Occupational Therapist approach to handwriting development

Published on September 20, 2016

The development of writing ability is not only important in building a child’s self-esteem, but is considered an essential ingredient for success in school. Children spend 31% to 60% of their school day performing handwriting and other fine motor tasks, and difficulty in this area can interfere with academic achievement.

Illegible handwriting can create a barrier to accomplishing other higher-order skills such as spelling and story composition. Despite the use of computers, hand-writing remains an important developmental skill for a child to master.

In our society, handwriting is both a means of communication and a necessary life skill, as in writing a letter or telephone message, completing an application form, or writing a cheque. Handwriting ‘is still the most immediate form of graphic communication.

 However, handwriting is not a simple fine motor task; it involves perceptual-motor skills, motor planning, visual perception, visual-motor integration, bilateral hand coordination, in-hand manipulation, kinesthesia, sustained attention, sensory processing, and the presence of proper biomechanical components for posture and hand-grip.

Occupational therapists can be leaders in improving student handwriting and promoting successful student achievement. Determining which multisensory approaches are effective in improving handwriting can be the key to implementing a successful approach.

When an occupational therapist observes that a child referred to the service is having difficulty with handwriting, it becomes necessary for the therapist to administer procedures to identify the strengths and weaknesses that will then become the basis for a remedial programme.

The number one way to help handwriting is to find out what the underlying problem is:

  • usually a visual perceptual problem (how the brain processes visual information),
  • fine motor delays (poor weight bearing history, lack or delay of creeping and crawling, weak joints or muscles), and/or other developmental delays. It is important to make sure that an occupational therapist has evaluated the child to treat the underlying problems.


Occupational Therapist Interventions

  • Activities for improving Gross and Fine Motor skills
  • Improving in hand manipulation skills
  • Improving perceptual and sensory skills
  • Improving laterality (enhancing left/right discrimination skills)
  • Teach strategies for overcoming handwriting problems
  • Unconventional approach by exposing kids to various outdoor activities
  • Kinesthetic Learning

Category(s):Oppositional & Defiant Behavior in Children & Teens

Written by:

Ms. Anuradha Prabhudesai

Director (Counseling Psychologist

Mental Health News