– BEFORE YOU TEACH HIM TO WRITE –
Occupational Therapists see so many children with poor pencil grip because they began to use a pencil before their early milestones were established. These days everyone seems to be in a race to see if they can get their child writing and reading earliest.
The problem is that development cannot be rushed. Development follows a roadmap and taking shortcuts when following a map can be hazardous!
Let’s take a look at what a child needs for good pencil grip and to learn to draw and write. When we appreciate that, we more deeply understand the importance of allowing
them time and our greatest support in achieving developmental foundations.
He needs to be able to sit comfortably at a desk, with good stability at his hips, around his trunk and at his shoulders.
He should have fully established fine motor dominance. He should automatically use the same hand as the leading hand and the other as the assisting hand. The brain sets down movement templates and if your child keeps altering hand during learning to write, he will be setting down templates for both hands. He can then access the less efficient template (ie: for his non-dominant hand) rather than directly and quickly accessing the efficient template. When we write with our left hands, the actual movements to make a letter are reversed, resulting in letter reversals.
Both hands must work together, yet do different things at the same time. We call this
“bi-lateral integration”: good communication between both sides of the brain. Both eyes need to work together with the writing hand, while the assisting hand holds the paper still.
Writing uses small, precise movements and this is best done when you can use the small muscles in the hand separately but together. We call this “finger isolation”; the fingers have different jobs and must each be able to do their own movements without interfering with the movements of the other fingers.
Motor planning is our ability to understand what exact movements we need to make and how they must combine in a sequence in order to carry out the movement pattern as a whole. It needs ideation (the idea of what movement is needed), sensory feedback and sensory feed-forward (the sensory pathways from muscles and joints to the brain and back). Vision, vestibular processing, balance and even our sense of touch affect how smoothly we can organise our movements.
Find out more about fine motor coordination and pencil grip development.