If your child has trouble with handwriting, you may work with your child’s school or other specialists. They may use words and language you haven’t heard before. Below are 10 key terms that will help you understand your child’s handwriting difficulties.
1. Pencil grasp and pencil grip
Pencil grasp is how you hold a pencil when writing. The classic way to hold a pencil is with a tripod grasp — thumb, index finger, and middle finger. A pencil grip is a tool that fits around a pencil. It can help kids develop a better pencil grasp.
This is the set of skills needed for the physical act of writing. It includes handwriting, typing, and spelling. It’s not the same thing as the skills kids need to express ideas in writing.
3. Fine motor skills
Fine motor skills are the ability to control and move small muscles in the hands and wrists. Kids who struggle with these skills find it hard to use objects like pencils and scissors.
4. Sequential finger movement
This term means moving fingers in a specific order. For example, touching the thumb to the pinkie finger, then to the ring finger, and so on. Handwriting requires this skill, but keyboarding doesn’t. That’s why some kids have an easier time typing than writing by hand.
5. Orthographic coding
This is the ability to remember how to write a letter or a word, and then write the letter or word accurately. Kids who have trouble with orthographic coding often forget how to form certain letters. They may also struggle with spelling.
6. Visual-spatial difficulties
Some kids have difficulty making sense of what their eyes see. This makes it hard for them to read maps or tell the difference between left and right. And that can impact handwriting.
Most experts view dysgraphia as difficulty with transcription skills. It’s not a formal diagnosis (though it was in the past). Sometimes, you may hear the term used to describe a child’s struggle with writing in general.
8. Developmental coordination disorder (DCD)
DCD is a condition that makes it harder to learn motor skills and physical coordination. It can impact kids in many ways, including handwriting.
9. Multisensory instruction
This teaching technique gives kids more than one way to learn. It uses different senses, like touch and sight. It’s often used to teach reading, but it can help with handwriting, too. For example, kids may practice forming letters using paper with raised lines that they can feel and see.
10. Occupational therapy (OT)
OT is a type of therapy that can help kids build motor skills. An occupational therapist can work with kids on handwriting skills, like holding a pencil.
About the author
About the author
The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.
Trynia Kaufman, MS was the senior manager of editorial research at Understood. She is a former educator and presents nationwide at education conferences.