Handwriting Without Tears
Our Handwriting Without Tears camp will be happening in July, and we’re already so excited about it we decided to interview our own occupational therapist, Corinda Presley, about the camp and handwriting in general.
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Q: What can lead to handwriting difficulties?
A lot of different things; poor visual motor skills, a weak core, isolated finger control, poor alignment, poor body awareness, even a lack of motivation. Handwriting difficulties are especially common now because handwriting isn’t a focus in schools. They’re learning it parallel with spelling because the curriculum is moving so much more quickly, so they don’t have time to hone in and develop.
But the most common thing is weakness and poor bilateral coordination due to the limited amount of physical exercise most kids get today.
Q: Can you describe what the handwriting camp will be like?
So first off, everyone participating will buy a Handwriting without Tears book, which we will work through in the camp. It has a lot of practice worksheets in it. But we’ll also be strengthening our bodies and working in multi-sensory modalities.
Q: So you’ll be doing exercises beyond simple copying of words?
Yes, we’ll start off with strengthening, gross motor, body awareness activities to get our bodies prepared, usually in a group activity.
Then we’ll do handwriting without tears protocol depending on kids and what sort of help they need and we’ll work in multi-sensory aspects into our exercises as well.
Q: What do you mean by multi-sensory?
A lot of times we’ll use different textures, mediums, or ways of producing letters to give them more meaning. We’ll write in sand, Play-Doh, sandpaper, gels, or putty.
Beyond giving the letters more meaning, it also helps kids who hate textures and who maybe struggle holding their pens correctly. It increases their body awareness and also decreases sensitivity so they can grasp the pen for longer amounts of time.
Q: What are some ways children can work on strengthening their hands outside of therapy?
Keeping a stress ball nearby can be helpful in strengthening the hand and fingers. Also things like putty work, clay work, and isolated finger control, such as swirling a pen between your fingers, or picking up and storing coins in the pads of your fingers. All of that is helpful for a foundation of handwriting
Q: What would you want people considering the handwriting camp to know?
Most parents think it’s about practicing, but it’s more about stabilizing the child’s core and shoulders so they can achieve manual dexterity with their hands. A lot of times when a child is using an unusual way of holding a pen or struggling with their writing it’s because they have poor body awareness and are trying to write in a way that inhibits their movement.
I also hope parents understand that handwriting is still critical in today’s technological world. We need to be able to get our thoughts out separate from computers and audio. Being able to write your thoughts down is helpful for learning, memory and retaining information. It’s so important.