Handwriting Skills

Handwriting is complex perceptual-motor skill that is dependent upon the maturation and integration of a number of cognitive, perceptual and motor skills, which is developed through instruction (Hamstra-Bletz and Blote, 1993; Maeland, 1992). It is an academic skill that allows individuals to express their thoughts and feelings and communicate with others. It is a complex process of handling language by pencil grip, letter formation and body posture. Handwriting efficiency requires mastery of multiple skills, including vision, coordinating the eyes, arms, hands, memory, posture and body control, as well as the task of holding a pencil and forming letters.

1. Pencil grip: A tripod pencil grasp is considered to be the most efficient grasp for handwriting activities. Not every child will have developed a correct tripod pencil grasp. Some adapted grasps can also be effective, depending on the type of motor coordination problem or medical condition presented by the child. Effective pencil grips develop by initially the thumb and fingers holding the pencil whilst the wrist and elbow provide the movements. Later the fingers and thumb flex and extend in alternation, resulting in finer finger movements and increased control.

2. Tension of Grasp: Tension of the grasp on a pencil or pen is important to be able to coordinate fine motor muscles to assist to control the speed and dexterity of the movement. Too much tension causes reduced control, where too little causes instability of the movement.

3. Pressure on Paper: The pressure on the paper is usually related to the tension of the pencil grasp as well as proprioception in the fingers.

4. Quality and speed of writing: Execution and quality of handwriting includes correct and consistent pencil hold, posture and letter formation. Counterproductive habits in these latter areas are not always obvious from looking only at writing samples and can greatly impede progress in handwriting.

The Handwriting Wall Diagram