-Triveni Goswami Vernal
Registered Special Educator (A64010)
HAND DOMINANCE,PENCIL CONTROL AND HANDWRITING: APPROACHES AND STRATEGIES
In the first part of this blog, I will be writing about the various approaches and strategies that are significant for developing the skill of Handwriting. A lot of things like Hand Dominance, Pencil Control, Pre-writing Skills, Body Posture etc shape, its development.
Hand Dominance refers to the usage of a particular hand more frequently, in comparison to the other, to carry out tasks. Usually by the age of 6, a preferred hand dominance in children, gets established. Sometimes, the child may not show any preference, or may show preference for some activities with one hand, and some activities with the other. That is fine, as well. Do not worry and do not forcibly try to change the preferred dominance from one to another.
HARM THAT MAY BE CAUSED BY FORCIBLY TRYING TO CHANGE HAND DOMINANCE:
Generally, it is seen that there is a bias against left handedness, for cultural or other reasons, globally and more so, in India. But it is to be kept in mind at all times, that forcibly trying to change in-born hand dominance in an individual, can have far reaching consequences.
According to the website of Lefthander Consulting, the first German Consulting and Information Centre for Left-handers and converted left-handers (https://lefthander-consulting.org/english/information/problem/#:~:text=The%20possible%20primary%20consequences%20of,problems%20in%20reading%20and%20writing))
The possible primary consequences of converting handedness are as follows:
• memory disorders (especially in the recall of learned material)
• disturbances in concentration (being easily tired)
• legasthenic problems or dyslexia (i.e. problemshttps://lefthander-consulting.org/ in reading and writing)
• spatial disorientation (uncertainty concerning the left and right)
• disorders in fine motor skills that manifest themselves in handwriting
• disturbances in speech (ranging from stammering through stuttering)
These primary consequences can then transform into various differing secondary
• inferiority complexes
• overcompensation through heightened performance
• contrariness; an oppositional and provocational manner; (e.g. the class clown in school; and the persistent, compulsive wise-cracker in adulthood)
• various distinctive disorders in behavior
• bedwetting and nail-biting
• emotional problems lasting into adulthood with neurotic and/or psycho-somatic symptomology
• disorders in the personality profile
But one can encourage the child to engage in activities where they can work on strengthening their preferred hand dominance, such as,
1) Opening the lid of a jar with one hand, while the other hand can hold the bottle. The dominant hand will be the doer, and be active, while the other hand, will act as a stabilizer.
2) Cut a piece of paper—dominant hand will hold the pair of scissors whereas the non-dominant hand will hold the paper.
3) Kneading: Kneading the dough (atta/maida etc) with preferred hand, while the other hand, holds the vessel.
4) Collecting scattered toys and placing them in a basket.
5) Threading beads in a string.
6) Drawing lines with a scale and pencil. Holding the scale with one hand, and using the pencil with the other, to draw the line.
7) Initially use a broad writing instrument, like a thick pencil, with a broad girth.
8) Joining the Dots
9) Mazes (initially simple ones, and then increase the difficulty level.
PENCIL CONTROL: It refers to the ability to hold a pencil, and manipulate it to form letters, provide spaces between letters, draw etc. Thus, it includes the skills required for a range of writing tasks. Pencil Control is shaped by fine motor skills, eye hand coordination and sensory processing.
Proprioception (the awareness of one’s body movement, force and position) plays a significant role in the pressure to be applied while moving the pencil. The pressure has to be just right—not too much that it tears the paper, and not too light, that the letters are not discernible at all.
If the application of pressure is high, it often tears the paper/ breaks the nib of the pencil. So, one must be aware of how much pressure to exactly apply while using the pencil/pen.
ACTIVITIES TO REDUCE PRESSURE WHILE USING THE PENCIL/PEN/CRAYON:
1) Roll thin circles with play dough. Trace a letter/word with an empty ball point pen (with no refill inside it). Make sure it does not cut through the thin circle.
2) Copy something on a Corrugated sheet. The bumps should not get flattened in the process.
3) Write with an empty ball point pen (with no refill inside it) on a sheet of thermocol, ensuring that the thermocol doesn’t break apart.
4) Use a Tin Foil to write on, such that the impressions on it, are recognizable but the tinfoil remains intact and is not torn, in the process.
In contrast, sometimes the individual applies such less pressure on the writing instrument, that the impressions on paper are barely visible. This is often seen with Kabir while using crayons for colouring. He has to be consciously made aware of how much more pressure needs to be applied, for the strokes to stand out on the paper.
ACTIVITIES TO INCREASE PRESSURE WHILE USING THE PENCIL/PEN/CRAYON:
1) Crayon Rubbing (with pressure); This can be done vertically (top-down strokes) or horizontally (left-right strokes).
2) Use a Carbon paper between two sheets of paper and ask them to write on the paper on top, such that the impression is visible below.
3) Embossing with Coins/Leaf: Place a coin below a paper, and make strokes on the paper above it. Very soon, the details of the coin will be visible.
4) Place a paper on a Mesh (channi). Then use the writing instrument with pressure to write something. This activity will provide immediate feedback on the amount of pressure applied.
PRE-WRITING SKILLS: Pre-writing skills comprise of three main areas: Sensory-Motor Fine-Motor and Visual-Motor skills (https://www.theottoolbox.com/preschool-pre-writing-skills/ ).
A child should Practice various kinds of strokes, before they are made to practice various letters of the alphabet. Some of the basic strokes that they need to know are –Horizontal, Vertical, Diagonal, Spiral etc. There are several pre-writing worksheets that are available online. Some free printables:
Besides practicing various kinds of strokes, the child also needs to work on HAND STRENGTHENING. This can be done through various activities in Play—rolling clay dough, using the fingers to put small objects in a jar, squeezing a ball, rolling the dice, threading beads on a string etc.
In the next part of this blog, I will be writing in depth about Hand Strengthening activities, Finger Isolation and Pincer Movements, Scissor Skills and the Correct Writing Posture.
Author Triveni Goswami Vernal
Triveni Goswami Vernal is an Autism advocate, registered Special Educator (CRR A64010) and an Independent Researcher. Her areas of interest include Autism, Disability Rights, Gender, Art and Northeast studies. She is a mum to an 11 year old on the Autism Spectrum.
Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Kabir Vernal