Shoulder movements for drawing and handwriting

A combination of shoulder and elbow movements are used to position and move the hand on the paper for writing, as well as for drawing medium and long lines and curves.

Moving the hand down the page

Here you see me drawing a line down the page:
  • I move the hand down the page by moving at the shoulder and the elbow.
  • The wrist is kept straight and steady as the hand moves down the page. 
    The end of the pen points backwards past my right shoulder 
  • The trunk is held steady as the arm moves in different directions 

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Moving the hand across the paper in writing 

Here you see me writing a sentence.
To write the first sentence I move the pen across the paper by moving the arm sideways at the shoulder.
Also notice that:
  • I keep the wrist steady in a slightly extended position. 
  • The end of the pencil points backwards passed my right shoulder. 
  • I position my hand just below the line of writing.

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Observing arm actions when drawing long lines 

You might like to try the following exercise.

On a sheet of A4 paper draw a series of lines across the paper.
Then draw several parallel line from the top to the bottom of the page.
Notice how you are moving:
  • Lines across the paper are usually done with small twisting and sideways movements of the shoulder combined with bending and stretching movements of the elbow.
  • Lines down the page are drawn by moving the arm back at the shoulder (called shoulder extension) and bending the elbow.

Difficulties children experience

A child with poor drawing and handwriting skills may experience one of the following problems related to shoulder action.
  • Cannot keep the trunk steady when moving the arm - the trunk and arm tend to move together.
  • Difficulty coordinating the shoulder and elbow movements to move the hand in different directions. 
  • Weakness and stiffness in the shoulder muscles which makes drawing and writing tiring and uncomfortable.
  • Keeping the trunk steady when moving the arm.  Read more

Ideas for training drawing horizontal lines

More about motor control for handwriting

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Handwriting Gym Online Handbook

A task oriented approach to handwriting assessment and intervention