Thursday, January 1, 2015

Handwriting: Pencil vs. iPad

The debate over the importance of handwriting is looming, as technology is gaining momentum in classrooms and households all over the country. With the increased use of keyboarding and accessibility to information- thanks to the internet, why are students demonstrating increased difficulty learning and recalling important information? And why do more and more students seem to need Occupational Therapy for handwriting problems? The WSJ article, "How Handwriting Boosts the Brain," discusses the importance of the physical act of writing in order to improve fine motor skills, learning letters and shapes (which is necessary for letter recognition), and idea expression and layout. Kids and adults alike reap the benefits of the physical act of handwriting... It is easier to learn new information when you physically sequence a task, using the visual and motoric systems. When I was in OT school at Columbia, it truly helped me to learn the information presented during classes- and in preparation of the Boards- when I wrote it out first. According to this article, the use of iPads actually mimics handwriting through the touch screen. The user must create the letters- 1 stroke at a time and in sequential order. Using a finger and/or stylus can be just like using a pencil on paper. Through this technology, improvement in the aforementioned skills can be demonstrated- including buzz words such as visual motor (control hand movements with the use of vision) and visual perceptual skills (gathering information through vision and integrating with the other senses). Although technology can be a wonderful addition for emergent skills- it should not replace "the real thing." Handwriting continues to be an important part of a child's school-aged years. Scribing notes during lessons (including copying directly from the board), taking tests, and completing in-class assignments, as well as communicating ideas, answers, thoughts, greetings, and basically, knowledge to people, are all age-appropriate expectations of students in present-day classrooms. Future requirements of students include the timed composition areas of the SATs. Good handwriting strokes (letter formation) = efficient strokes = faster handwriting... Analysis of a child's handwriting can also provide clues to developmental problems that potentially hinder classroom learning, as teachers depend on written work in order to measure how well a child is learning. An occupational therapist will look at the following components of handwriting: Demonstration of correct grasp of a pencil Spatial concepts (spacing; sizing; orientation to line) Maintaining posture (core strength and upper extremity stabilization) Copy of letters/words (near-copy from another piece of paper / far-copy from the chalkboard) Letter formation Utilization of appropriate pressure- prevent fatigue If you have any questions or concerns about your child's handwriting skills, please contact me at or by calling 813.856.9449. You can read more about the Helping Hand for Handwriting classes here.