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Journey to handwriting.

Years have been spent focusing on my son's food intervention plan, typical play skills and encouraging him to tell us what he wants. My hopes with Broden starting preschool, he would be able to follow directions, and I hoped his teachers and peers would see how wonderful he truly is. However, the first week homework was sent home, my list of concerns started to grow. It was time to work on handwriting.

A few months earlier, Broden's ABA clinic and I had started discussions concerning handwriting. Soon, work began on his pincer grasp and drawing straight lines. I understood the importance of him learning how to write, but I was surprised to learn how quickly Broden would be expected to write his name and the alphabet. For Broden, I feel like we need to work twice as hard and twice as long in order to keep up with the curriculum in a typical classroom. This can be frustrating and exhausting.

When introducing the concept of handwriting to Broden, we needed to start from the beginning. If he had weak fine motor skills, then we knew it would be difficult to hold the pencil correctly (and it's important to have a strong pincer grasp). I've learned that it can be difficult to dive into handwriting skills if the child has not worked on their fine motor skills. As parents, we desperately want our children to be working on the same concepts as their typical peers, but I learned that if we ensured Broden had a strong pincer grasp and developed fine motor than we were going to see him progress.


The first step was to introduce activities to Broden to strengthen his fine motor skills. We would have him string beads and increase its difficulty by choosing smaller beads over a period of time. While working on these skills at school, letters to his name were chosen so he would identify the spelling of his name and then string the letter beads. Another skill that can be used is to have your child pick up flash cards off the table without having to slide them to edge of the table. It's surprising how much work is involved with doing this task.

It took time for Broden to become comfortable with holding the pencil using a pincer grasp. This is where we needed to look outside the box. Writing should not be painful. Writing and drawing should feel rewarding, and I realized that the more we worked with Broden at the table, he was fighting us and starting to say, "I quit!." I became concerned because I knew this could end very badly if we did not start looking into other ways to work on these skills at home and at clinic.

The concept of pairing good things with handwriting came to my mind. Why does writing with a pencil on a lined sheet of paper have to be the only way to teach these concepts? After doing quite a bit of research and talking with his tutors, it was evident that this was not the case. For a while, the pencil went in the drawer and out came the paintbrushes and finger paints. Working on holding the paintbrush was not as painful as the pencil and running Broden's finger through paint to practice his letters brought a smile to his face. It was clear that using different tools to introduce writing to my son helped him to grasp the concept.

There are many creative activities to do with your child. Try filling up a plastic bag with hair gel and then have your child practice their letters by running their fingers over the bag. When I talked to one mother, she said her family had brought out the shaving cream and sprayed it all over the porch and had their child run their fingers through the foam to practice their letters. These activities are fun and messy, but also work towards learning how to write.

If your child seems to be having a difficult time controlling the pencil, you may want to try a weighted pencil or a pencil that is larger than a typical one. We found that Broden had better control with a weighted pencil so he goes to school and his ABA clinic with his weighted pencil in his bag every day.

Broden has not mastered handwriting yet, but he is showing progress. I've learned that patience is the key, and a lot of repetition. We will work on writing his name for about four to five minutes saying each letter to his name over and over. I will fade out the letters and let him tell me which letter is next. We always start out hand over hand and then I will slowly loosen my grip to allow him to learn to control the pencil himself.

For those of us with children who have special needs, we know that mastering concepts take time. I always feel like doing a victory dance every time I see a mastered skill on Broden's probe at his ABA clinic. My hope is that Broden will be off writing on his own some day and, again, I will be down the hall peeking in on him while I do my victory dance. Slowly but surely, we will get there.
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Title Annotation:United States Military Section
Author:Huhtanen, Shelly L.
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Viewpoint essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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