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Handwriting Help for Children with Autism

Handwriting struggles can be some of the most challenging obstacles children and young adults with autism face as they’re growing up. Without the skills to write clearly and effectively, many kids pull away from their studies and experience issues with low self-esteem. Parents can also feel frustration as they try to teach what they feel is an essential skill for independent living.

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As difficult as it can be for children on the Spectrum, there are lots of ways to improve handwriting skills for those with autism. Here are few tips we’ve found that can assist parents and teachers in helping and encouraging the budding writers in their lives.

Fine Tuning Fine Motor Skills

The act of handwriting combines many different fine motor skills into one big communicative job. Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, however, often lack fine motor skill development necessary to write without difficulty. Focusing on building those skills can help boost a child’s writing performance.

Therapy putties and hand exercisers are fun toys that help build strength in the hand as they squeeze and knead during play. Modeling clay is also very effective in not only building strength, but practicing manipulation as they pull off bits and pieces to roll, twist and flatten in their hands. Other activity toys like peg boards, safety scissors and lacing beads provide fun and creative ways to practice fine motor skills like pinching, pulling and more.

“Warming up” the hands with a few fine motor activities before handwriting practice can be a great way to help boost performance and self-confidence, too. Try having a child engage in a few finger exercises before sitting down to practice. Even a few playful rounds of Thumb Wrestling can help get fingers squeezing, thumbs stretching and hands ready to write.

Sensory Scribbles

The sensory difficulties experienced by children with autism can also lead to poor handwriting skills. Without the right amount of sensory feedback and stimulation, these children often struggle with things like knowing how much pressure to use to the best way to grip a pencil. They also required different types of instruction than most children.

For many, weighted and non-weighted grips provide the tactile and pressure-related guidance needed to stabilize and strengthen a child’s hold. These items train the hand to apply the right amount of pinch and push needed to write. Combined with the use of a visual aid such as a workbook, children begin to develop the muscle memory they’ll need to one day transition away from the grips.

Activities that provide tactile feedback such as writing words in modeling clay or wet sand can also be effective in building muscle memory. Other tactile tools like Magnatabs provide a small tactile click as they trace letters and numbers to let the writer know they’re on the right track.

Portable Practiceblog-handwriting-2

Reinforcing lessons and successes is critical to continued improvement, but too much reinforcement can lead to frustration and resentment. Finding the right time to provide reinforcement without being overbearing can be its own challenge, too.

For those with smartphones and tablet computers like the iPad, there are lots of helpful handwriting practice apps that a child can work with whenever the mood hits them. Whether they’re in the car, on a shopping trip or just relaxing at home, you can always have a fun and engaging handwriting lesson available wherever you go.

Be Flexible With Your Writer

Unfortunately, there is no one magic key to unlocking better handwriting skills. As with most aspects of ASD, parents and teachers must go with each individual child’s “flow” to find the best ways of tackling handwriting challenges. So while it’s important to find a routine, it is equally important to be willing to change things up when some tactics aren’t working.

For instance, break up longer writing assignments into small ones, or try outlining paragraphs before getting started. Keeping tasks small and specific can help reduce a student’s stress level, which will help them focus.

Some kids prefer printing to cursive and vice versa. Some even like to use a combination of the two. Allow the student to write in the style that is most comfortable to them. Successes in their favorite writing style could lead to more confidence when attempting another.

While handwriting is an important skill, it’s good to keep in mind that many do a lot more typing than writing these days. Consider allowing your student or loved one to type their assignment instead of handwriting it out. Tools like Spell-Check and Grammar-Check can also be employed to assist weaknesses in those areas.

Be Realistic About Progress

Studies show that autistic children with handwriting issues carry at least some, if not all, of those problems into adolescence and adulthood. It’s important to remember that, while exercise and practice can help improve handwriting skills, some of their struggles will always be with them. This is especially true in cases concerning dysgraphia, where the issues are deeper than just fine motor skill development and a need for practice.

So celebrate and build on victories, and don’t sweat the setbacks. There’s no race going on to see which child writes better at a certain age. Remember that handwriting is just one of many forms of communication. Helping your child communicate as clearly as they can is the ultimate goal and, with some patience and practice, you’ll get there.

Top Photo Credit: “Writing” by dotmatchbox, used under CC BY-SA / Cropped from original

Body Photo Credit: “little boy writing with pencil” by Carissa Rogers, used under CC BY / Cropped from original


Teen Kore Active Chair

Teen Kore Active ChairThe Teen Kore Active Chair is the most unique, therapeutic activity chair that is also fun. The user just sits on the Teen Kore Active Chair and can instantly move and flex without leaving their seat. This chair is as easy as sitting down to play video games or to do homework. The Teen Kore Active Chair is perfect for that user who has trouble sitting still. The base of the chair has a rounded ergonomic design that keeps older kids moving. It helps promote better posture and increases activity. The Teen Kore Active Chair also strengthens the user’s legs, back and abdominal muscles by moving side to side. It is the perfect addition to any teen’s bedroom, classroom or therapy center.

eSpecial Needs is giving away the Green Teen Kore Active Chair ONLY.

Teen Kore Active Chair Features:

  • It promotes better posture placement
  • It increases constant movement for older users
  • It allows the user to move and flex their body without leaving their chair
  • It strengthens different parts of the teen’s body such as legs, back and ab muscles
  • It is a proud winner of the Academic’s Choice Awards
  • The seat height is 18.75″
  • The seat diameter is 11″
  • The base of the seat has a diameter of 13.75″
  • The weight capacity is 200 lbs
  • It is made in the United States of America
  • It has a 90 day manufacturer’s warranty

Just fill out the entry form and good luck. At the end of the month one lucky fan will be notified by eSpecial Needs that you have won. You will have 14 days to claim your price. No duplications will be counted. Rules: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Sweepstakes ends September 30, 2014.


Write Right Pencil Grip Giveaway

Write Right Pencil GripThe Write Right Pencil Grip is a friendly adaptive writing aid. It helps train children and adults to effectively hold a pencil properly. The Write Right Pencil Grip was created by an occupational therapist who has over twenty-five years of experience working in the field. The Write Right Pencil Grip’s patented shape trains the user’s hand for proper finger separation. It also helps with optimal hand positioning needed to write clearly and comfortably. Its playful, dolphin like design provides unique visual cues for correct finger placement for users of all ages. Simply press down on the latex-free eraser and begin writing!

eSpecial Needs is giving away a medium size Write Right Pencil Grip to one lucky winner.

Write Right Pencil Grip Features:

  • This model was created for right hand users, it is not symmetric
  • It has a Latex-free eraser
  • The dimensions are 3″ high x 5″ long x 1″ wide
  • It is suitable for ages 5-7 years old
  • It improves the user’s hand placement
  • It corrects improper gripping techniques
  • It encourages clear and comfortable writing
  • It is tested by an independent laboratory to meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) standards

In order to determine the correct size for the user, you will need to measure the length of the user’s middle finger. This Write Right Pencil Grip will fit the user if their middle finder is between 1″ – 1 5/8″ in length. When the choice is unclear, select the next largest size. This size is important for proper placement and comfort.

Click here to fill out the entry form and good luck. The application tends to work better when the form is filled out on a computer rather than a tablet or phone. At the end of each week, one lucky fan will be notified by eSpecial Needs that you have won. No duplications will be counted. NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY. Sweepstakes ends 9-7-2014.