Graphomotor Skills involve highly specialized coordinated eye-hand-finger movements for writing (and writing only). Drawing, interestingly enough, is not a graphomotor skill as it involves different muscles and different eye-hand coordination. [Drawing is considered a fine motor skill.] Many people can play musical instruments, draw, knit, and perform other fine motor actions but have horrendous hand writing. That is because handwriting has its own very specialized memory-motor, and eye-hand-brain feedback requirements.
What do Kids with Graphomotor Weaknesses Look Like? Basically, kids (and adults) with graphomotor weaknesses have horrible handwriting. My husband calls his handwriting chicken scratch because it looks like a chicken scratched it out. My son's handwriting is equally illegible. He is in college and his notes still look like a second grader wrote it.
These kids either hate writing, or they write cryptically keeping whatever must be written down as brief and simple as possible. My son took it even further, he hated writing so much, he learned to do most of his math in his head. This was quite a problem as most teachers want to see the work. Because his handwriting was so poor, his 4's became 9's, 3's became 8's, 7's became 1's and to save himself from getting the problems wrong - would simply work them out mentally. My son was lucky - he has a phenomenal memory and could get away with this until high school. Then things fell apart again.
What are some factors affecting handwriting?
- Visual Discrimination - kids must be able to visually recognize and distinguish each letter of the alphabet so they can accurately interpret and reproduce them. A "b" has to remain a "b" and not look like a "d" or "p" or "q". "Gun" must look like "gun" and not "pun" (as in Woody Allen's letter in the clip above). Otherwise others it can't be read and it makes no sense. [Note that visual discrimination skills effect reading as well as writing.]
- Orthographic Coding - students must not only be able to discriminate between letters recognizing how each is different and unique, they must remember how to print or write them.
- Motor planning, motor memory, and execution - kids have to be able to remember letter shapes and the muscle movements necessary to make and execute those shapes. They then have to remember or plan how to make those shapes.
- Kinesthetic Feedback - Finally, kids have to monitor their progress as they write, constantly evaluating feedback that the brain receives from the muscles, nerves, and eyes.
Strategies and Accommodations For Kids With Poor Handwriting:
- Practice in private. Have kids practice penmanship, but at their own pace and in private (at least until there is less embarrassment).
- Have your kids trace letters and words in sand or even in jello (if you don't mind the temporarily sticky fingers). Tracing in sand and jello or even in the bathtub adds some resistance and can build stronger muscles and muscle memory.
- Experiment - try out different types of writing utensils and different types and sizes of paper and line width. Try different sized pens and pencils. Large pencils for example are easier for kids with weak muscle control to use. My son hated the "feel" of pencils on the paper and was much more comfortable using a pen. My husband prefers the feel of quills as they glide over the paper. Experiment.
- Strengthen hand and finger grips. Squeezy toys/objects can help.
- Keyboarding. This helps for some - not others (my son still prefers taking notes by hand).
- Pen/pencil grips - When handwriting sometimes the pencil grip is an issue. In this case try using different types of pen/pencil grips. My son had more of a sensory-integration issue (he was too sensitive to the paper and grip and pencil) and the grips did not help.
- Graph paper - For those who have trouble with letter size, experts suggest practicing print hand writing on large-boxed graph paper, using one square per letter [practicing privately].
- Provide ample work and writing space on each page. Make sure there is enough space on mathsheets or worksheets and tests for you child to comfortable fill in the required response. You may want to discuss this with your child's teacher(s)
These are just a few suggestions. Let me know what you have tried (successfully or otherwise). Also, please let me know if you have any other questions or issues.
These are just a few ideas. Please let me know what you have tried (successfully and unsuccessfully), and please let me know if you have any other questions.
Some helpful websites to visit:
- I have other 'handwriting related blogs you may want to look at: