"5 year old Cody writes so lightly that we can't read his work! He doesn't seem to know how hard to push on the pencil and is just not interested in writing or drawing!"
Cody's mum is confused because he loves playing with Lego and didn't seem to have a problem with his fine motor skills. She is worried that he is just not going to cope with "big school" and all the writing that needs to happen there.
Too little pencil pressure!
Why do some children press "too lightly" when writing?
1. Sensory Processing or Modulation Difficulties.
Everyday, we receive information from our senses through our eyes, nose, mouth, ears, skin and joints. We use this information to interact with the people and the environment around us. Each of us process this sensory information in different ways and our brains need to organise this information so that we can function in everyday situations such as in the classroom, at home or the playground.
Proprioception is our "sense" which informs us of about our own body, how our body parts relate to one another, how much our muscles stretch, the speed of our movement in space, our timing as well as the amount of force our muscles produce.*
Poor body awareness and proprioception may result in difficulties manipulating objects such as pencils for writing. Children may have a weak grasp and have difficulties grading the amount of force to apply (ie. too much or too little pressure to the pencil).
An over responsive child may avoid the "feel" or touch of objects. They may avoid or lightly "hold" pencils or other writing tools. This makes it difficult to apply adequate pressure to the page when writing or drawing.
A child with poor registration may have difficulty "registering" how the pencil feels in their hand. They don't know how to control the pencil and it is not an extension of movements made by the hand.
2. Weak Hand and Finger Strength
Children with weak hand and finger muscles may have difficulty grasping a pencil effectively or for a sustained period of time. They may have difficulty applying enough pressure, write quickly enough, write for a long enough duration or write enough on the page. These children may swap hands regularly or just drop the pencil for "no reason".
Read more about hand and finger strength in a recent article.
Tried and Tested OT tricks when a child presses "too lightly" when writing!
OT intervention for pencil pressure provides a child with ways to be aware of their pencil pressure, practise techniques to increase their force when it is too light and provides ways to compensate when they struggle to grade their movements.
1. PREPARE THE BODY FOR WRITING
Before running a race, we need to prepare our body by training our muscles. We need to stretch, practise aspects of the race, be aware of the environmental conditions and know what is involved with running the race.
In handwriting, we need to also prepare the body and understand what is required. Activities which provide "heavy work" or proprioceptive input to skin, muscles and joints can prepare the body for writing. This may include hanging from monkey bars, jumping on the trampoline, wiping a whiteboard clean or lifting school chairs onto the table. Find more"heavy work" ideasHERE.
There are also ways to increase the "heavy work" and proprioceptive input to fingers and hands prior to writing. This may include squeezing some play dough, using tongs or tweezers to transfer items or doing a variety of finger exercises. Find my ideas for "heavy work for little fingers" HERE and if you didn't link over to my recent article about building hand strength, then you can find that HERE for more ideas for preparing hands for writing .
2. HELP CHILDREN TO BE AWARE OF THEIR PENCIL PRESSURE
a) Change the Writing Tool
3. HELP CHILDREN TO INCREASE THE PRESSURE APPLIED TO THE PAGE
a) Change the Writing Tool
4. HELP CHILDREN TO COMPENSATE FOR NOT APPLYING ENOUGH PENCIL PRESSURE.
a) Change the Writing Tool
Are you concerned about your child applying too MUCH pressure on the page? Is your child breaking pencils or pushing so hard they make holes in the page? Read "Why Your Child Presses Too Hard When Writing" from Miss Jaime OT!
What are your tried and tested tricks for helping children who have difficulty with pencil pressure? How would you advice "Cody's mum"?
* Kranowitz, C. S. (2011). The out-of-sync child: recognizing and coping with sensory processing disorder. Place of publication not identified: Paw Prints.
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
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Disclaimer: The information on this site is general in nature and should be used for educational and entertainment purposes. The activities are safe for most children, however, you should consult an Occupational Therapist or health professional to address specific movement, sensory or other medical conditions. This blog does not replace formal therapeutic professional advice given by a health professional or medical practitioner. Reviews and endorsements of products will only be made based on my expertise and personal opinion; and deemed worthy of such endorsement. The opinions shared in sponsored content will always be my own and not that of the advertising company or brand. Content, advertising space or posts will be clearly identified if paid, affiliated or sponsored. Affiliate links may be found throughout this website in advertising. This means that if you follow through with a purchase from these links, Your Kids OT will receive a percentage of the sale. Your Kids OT undertakes to meet the requirements of the "Social Media Policy" as published by Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). Further information about this policy can be found here.
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