Can Occupational Therapy Help Improve a Child’s Handwriting Skills?

Today, children complete much of their schoolwork using a computer. Despite these changes in the educational process, research indicates that legible handwriting remains an important skill to master. Although all children have difficulty writing neatly at first, if a child’s handwriting continues to be illegible, there may be an underlying issue impeding his or her ability to master this skill. These children may benefit from pediatric occupational therapy.

To Master Handwriting, Children Must Use a Variety of Sub Skills

Writing requires the interweaving of numerous skills. These skills include fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, muscle memory, pencil grip as well as visual and cognitive skills. Even a child’s posture can affect his or her handwriting development.

The Role Each Sub Skill Plays in Handwriting

Fine Motor Skills

This term refers to one’s ability to control the small groups of muscles in the hand.

A child must be able to grasp an object between the index finger, middle fingers and the thumb (i.e., the tripod grip). This finger coordination is also necessary while fastening buttons. Therefore, if a child is experiencing difficulty with this task, he or she will probably struggle with creating the tripod grip.

Crossing midline is another fine motor skill used while writing. Crossing the midline occurs when an individual moves his or her hand or foot across the middle of the body to reach the other side. Before learning to cross the midline, children usually use corresponding limbs (i.e., left for left side and right for right side).

Visual Processing Skills/Hand Eye Coordination

Effective hand eye coordination allows a child to write within his or her visual shift and perform visual tracking. These skills are necessary to know where one letter should stop and another begins. In addition, hand eye coordination is used while shifting perspective from looking at a book to looking at a blank page and writing information down. A child having difficulty with these tasks may be experiencing unintegrated reflexes.

Visual Memory Skills

Visual memory skills allow the child to recall how far to space letters from one another, as well as create letters of the same size. Furthermore, visual memory involves the child’s ability to write without actually seeing the letters he or she is creating.


Poor posture places a strain on the joints and muscles, which may negatively affect an individual’s fine motor skills. Besides being habitual, poor posture can result from carrying a heavy backpack, due to a congenital condition, stress or an injury. If a child has poor posture, he or she may benefit from a combination of pediatric occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Recognizing Poor Handwriting Skills

Signs indicating that a child may find handwriting difficult can become evident early on. For example, a toddler who frequently breaks crayons while coloring may be holding the crayons too firmly.

A child who scribbles continuously may have a sensory processing disorder. During pediatric occupational therapy, the child may benefit from sensory integration therapy.

When letters are too dark or too light, the child may be experiencing problems regulating the amount of pressure he or she places on the pencil.

A child who continues to write letters backwards or ignores the lines on paper despite previous corrections may benefit from pediatric occupational therapy at Therapeutic Potentials, Inc.

The Benefits of Mastering Handwriting

Handwriting offers children tangible physical benefits, helps with building strong math and language skills, improves memory, fosters a child’s pride in working with his or her hands, provides a way for the child to communicate and display expression.

If your child’s handwriting needs improvement, contact Therapeutic Potentials, Inc., today. Our experienced pediatric occupational therapists can evaluate your child to determine what is at the root of his or her handwriting issue. TPI serves those residing in or near Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton and Sarasota, Florida. To schedule your child’s appointment, please call 941-758-3140 or click here to use our online form.

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