences and similarities in words and letters
- Trouble spelling
- Mispronunciation of words
Like autism, dyslexia doesn’t affect intelligence.
Rather, children with dyslexia struggle to read and write due to a problem with their decoding skills, or the process of learning how sounds relate to words and letters.
Children with dysgraphia struggle with handwriting and letter formation.
This impairs their ability to write with traditional writing utensils, such as a pencil, pen, or crayon.
If your child has dysgraphia, they may have poor handwriting skills, spelling impairments, or a combination of the two.
Additional symptoms include:
- Improper pencil grip and body position during writing
- Writing letters in all different sizes
- Writing with unfinished words or sentences
- Difficulty writing for long periods
- Avoidance of writing and similar activities
- Disorganized thoughts on paper
Further, children with dysgraphia typically also struggle with other tasks that require fine motor skills, such as using scissors or buttoning a button.
5. Poor Visual Motor Integration
Visual motor integration describes the relationship between your visual and motor systems.
It’s especially important for good handwriting.
The act of writing is a multistep process.
First, you must use your visual skills to visualize the letters and words you intend to write.
Next, you have to plan how to commit those words and letters to paper.
The last step requires the use of your motor skills to begin writing.
Therefore, proper handwriting requires constant communication between your visual and motor skills.
Children with poor visual motor integration may exhibit typical visual and motor skills in and of themselves, but struggle with the integration of the two.
How To Tell If It’s A Motor Skill Issue Or A Part Of Development?
Now that you’ve read a bit about the various issues that can lead to poor handwriting, you might be finding yourself asking, “So, how exactly do I know if my child has one of these issues?”
In most cases, you can use occupational therapy childhood developmental milestones as a guide.
For example, some preschool children with motor skills issues are prone to breaking their writing utensils due to poor grip.
If your child has a motor skill issue, you might also notice that their handwriting is sloppier or less legible than their peers.
Additionally, they may begin to avoid activities which involve writing.
Do Kids Even Need To Know Handwriting These Days?
With the rise of modern technology, you might find yourself wondering whether your child even needs to know handwriting these days.
While it’s true that more and more writing tasks are being done on computers, handwriting is still an essential skill for your child to learn.
Most schools still require students to submit handwritten tests and assignments.
But the fine motor skills used to write are similar to the ones used to type on a keyboard.
So if a child has trouble with handwriting, they’re likely to have trouble with typing as well.
As well, many careers still require knowledge of some form of writing, or the fine motor skills that come with it.
Handwriting is also commonly considered an important form of self expression.
Without intervention, children with poor handwriting often experience a range of consequences, including:
- Poor academic achievement and related frustration
- Inability to utilize handwriting to share creative ideas or drawings
- Future avoidance of tasks that require handwriting
- Anxiety and poor self worth
- And much more
How To Help Your Child To Develop Handwriting Skills
Fortunately, there’s a number of steps you can take to improve your child’s handwriting.
An occupational therapist at New Horizons Wellness Services can help with both evaluation and correction of poor handwriting.
Your child’s therapist will assess a multitude of factors that could be impairing their writing, including:
- Core support
- Hand and pinch strength
- Retained primitive reflexes
- Sensory processing
- Fine motor skills, including crossing midline
- Visual motor integration
- Visual perception
Once the evaluation is complete, the occupational therapist will get to work putting together an individualized therapy plan that’s unique to your child’s specific strengths and needs.
Depending on the results of your child’s evaluation, some of the ways an occupational therapist can help your child develop their handwriting skills may include:
- Developing any fine motor skills issues
- Teaching them proper pencil grip
- Teaching them how to properly form letters
- Helping them space letters out properly
- Managing any sensory processing issues
- Improving seated posture
- And much more
Book Your Appointment With New Horizons Wellness Services Today
Has your child been told by multiple people that their handwriting is illegible?
Do they get easily frustrated or anxious during writing tasks?
If so, they might have a condition that’s impairing their writing skills.
At New Horizons Wellness Services in Portland, our qualified staff can help you and your child develop proper writing techniques.
Book your appointment with New Horizons Wellness Services today to get started on better handwriting for your child.
Yours in Health,New Horizons Wellness Services
13333 SW 68th Pkwy,
Tigard, OR 97223
New Horizons Wellness Services provides a true multidisciplinary approach to mental & physical health treatments for children, adults and families.