Written by: Stacy Kramer, OT Reg. (Ont), Clinical Director at Toronto Children’s Therapy Center &
Lizette Alexander, OT Reg. (Ont),  Co-Founder & Director of Operations at Toronto Children’s Therapy Center

When a student is struggling with handwriting, it is not always clear how to obtain the right help and from whom.  There are many professionals who are able to assist with handwriting, each trained from different perspectives.  Occupational Therapists are trained to assess and treat the mechanisms required for handwriting.  Required mechanisms for handwriting include physical abilities such as posture, muscle strength and tone, sensory regulation, attention, proprioception, visual perceptual and visuo-motor skills.  Each mechanism is complex and difficulties in one area or more can impact a child’s ability to write.  Occupational Therapists do not address the academic component of writing such as spelling, grammar and composition. These areas are best taught by professional Teachers.

Some of the more common difficulties in writing for which an Occupational Therapy Fine Motor Assessment may be of benefit include:

1)    Motor:

  1. Awkward pencil grasp
  2. Poor posture when writing
  3. Difficulty stabilizing the paper with opposing hand
  4. Frequent complaints of ‘tired hands’ when writing
  5. Uneven pencil pressure (either too hard, too light or a little bit of both)
  6. Inability to copy a letter correctly, despite repeated practice

2)    Visual Perceptual and/or Visual Motor Integration:

  1. Difficulty placing letters on the line
  2. Inability to organize letters in a left to right direction
  3. Difficulty recognizing small differences between similar letters (such as confusing ‘b’ and ‘d’ past the age of 6)
  4. Trouble forming diagonal lines
  5. For older students, trouble spacing words or spatially organizing the writing on the page

3)    Sensory:

  1. Reluctance to hold on to a pencil
  2. Unclear or mixed hand dominance
  3. Difficulty sitting still for table top work
  4. Difficulty with pencil pressure (too light or too hard)

For further information our Occupational Therapy services and programs please go to our website.