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Y4 Child, Terrible handwriting, pressure to join letters. Please help.

(12 Posts)
Lookproperly Tue 08-Mar-16 16:17:24

DS is almost 9. He has struggled with handwriting since he started school. His writing is legible but he forms the shapes of letters incorrectly, his letters are different sizes, and he cannot do cursive handwriting.

For a long while he held his pencil incorrectly but that has now improved. His teacher feels his arm is too tense and is encouraging him to relax.

At parents evening last week DS' teacher said his reading and numeracy are excellent but his poor handwriting is causing problems in literacy because he struggles to get his ideas down on paper- he modifies his sentences so he doesn't have to write too much, and has to concentrate so hard at writing that he forgets to develop his sentence structure etc in the way that is expected of him in his year. As a result he is failing to meet literacy targets despite reading so well had being able to express himself well when he is speaking.

The teacher also said that DS' SATS results will be affected in the future as he will be limited to a score of 5 if his handwriting is not joined up. His teacher clearly thought this was ridiculous, but said that it would be a shame to limit his results because that is related to how he will be streamed in secondary school, and because he is capable of doing well in other areas.

I am disappointed that the school seem to have no interventions to help DS with his handwriting. His teacher says he is reluctant to push him too hard to join his handwriting as this may actually make things worse given that at the moment the way he finishes his letters will make joining impossible. I myself have given help to children at the school struggling with numeracy, the school offers reading intervention- but nothing to help with writing.

I've tried to help him at home but I don't really know what I am doing. I'm also beginning to worry that he actually has a coordination type issue as he is also terrible with a knife and fork and cannot tie his shoe laces despite hours of trying. If he does have some kind of issue I feel I could make it worse by interfering in the wrong way.

Please can anyone offer any advice?

DesertOrDessert Tue 08-Mar-16 17:23:17

Argh, just lost a message.
OK, I'm not a teacher.
Suggestions from my oldests teacher, who is younger than your son.
Split the writing and stories.
So, when the words are the prime focus, dictate or type to improve the sentences and length.
Focus on handwriting seperatly.
Get letters formed properly, with leading flicks and tails out as a pre cursive step.
Improve muscle tone with Lego, playdoh, kneeding bread, sewing, hamabeads etc.
Have you looked at pencil grips?

mrz Tue 08-Mar-16 17:50:10

You might find this plea from a secondary teacher interesting
It might be worth asking your GP for an occupational therapy assessment if you are concerned.
There are lots of things you can do at home to help. I'll post some ideas when I can access my laptop.

shebird Tue 08-Mar-16 18:27:57

My DD has also struggled with handwriting and her teachers have said that she must improve in Oder to achieve her target for Y4.

In my DDs case I think it's about an overload of expectations. In literacy she is expected to spell correctly, use all sorts of punctuation, think about using paragraphs, connectives, amazing descriptive words etc. When trying to remember all this her writing goes to pot.

shebird Tue 08-Mar-16 18:28:15


Seryph Tue 08-Mar-16 19:45:08

Have you considered dyspraxia? That sounds an awful lot like me at his age. I remember re-reading my age 8 and age 11 reports, at the first I couldn't use a knife and fork properly, but by the next I could (though extended use causes me pain, so I have to be careful with steak!).

For handwriting I found getting into calligraphy a great help (and fun!) as you really had to think about the way you formed each letter, and how you held your pen. I still, as a mature university student, write with a italic nibbed fountain pen. It's a Lamy so has an indented grip to encourage the tripod grip.

Have a look on the Dyspraxia Foundation website ( and see if anything makes sense. The one thing that has always come back in every report I have ever had is "Seryph has great ideas but doesn't seem to be able to put them down on paper".

For homework and things have you considered getting him to dictate the ideas to you and you can write them down, or dictating into a tape recorder and then he can write them up afterwards. It could be good practice for getting him to make sense, get him to dictate the punctuation too!

catkind Tue 08-Mar-16 20:05:12

So the teacher has gone on a rant about how bad his writing is and how important it is, but not really told you anything they're doing to help? Perhaps ask for another meeting and ask them just that. What they're doing to help, and what they'd like you to do at home.

Do you have a copy of the pre-cursive letter formation they're trying to learn? (I think they call it pre-cursive, the one with the loops ready for joining but not actually joined.) I'd def ask for that if not. We laminated ours so DC can practice tracing it (with help to make sure they form the letters in the correct order).

Also - handwriting lines were a huge help to DS when he was struggling with writing. The ones where you get a line for the bottom of letters and another for the top of short letters and and the top of tall letters. Does your DS use these and if not could you try it, maybe even ask school to try it too?

I'd want to do a little help at home, if it's only 5 minutes a day practicing correct letter formation. Or one sentence written really well. Can only help nudge him in the right direction?

tartanterror Tue 08-Mar-16 22:41:06

This website is very comprehensive and will take you through all the (many) things that have to work right to get handwriting going.

We got a Stabilo pencil suggested by someone at the NHA: here but watch it as there are left and right hand versions. It helped grip and a writing slope at school helped posture as our DS tends to flop over the table. We had an OT assessment but they were keen to selling us their handwriting programme which would have been expensive and seemed to ignore the main issue which was DS' resistance to doing any writing at all!

The main thing for us was finding a good motivator. We work with our teacher and she gives him a sticker when he does good handwriting in school. If he gets a sticker every day (or confirmation he had a good attitude/tried hard if he misses one for some reason) he gets a special treat of his choice on Friday. In 5 weeks we've gone from steady avoidance to decent quantities of cursive script. It took a while to find what would hook his interest but now he's done it for a bit, and has found it's not as difficult as he thought, he's taking pride in his progress and is motivated by that as much as the rewards he gets at home!

I read so many things about handwriting problems but not many addressed motivation, so hopefully you can find something that works for you too.

mrz Wed 09-Mar-16 06:16:14

I use Happy Handwriting as a motivator.
We all copy a short piece of writing at the beginning of the term and then copy the same piece at the end of half term after working on improving our writing. The child who has improved the most (not necessarily best handwriting) gets a prize (I've used Easter eggs and pencil cases with special pens in the past).

VegasIsBest Wed 09-Mar-16 07:03:16

I was also going to ask about dyspraxia as a he previous poster has. Could you get him assessed? Or even pay privately?
My son's education was transformed once he was identified as dyspraxic as he's been able to use a laptop for his work and had good support from school.

tartanterror Wed 09-Mar-16 07:19:01

That sounds lovely Mrz! My DS is so resistant he needs something more frequent - the chance of a weekly minecraft join up with a friend was what did the trick for our tricky customer ;)

OP I forgot to say that our school was also able to identify the problem but initially offered us touch typing or a scribe as the solution..... I declined so he made no progress in handwriting for a year sad Seeing that I organised the OT and identified which elements of the handwriting needed work in our case and we did what we could at home and suggested the sticker system to school. It seems to be fairly common. A couple of friends have had similar situations and had to be more pro-active than they had expected. Good luck

CheeseAndOnionWalkers Wed 09-Mar-16 11:40:01

Ds is in y5 and he has just nailed joined up writing. His school did an intervention group once a week during assembly and sent home a sheet a week.
I think it helped practicing at home as there's less distraction and he could take his time.

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