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How can I help DS improve his handwriting?

(27 Posts)
Makemeachannelofyourpeas Sun 22-May-16 18:23:27

DS is in Yr1 (still 5 though, summer born if relevant), doing fine in reading, maths, etc. However his handwriting is awful. We've been taken aside by his teacher a few times and are doing our best to get him practising every day. When he tries (and cares) to write the words we tell him he can write fine, but if he's trying to express himself in a diary or whatever it all goes to pot, even positioning on the page is less than great. When we point out that we can't read what he's written, DS just gets angry and says "it doesn't matter".

I think the key issue is that I'm not artistic or crafty and he has never had any interest in art so he rocked up in Reception having barely held a pencil so fine motor skills are lacking. And he has not interest in making things look nice. He's perfectly coordinated for sports etc so I think that rules out dyspraxia unless others disagree?

Does anyone have any ideas on games, exercises etc that might not bore him to tears but which will enable him to develop the fine motor skills he needs? Games like Operation just see him deliberately setting off the buzzer because he likes the noise...

All suggestions welcome!

nicp123 Sun 22-May-16 19:55:23

Lego & Hama beads if you have money to spend but if I were you maybe encourage the child to do some threading using pasta & strings. You can make play dough together (see online YouTube for instructions). Play dough lasts up to 12-14 days if kept in the fridge after every use. Activities involving cutting with scissors, colouring inside lines, dot-to-dot drawing, using tweezers to pick beads, buttons, dry beans or dry pasta, painting, etc. won't cost you money. Books about fine-motor skills available in shops but very few to be honest and not worth spending so much money when you can help DC using things you already have around your house.

Chrysanthemum5 Sun 22-May-16 20:03:28

I think you've had great ideas above. However I would just say DS (11) is dysgraphic and was exactly like your child. If writing was the point of the task (eg copying words etc) then he's fine, if writing is secondary (eg it's about writing a story) then he simply forgets basic writing skills. For DS writing is a conscious process whereas it should become an unconscious process where it's automatic. Also writing is sore and his hand hurts very quickly.

I'm not saying your child is the same but do mention it to the school. It took me 5 years to get DS's diagnosis but it's made a massive difference to his confidence.

nicp123 Sun 22-May-16 20:09:41

Have you checked his eye site? Just noticed you said " he can write when he cares"...?
Are his ideas clear? Not sure if the problem is his handwriting or thoughts & composition? Can he express his ideas clearly before writing it down? Is he thinking faster than he can write down and panicking knowing that he can't write neatly?

roundtable Sun 22-May-16 20:19:21

Threading beads, using play doh, kneading dough/making & decorating biscuits, building lego sets, using child size tweezers to pick up things like dried peas or pasta are a few suggestions.

Good luck flowers

TheTroubleWithAngels Sun 22-May-16 20:21:13

I presume the teacher has checked his pencil grip and letter formation.

The best handwriting tool is practice... Write from the Start is a fantastic resource but he would have to do it daily. Bribery?

itsmeagain1 Sun 22-May-16 20:59:03

He's only 5, I don't see why it's such an issue right now?
I'd leave him be for now as he's obviously not invested in the idea and doesn't really care.
I'm in a different country to you - assuming you're in the UK, and hand writing isn't really a concern until maybe age 7-8 here, assuming there is no improvement by then, they would get some extra help.
I did get the name of a handwriting programme from my sons OT, but I think it's for older children.
Www.hwtears.com

Makemeachannelofyourpeas Sun 22-May-16 21:02:23

Thanks for the advice above, I will try the activities you suggest. I've never heard of dysgraphia(?) before, is there specialist support for that? Or is it still a matter of practice makes perfect whether of not you have a diagnosis?

DS has great ideas and is inspired by what he's learning, he just can't express it legibly on paper! I guess it's just a matter of battling on trying to get him engaged with activities that aren't throwing if kicking balls of various sizes!

Makemeachannelofyourpeas Sun 22-May-16 21:03:28

I haven't heard of write from the start or he tears, will check them out too.

Toffeelatteplease Sun 22-May-16 21:27:27

You need to work out if it is fine motor control (lego, hamma beads, threading) or hand strength (tweezer work although it's a bit of an OT cop out exercise imho) else like hypermobile finger joints which can affect grip (pencil grips help enormously)

Either which way, you want this website. Have done the exercises with DS (SN) and when DD had a hand injury. Rolling the ball up and down the body was particularly effective (good if your child uses all the fingers to hold a pencil) and was making dinosaur prints with the play dough (very good for hypermobile fingers). Also from our ot sessions (not on the website) rolling a sausage and then pinching (thumb and forefinger only) spines across the top (making sure pads of fingers are used not tips) adding mini clothes pegs along the top.

With DS I got back out the Aquadraw. He had confidence issues that nothing he wrote/drew looked right. We used the precoloured mats so he could have a good scribble and it still came out right (but he probably has way more serious issues than you need to worry about!! blush)

Chrysanthemum5 Sun 22-May-16 21:36:37

The thing with dsygraphia is that it's not a question of practise. DS can write well if that's all he has to do, ask him to write a story and his mind is on that so the writing goes out the window.

DS has permission to write on an iPad instead of with a pencil and we've worked on his typing skills do he's reasonably fast. He does still use a pencil for planning work, maths etc but writing is painful for him so he just won't/can't write volumes.

Also we used to get DS doing endless handwriting sheets because his teachers insisted he could get better - I've now found out that they are if no use with dsygraphia because the child can write it's just not an automatic process.

Makemeachannelofyourpeas Sun 22-May-16 21:41:11

Just looked at that website, Toffee, it looks great! DS will particularly enjoy the ball walking I think! I'll get playdough and do some making as well.

I really appreciate all your suggestions. It's hard to know how concerned we should be about this at this stage (both DH and I had appalling handwriting when young and turned out OK in the end) but, as his teacher keeps telling us that she's concerned and the copying of endless letters doesn't seem to be working, it's probably time to try a new approach.

Toffeelatteplease Sun 22-May-16 21:46:25

I also think handwriting practice sheets are fairly rubbish. They don't address any underlying issues nor take into account that when you are doing them you will be doing your "best", which isn't necessarily a reflection of real life writing .

I also kinda disagree with the he's young don't worry about it. It's easier to fix any issues when you are little ie before you have formed bad habits and while the writing load is limited. None of the activities anyone has mentioned are harmful and all can he good fun.grin

Toffeelatteplease Sun 22-May-16 21:47:00

It is an awesome website!!!

RainyMornings Sun 22-May-16 21:48:38

movingsmartblog.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/m-is-for-monkeybars-getting-ready-for.html

Gross motor in turn improves fine motor, work on them both. And don't worry too much about it, as a child I wasn't allowed to use a pen until year 6 in maths (everyone else got to in year 4) because my writing was so awful. It's still a bit loopy now but legible, and when you're an adult your own personal writing style is just that. He might be a Dr grin

Makemeachannelofyourpeas Sun 22-May-16 21:49:52

I agree on the handwriting practice sheets -unrealistic and so DULL too! I still have to battle my and DS' lack of craftiness with threading, playdough, etc but will try to introduce a competitive element to get him engaged!

Makemeachannelofyourpeas Sun 22-May-16 21:53:41

Thanks Rainy, that's comforting to know! I'm just hoping that by the time he's an adult we'll all be living in a Jetsons-esque future where all communication is via voice-activated computer programmes...

Toffeelatteplease Sun 22-May-16 21:57:20

I think you'd like Dino feet.

Thing about Dino feet is that it doesn't require you to be crafty at all (I am not), it's slightly ridiculous (we bought pur hand down from great height with appropriate sound effects), incredibly good fun and one of the best hand strengthening exercises we've done.

RainyMornings Sun 22-May-16 21:58:07

Well, when was the last time you wrote a letter, cheque, journal, diary....... Christmas?!

SanityClause Sun 22-May-16 22:00:26

My DS still has terrible handwriting at 12yo.

When he was 8, we finally stopped waiting for it to improve (we had used putty, tweezer games, lots of Lego, you name it!) and he started touch typing lessons. He uses a laptop at school for most written work, now. At last his written output started to match his intellectual abilities!

He can write well when he cares - yes, but I bet it hurts his hands to do it. He probably couldn't sustain that neat writing for long. And as you can see, when he is really thinking about what he wants to write, he is having difficulty also concentrating on writing neatly.

It may well come with time, of course. It does for many DC, especially with a bit of extra support (like the activities suggested above).

Moonrocks6 Sun 22-May-16 22:06:48

There is a programme called dough-disco that is designed to strengthen the muscles in the hands so that children are more ready for writing. There are videos online by a lady called Shonette Basson, who has more energy than anyone I have ever met!
The children at our school love it and it seems to have had real impact.

Might be worth a go.

Makemeachannelofyourpeas Sun 22-May-16 22:08:14

That's interesting, Sanity, does your DS have dysgraphia? Does the inability to concentrate on lovely handwriting when thinking about a story or whatever signal a particular issue?

DS hasn't mentioned his hand hurting but then at 5 he may not realise that it's unusual.

Shakey15000 Sun 22-May-16 22:10:55

DS 8 also struggles. We've devised a reward thing based around Top Gear (a favourite!) where if he practises every day he gets cash towards the TG magazine.

Another thing that's helped is my sister bought a blank book and they write letters to each other. She only lives down the road so easy to post back and forth. He's staying with her for a weekend in Oct while DH and I bugger off to Prague so they've mostly been writing about what they'll be doing,

Dungandbother Sun 22-May-16 22:21:41

My son is the same. Yr 1 not 6 yet.

I suspect dysgraphia and have posted on here before about him.

He's super smart, has amazing vocab and is now reading level 10. But still can't write his name legibly.

School have put interventions in but now it's 'the next stage' as in beyond their capabilities of normal and they've backed off. I'm so disappointed with the Senco.

DS has write from the start. He has made enormous improvements BUT it's still terrible.

He has gross motor and fine motor delay.

He does have a writing slope at school. Before that he couldn't write his name. Now he is writing sentences. They do not in any way match his intellect. His pencil grip is terrible, he never forms the same letter the same way twice and sizing is all over.

I am teaching him slowly to touch type. When he gets to juniors I plan to hound the school till he gets a laptop to use.

He does Hama beads... He alternates hands left and right equally. No dominant hand. He would still pick up a pencil in his left if not reminded.

You're not alone. I hate the whole It's a boy thing trotted out by teachers.

Frustratedmummy79 Sun 22-May-16 22:23:05

You could try some sensory work to develop his letter formation - drawing letters and shapes in foam, mud (if he's a boy who likes getting dirty and you can handle it!!) sand. Making big letters out of dried pasta, or beads stuck into card. It gives him more of a "feel" for the letters. Drawing the letters in the air with the whole arm, writing letters on each other's backs and then guessing what you wrote. It might engage him more with the process. Also it's worth looking at whether he can draw his basic shapes (circle, square, triangle, X) as these are the precursors to writing. If you or school are really concerned or his writing is holding him back it may be worth getting a referral to an OT - waiting lists can be quite long so it might be wise to get in a waiting list sooner rather than later, you can always turn down an appointment if you don't think he needs it. Your GP can refer. Hope that's helpful

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