The Handwriting Encyclopedia for Parents: A to Z

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Bilateral Coordination – the ability to use both sides of the body at once. This can refer to tasks when both sides are doing the identical movements like catching a ball with two hands, or when both sides are doing different movements like during writing when one hand controls the pencil and the other hand stabilizes the paper. Effective Bilateral Coordination allows for fluid body movements and supports complex functioning.

Dysgraphia – a common learning disability that makes writing difficult. As a result of sensory processing difficulties, the disability can lead to poor writing abilities, an avoidance of writing activities, and poor academic performance. A reduction of the negative effects can be achieved through accommodations such as providing alternatives to written expression, or providing additional instruction to improve writing skills.

Dyspraxia – or Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), is a common learning disability that begins in childhood and can affect planning of movements and coordination. This disorder can impacts gross motor skills and fine motor skills including establishing a correct pencil grip, developing writing speed, and mastering the writing of letters and numbers. Coping strategies can be developed, and these can be enhanced through therapy and practice. 

Eye-Hand Coordination – (or hand-eye coordination) ability of the vision system to coordinate the information received from the eyes to guide the movement of the hands. Children typically begin to work on and refine this skill between 4 and 14 months of age. It is essential to handwriting ability as the fine movements of the hand need to be coordinated with visual perception.

Fine Motor Skills – abilities that involve the small or “fine” muscles and their coordinated movement. This generally refers to movements of the hands, wrist, fingers, toes, lips, and tongue. Activities using Fine Motor Skills include grasping and drawing.

Fist Grip – the holding of objects with the whole hand, almost like a fist. It is perfectly normal and common earliest in gripping and handwriting development. However, when using a pencil or other writing instrument, the Fist Grip should be phased out earlier in fine motor skills development. Refer to the Chart of Correct and Incorrect Handwriting Positions under the heading “Grip Positions” on this blog or click HERE.

Four-Finger Grip – a typical grip used by younger children who have progressed in development beyond the Fist Grip. With this grip, four fingers hold the object up against the thumb. The Four-Finger Grip represents an early improvement in grip development, but it still should be phased out in favor of the correct Tripod Grip. Refer to the Chart of Correct and Incorrect Handwriting Positions under the heading “Grip Positions” on this blog or click HERE.

Gross Motor Skillsabilities that involve the large or “gross” muscles of the body like those in the arms, legs and core. These include crawling, sitting, and walking.

Just-Right Challengeor “Goldilocks Challenge” is an activity that is not too easy or too hard. The most effective learning takes place with Just-Right Challenges when tasks are just above the current level of functioning. It is hard enough to challenge someone, but easy enough so that the activity is not discouraging. 

Motor Planning – the ability to mentally plan and then follow through on a series of movements. When it comes to handwriting, children must organize their thoughts into what they want to write, and then execute a series of complex movements to form the individual letters of each word that will communicate that thought.

Oral Motor Skills – the strength, flexibility, and overall ability of the muscles of the face and mouth. These skills are used in movements for eating, drinking, and speech.

Pre-Academic Skills – are a part of cognitive development that takes place before children are ready for school and the formal learning environment. They are essential to a child’s success in early education, and pave the way for future performance. 

Sensory Processing – involves the brains ability to organize and make sense of all of the different forms of information it is receiving at the same time. Sensory Processing is the effective sorting of an abundance of information, and the prioritizing that helps us decide what to focus on, or when to act in response. 

Tripod Grip – the correct, ergonomic way to hold a pencil. The Tripod Grip requires well-developed fine motor abilities and practice. Refer to the Chart of Correct and Incorrect Handwriting Positions under the heading “Grip Positions” on this blog or click HERE.

Vertical Surfaces - the opposite of normal writing surfaces like a desk or table. Vertical Surfaces include chalkboards and wall. Writing on Vertical Surfaces can help develop handwriting skills. Click HERE for tips on instruction.

Visual Perception – or visual information processing, is the ability to integrate sight with other senses, and to integrate the visual information with past experiences. Visual perception is essential to the learning, and the development of fine and gross motor skills.

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