Fine Motor Skills
If the child has difficulty with handwriting
and/or fine motor skills . . .
Handwriting problems are frequently the result of neurodevelopmental
dysfunctions and their associated information output and integration
problems. These occur in children who have: a) fine motor-coordination
problems; b) trouble expressing their thoughts on paper; and c) short
attention spans with impulsivity. In my experience, I have seen many
different reasons for handwriting difficulties: sensitivity to paper due to
a neurological side effect of chemotherapy, and vision or eye disorders. If
you believe that your student has a "handicapping condition," contact your
administrator about a 504 plan for modification of work and support from the
following are some suggestions that may help improve the writing abilities
in children with severe problems:
encourage the child while avoiding public criticism. We adults may need to
change our attitudes based on a proper understanding of the reasons for the
Minimize or modify written work. Such an agreement may remain private (i.e.,
not known to the child's peers, who will frequently tease the child for
problems they do not understand). You may want to assign an Alphasmart
keyboard to the child or allow them to do written work on the computer in
the classroom. If you have a strong feeling of "community" within the
classroom, other children will understand the modification. Contact your
student's parent about accepting computer generated homework as well.
Increase time allowed for written task completion. By reducing pressure and
anxiety, the child frequently responds with better written output.
priorities required during writing. On one task, emphasize organization,
good ideas, and legibility, while on another, stress only the mechanics of
writing (e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization). Many children with
developmental dysfunctions can only effectively concentrate on one or two
priorities at a time - they may "come unglued" when expected to handle
multiple tasks they have not yet mastered.
long-term tasks. For example, a book report or research project could be
broken down into units, with the child turning in a summary of each chapter,
note cards, outline, etc. This will also teach study skills that will be a
benefit throughout school.
to allow for success. Comments should be positive. The child who thinks he
can't tends to give up.
as possible, introduce the child to typing and/or word processing. School
typing should be allowed to completely replace written work, if needed in
ink pen is difficult or to messy to use, try alternative writing tools such
as pencils or felt-tip pens. Graph paper for writing math problems helps
with the organization and alignment.
printing if cursive writing is too cumbersome and frustrating for the child.
placing a rubber pencil grip on the pen or pencil. Teacher supply stores
have a wide variety of styles, colors and composition (some are softer than
others). Find one that works!
the pencil grip. Many children (and adults) have acquired an awkward pencil
from "Developmental Variation and Learning Disorders" by Melvin d. Levine,
M.D. 1987. Educator's Publishing Service. Cambridge, MA.