HAND DOMINANCE, PENCIL CONTROL AND HANDWRITING: APPROACHES AND STRATEGIES
-Triveni Goswami Vernal
Registered Special Educator (A64010)
In the first part of the blog, I spoke about the various aspects that shaped the development of the skill of Handwriting. In today’s blog, I will be writing more extensively on some of the other aspects that are equally important, namely, Hand Strengthening activities, Finger Isolation and Pincer Movements, Scissor Skills and the Correct Writing Posture.
The OT Toolbox, one of the most amazing resources on everything related to Occupational Therapy has provided a comprehensive list of all the factors that shape the development of pre-writing skills in an individual.
As one can see, in the table, pre-writing skills include an extensive set of skills across various areas—Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Sensorimotor skills, various kinds of Visual Perception, Attention, Memory and Imitation of movements, amongst others. Thus, for a seemingly simple skill on the surface, there is an entire foundation, that needs to be established and worked upon, first.
FINGER ISOLATION AND PINCER GRASP: They both refer to fine motor movements made by the fingers, that are essential in the development of the writing skill. Finger Isolation, more specifically refers to the ability to use one finger, at a time, for various tasks. Whereas, the Pincer Grasp refers to the ability to use fingers, usually the forefinger, middle finger and thumb, to grasp or pinch an object.
ACTIVITIES TO STRENGTHEN FINGER ISOLATION:
1. Finger Racing
2. Playing the Game of Tic Tac Toes (with Paper)
3. Popping Bubbles (one can initially try with one finger alone, like index finger, then move to thumb, or middle finger)
4. Finger Painting (Dip the finger in a bottle of colour and using it as a tool to paint/make designs)
5. Turning the page of a book, one by one.
6. Play Finger Puppet
7. Tracing a design/a letter on a paper with one finger.
8. Using the finger to point to various things in a book/magazine etc.
ACTIVITIES TO STRENGTHEN PINCER GRASP:
1. Squeezing Clay: Pinch the Clay, and roll it into small balls.
2. Squeezing a Wet Sponge: Place three trays, side by side. In the first tray keep the dry sponges. In the next tray, keep water. The child has to pick up the sponge, dip it in the water in the second tray, and squeeze the water in the third tray.
3. Attach Clothespins/ Binder clips on the sides of a container.
4. Use a Tweezer to transfer small cotton balls from one container to the other.
5. Embed small objects, like kidney beans, plastic token coins, beads, or even smaller grains like rice, or chana dal, or mustard seeds into clay, and the child has to remove it from the clay, one by one.
6. Screwing and Unscrewing Pens
7. Opening and Closing Bottle caps/Flip caps.
8. Squirrelling: Take a fistful of dal/rajma, and then pick up the rest from a surface one, by one.
HAND STRENGTHENING ACTIVITIES: Strengthening the hand muscles become all the more important when we work on developing the writing skills. Instead of making it look like a boring activity, many of the exercises can be presented as fun games to the child.
ACTIVITIES FOR HAND STRENGHTENING:
1. Working with Play Dough: Squeezing, rolling, making it into free hand shapes, using moulds to press the play dough in and then subsequently, remove it etc.
2. Playing with Blocks/Lego Bricks: Pressing the blocks together and pulling them apart.
3. Scrunching up the Newspaper: Take spare newspapers or waste papers and ask the child to scrunch them into balls.
4. Tearing Papers.
5. Use a toy hammer and nail, for hammering activities.
6. Use a toy screwdriver and toy screws, to screw them on a surface.
7. Using a sharpener to sharpen pencils.
8. Lifting and carrying a bag filled with things, with the hands.
9. Mixing ingredients and stirring with a ladle, while cooking (under supervision). It can also be a simple activity like making juice. Squeezing the fruit for the juice or adding a fruit juice concentrate in water.
10. Watering the plants in the garden.
11. Filling the bottles with water.
SCISSOR SKILLS: The development of the ability to use the scissors, not only helps in strengthening the hand muscles, but is also an important element in the overall development of the child’s eye-hand coordination, bilateral coordination, fine motor skills, finger isolation skills and pincer grasp, improved attention and focus, amongst others.
DEVELOPING SCISSOR SKILLS:
1. Practice the motion of Grasp and Release, using the thumb and two index fingers.
2. While seated, keep the elbow locked on the table.
3. Provide sheets of sturdy paper with various kinds of lines drawn. To begin with, one can give Vertical lines drawn on the paper. The lines need not be drawn till the end of the paper. The child can stop where the line ends. For better grasp of the paper, its edges can be taped to a table or other sturdy surface. And only the dominant hand can be used to cut along the lines (drawn on the paper). Once the child has mastered the vertical lines, they can move on to horizontal lines, diagonal lines, curved lines, zigzags, and more complex curved lines (with multiple humps).
Worksheets for Developing Scissor Skills:
CORRECT WRITING POSTURE
As we have seen writing is not an isolated skill to be developed in a vacuum. It is shaped by a multitude of factors—sensory-motor skills, gross motor, fine motor, memory, awareness of directionality etc. One significant factor is the development of correct writing posture and that includes,
1. Placing the feet flat on the floor.
2. Lean forward.
3. Place the forearm on the table.
4. The helping /assistant hand supporting the paper.
5. The paper is placed slightly slanted. One can also use a slanted board to place the paper on it.
6. The dominant arm is placed away from the shoulder.
7. The wrist is slightly extended to allow the usage of the writing instrument.
Thus, we see that Handwriting is a complex skill comprising of several layers of development across multiple areas and we must work towards creating a solid foundation first, across those areas (sensory-motor, gross motor, fine motor, visual perceptual skills, memory, attention etc), before we can truly expect a child to develop the skill of Handwriting.
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