Welcome back! We are on part three of our series on pediatric occupational therapy. Today we are talking handwriting with Dr. Marielly!
Does your child hate handwriting?
Does your child hate handwriting? Do they start whining or having a meltdown the second they have to start homework? If you notice any of these behaviors, they may be using these tactics to avoid one of the skills most important for success in a school setting. Handwriting is one of the most difficult tasks kids tackle. For starters, it requires a solid foundation in hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills, and bilateral coordination… the list goes on!
From birth, our brains are wired to help us learn spoken languages, but our brains have to learn how to combine the skills we use for handwriting from scratch. So many skills and systems have to work together to allow us to write even a single word! You have to simultaneously use your knowledge of language, your visual system, your vestibular system (the ability to tell where your limbs are in space), the ability to cross the midline, fine motor ability, and your sense of touch and pressure with every letter you write.
When kids have difficulty performing a task they can’t avoid, they can form bad habits to help them compensate for weaker areas of development. For example, they might have an immature pencil grip, using only four fingers. While these compensatory strategies may help them in the short term, they don’t allow for proper growth and development. Your child may also put their head down on the table while they write. This helps them keep their head still so they concentrate on their hand movements, but it can also lead to poor handwriting, inconsistent letter size, and incorrect letter placement on the page.
Think about how difficult it is to write in a straight line when your head is at a slant. Or maybe you notice them moving their head as they move their hand across the page. This is likely a sign that they’re having difficulty tracking movements with just their eyes. They need the extra input provided by moving their head and hand simultaneously to get a better sense of where their hand and, by extension their pencil, is on the page. This difficulty with tracking will reappear when they play sports, read, and even when watching movies or TV shows.
Getting a handle on handwriting!
The good news? At Theraplay LA, our OTs have training in both sensory integration and Handwriting Without Tears, an internationally recognized and award-winning program! Our expertise in sensory processing and motor development allows us to help your child address the sensory differences keeping them from writing while helping improve their handwriting abilities through multisensory approaches. We’re determined to help set your child up for success, academically and beyond.
Dr. Marielly is a Los Angeles native and Loyola Marymount University, graduate whose insatiable curiosity with the mind-body connection since childhood led her to the field of occupational therapy. She graduated from the top-ranked University of Southern California in 2011 with a Master’s Degree and completed a Doctorate with a teacher’s aid scholarship in 2012. Her areas of expertise include Sensory processing and a “SIPT” certification, Training in Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT), Cuevas Medek Exercise (CME), Handwriting without Tears, Integrated Learning Systems (ILS)., Advanced practice in swallowing assessment, evaluation, or intervention, Orofacial Myofunctional Therapy, Cranial Nerve Integration. Dr. Marielly and her team started Theraplay LA as a pediatric OT practice dedicated to providing intentional and precise levels of care to those in Los Angeles and beyond.
Molly is a member of our creative team, mom of four water-loving babies, and a fierce advocate for CPR training and really early swim instruction.