Many children with movement difficulties (DCD/dyspraxia, joint hypermobility, autism, Down Syndrome) have difficulties with handwriting speed and neatness, and find handwriting tiring.
In my experience there are a few, quite simple ways to overcome at least some of the common underlying difficulties and in this series of Handwriting Gym Help blogs I am going to describe them and suggest some ways parents and teachers can help children to improve their handwriting.
There are two types of problems children experience: the first are ones relating to knowing the motor plan for each of letters, and the second are difficulties with the sizing and spacing the letters.
Knowing the motor plan for all the letters of the alphabet
By the end of the Grade 1 a child should be able to write all the letters of the alphabet, using the correct sequence of strokes, without hesitation and with the eyes closed.
Take a look at this video clip of 8 year old Roan, at the end of Gr 2, writing the alphabet. She writes the letters without hesitation, with a smooth action using the correct sequence of strokes.
Now watch the clip of 7 year old Will, at the end of Gr 1, writing the alphabet. He writes most letters quickly and without hesitation, but does not use the correct sequence of strokes for the d, f, and j.
A plan for identifying the letters that are not fluent
Step 1: Video tape your child writing the alphabet.
The best way to identify the letters that are not fluent and written with the correct sequence of strokes, is to videotape your child writing the alphabet. Position your camera slightly to the side so that you get a clear view of the letters as they are written.
Start with a blank sheet of paper, and instruct your child to write the alphabet in lower case letters. Older children usually know the alphabet well and are able to write it from memory, but may need prompting on which letter comes next.
If your child is in the reception class or Grade 1, it is best to verbally prompt the child for each letter.
It is useful to let your child write the alphabet several times.
Step 2: Review the video clip and identify letters that are not fluent
Play back the video clip, in slow motion if you have that option, and note the letters where the child has difficulties:
Hesitates, waves the pencil tip around, as the motor brain takes time to recall the motor plan
Does not use the correct sequence of strokes to form the letter, including letter reversals.
Next week's blog post: How to practice writing the letters of the alphabet
Using a stroke based approach, with demonstration, use of sound feedback and writing with the eyes closed to enhance learning of the motor plan.
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How the brain controls drawing and handwriting movements
Learning to draw and write is all about learning the motor plans for creating straight and curved lines.
Learning to write letters using a stroke based approach
The brain uses a set of basic strokes for printing letters. Linking strokes forms the letters.