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Many parents have asked what they can do to help their older child/teenager improve handwriting skills. Will doing fine motor activities help, and if so, which ones?
Before suggesting fine motor activities to solve handwriting problems, my first recommendation is that you first think about WHY the handwriting is so lousy. Has your child always had a poor pencil grip and weak fine motor skills? Or is handwriting poor because your child rushes through it?
If your child always rushes, then motivation may be more of an issue than fine motor delays. If your child is always rushing writing tasks, what is the reason behind it? ADHD? A general dislike of schoolwork, boredom with that particular topic or a need to finish quickly to move on to the next activity? If your child can write neatly on occasion, what is it that motivates them? Answering these questions honestly will help you unlock some keys to help your older child improve handwriting.
Some Tips To Improve Handwriting:
Fine Motor Exercises
A regular mini-exercise program is more likely to appeal to your older child than the fine motor activities used for younger kids. Set aside 2-3 minutes to do one of the Fine Motor Skills Activities for Older Kids before each writing task, and use them as a break when your child starts to lose focus.
Try a Pencil Grip
Let your child try different writing implements and/or pencil grips (pencil grippers) to see if any of those help reduce fatigue. PFOT also sell a “Grip Sampler Pack” of different grips for your child to try. Using a good grip can really reduce fatigue and prevent muscle cramps.
Shoulder Girdle Exercises
Encourage your child to do shoulder exercises before every handwriting task. These will help strengthen and stabilize the shoulder muscles to free up the hand muscles for handwriting. If your child gets tense and tired easily during handwriting, then try these exercises as a break.
Give frequent breaks if your child tires easily or becomes distracted. If the fine motor and shoulder exercises suggested above are implemented, your child may soon need less frequent breaks.
Pick Your Battles
Decide together which subjects/occasions can get away with poor handwriting and which ones absolutely have to be good. It is tiring to write neatly, but if it is not required at every lesson of the day and on every occasion, then it is easier to write neatly when it does matter.
What Motivates Your Child?
One motivator is to use your child’s dream vocation to inspire and encourage – I tell my son that if he wants to be an airplane pilot, he has to make sure his figures (numbers) are legible, otherwise he will end up at the wrong coordinate on the map! Explain to your child that if he has to sit an exam for an external examiner who does not know him and does not make exceptions for him, he may score lower than if his handwriting is legible.
Lower Your Standards
Give lots of positive reinforcement for good writing, and accept that legible can be good enough! Where possible, allow your child to type assignments and written tasks. On tasks where creative input is being rated, your child may be able to write more freely and easily if freed from the effort of writing neatly. A neat final draft may be required, but being allowed to type or scrawl at first may get the creative juices flowing.
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