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Why Is A Full Occupational Therapy Evaluation Beneficial When My Child’s Only Difficulty is Handwriting?

Child practicing handwriting

Handwriting is a complex task that involves many prerequisite skills, including visual skills, ocular motor control, body awareness, fine motor planning, shoulder stability, and hand and finger strength. Each prerequisite skill contributes to efficient and fluid handwriting:

  • Visual skills are needed to accurately distinguish and interpret letters and shapes on a page, essential for writing. Ocular motor control is needed to move one’s eyes across the paper to write in an organized manner.
  • Body awareness is required to accurately move the hands for writing, as well as knowing how much force is needed to make marks on the paper with the pencil or pen.
  • Fine motor planning is needed so that your child can easily identify, plan and execute the task of writing letters, words and sentences.
  • Shoulder stability is required to control the pencil.
  • Hand and finger strength is required for endurance that is needed to write many letters to form words and sentences. Hand strength is also needed for an appropriate grasp on the pencil.

In order to address handwriting in therapy, it is imperative for the occupational therapist to assess your child’s current level of functioning in each of the above areas. The root cause of your child’s handwriting difficulties may be his or her struggle in either one area or multiple areas. A full occupational therapy evaluation is very comprehensive; it allows the therapist to get a baseline level of performance to identify your child’s strengths and weaknesses in the prerequisite skill areas, and unveil the source of your child’s difficulty with handwriting.

Following the evaluation, your therapist will develop goals based on your child’s performance and design a treatment program that concentrates on improving these foundational skills, and ultimately improve his or her handwriting organization and legibility.

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Stability Ball Exercises

The stability ball is a simple and easy piece of equipment to work into everyday exercise for your child, ranging from infant to teenager.  Stability balls can be bought at most sports stores, cost only about 20 dollars, and last for years.

Below are some fun activities to follow along with your kiddos to see improvements in core strength, posture, and shoulder stability:

Age: Infant

  • Simply sitting your 2+ month old infant in supported sitting on the stability ball will help his posture.
  • Placing your 2-8 month old on their tummy on the ball. TLittle girl rolling on a balance ballhis is a bit more challenging then pure tummy time as they have to push up through their arms on a cushy surface, helping build strong back and shoulder muscles.
  • At 4+ months, you can lean the ball/baby to the left side and watch your infant “right” their body up toward the middle. Practice to both sides. This will help their muscles on the sides of their trunk that are important for crawling.

Age: 1 year-5 years

  • Bouncing your child up and down gently on a ball will help both their core strength and vestibular system.
  • Bouncing the ball back and forth by lifting it above your head while keeping your and your child’s tummy muscles tight helps build great core and shoulder strength.
  • 3+ years, have your child practice dribbling the ball for increased hand-eye coordination and motor planning.

Age: 5 years +

  • Sit-ups:With either
    • your child’s hips and knees at a 90 degree angle from each other or
    • holding your child’s feet down, practice crunches to build abdominal strength.
  • Push-ups: With feet on floor and child in a plank position, they can practice push-ups with their hands on the ball. An adult may need to hold the ball stable so it doesn’t move.
  • Practicing chest passes (like in basketball) is great for chest strength, motor planning and overall stability.

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