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When it's more than just messy handwriting ...

Scribble scrabble and messy handwriting are all part of the road towards legible writing. But, if your child’s handwriting isn’t progressing or becoming more legible by age six, it’s likely time to look into why.

Often times, we can chalk it up to thinking that they may just have messy handwriting but it’s important to have them evaluated to make sure it isn’t something more serious that may require some occupational therapy.

Writing is not an easy skill. It is one of the most complex things that children have to learn.It requires the organization of thoughts and the ability to express ideas, along with the skill to get the hand and fingers to form those thoughts on paper, letter by letter. Bad handwriting is not unusual in children either as they develop their fine motor skills, but handwriting that is extremely difficult to read, or that doesn’t improve much as the child gets older can point to something more serious.

It may be that the fine motor skills required to correctly hold a pencil haven’t yet developed. Fine motor skills can also be described as dexterity and involves the coordination of small muscles and movements of the hands, fingers, and eyes. There are many pre-skills required before learning to correctly hold a pencil.

It can also mean they have either dysgraphia or dyspraxia, two different diagnoses that can impact a child’s ability to write legibly.

The good news is that there are strategies that can be worked on in occupational therapy to address any and all of these challenges.

A little bit about dyspraxia and dysgraphia . . .

Dyspraxia affects both fine and gross motor skills. Kids with dyspraxia may have other learning and attention issues, such as dysgraphia, dyscalculia and ADHD, but dyspraxia isn’t the cause for these.

Signs you may notice:

  • Delayed development of right or left hand dominance

  • Trouble grasping a pencil correctly

  • Poor letter formation

  • Slow and messy handwriting

  • Trouble riding a bike or throwing a ball

  • A tendency to bump into and drop things

  • Trouble using buttons, snaps, zippers, utensils

Dysgraphia affects both information and motor processing (which can impact handwriting). And it can cause trouble with many aspects of writing, usually because of language-based weaknesses. Kids with dysgraphia may have other learning issues. Most commonly associated with dysgraphia are dyslexia and dyspraxia.

Signs you may notice:

  • Trouble organizing thoughts and putting them into writing

  • Unreadable handwriting

  • Slow, labored writing

  • Odd spacing of words and letters

  • Poor spelling and grammar

  • Trouble with grasping a pencil correctly

  • Poor punctuation skills

  • Run-on sentences and lack of paragraph breaks

If any of this sounds like your child, it can be easy to get stressed and overwhelmed but we are here to help. The earlier you have your child evaluated, the better we’re able to help.

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