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Improving handwriting skills – without even lifting a pen!

The ability to write legibly remains an important skill even in this keyboard-driven era.

For children with dyspraxia, difficulties with handwriting can cause significant problems at school. As part of our focus on Dyspraxia Awareness Week we look at ways of developing children’s handwriting without the need to lift a pen!

Must haves for legible handwriting

boy balnacing on high ropes trailTo develop a legible, fluent and fast handwriting style, children need to have good gross and fine motor control as well as good hand-to-eye coordination.

Handwriting requires a steady shoulder and for the wrist and elbow to move in just the right way.

The development of good posture and balance are important.

How to develop gross motor skills

girl holding onto handles, swingingGross motor skills are the controlled movements in our whole body or limbs ie arms and legs. Activities such as dance, football, cycling and gripping climbing frames can all help develop gross motor control. Try these exercises too:

  • Skywriting – ‘write’ letters and words as large as you can in the air as if you’re holding a giant pen or pencil
  • Animal walks – develop shoulder stability by pretending to walk like an animal e.g. a crab. Makes for a great party game!
  • Jumping jacks – to improve core strength

How to develop fine motor skills

Fine motor skills are the smaller movements our bodies make, usually of the hands and fingers. Activities to improve fine motor control include:-

  • Bead threading
  • Making patterns using peg boards
  • Using chopsticks or tweezers to pick up small objects – the Operation game is great for this!
  • Bursting bubble wrap – who doesn’t love doing that?!
  • Using a squirt gun to ‘shoot’ water
  • Jenga
  • Hug and Tug

What’s Hug and Tug?

Hug & Tug is an exercise that’s particularly recommended to strengthen muscle tone in the fingers. Great for warming up the fingers before starting to write and can also help as a calming exercise.

  1. Start with interlocking your index fingers. Squeeze and pull – one relaxes as the other pulls.
  2. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
  3. Unhook your index fingers and interlock your middle fingers. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
  4. Continue with all fingers, including thumbs.


Most importantly, remember to make the activities as playful as possible. Kids learn best when they’re having fun!

Hop over to the National Handwriting Association for lots more information and helpful advice.

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Dyspraxia Awareness Week

Dyspraxia awareness week logo

Dyspraxia Awareness Week

12th – 18th October 2014


Organised by the Dyspraxia Foundation this nationwide campaign aims to raise awareness of dyspraxia and this year has a particular focus on the emotional impact the condition has on teenagers and young adults.

What is dyspraxia?

Sometimes referred to as the ‘clumsy’ syndrome, dyspraxia is a neurological condition that affects coordination and spatial awareness. It comonly also causes difficulties with planning or organising and is known to affect speech and thought. Dyspraxia often occurs alongside other conditions such as autism, ADHD and dyslexia.

Common features of the condition include:-

  • falling over frequently
  • difficulty walking up and downstairs
  • poor short term memory e.g. unable to remember or follow instructions
  • difficulties with dressing and fastening clothes
  • difficulties with running, jumping, catching/kicking balls
  • illegible handwriting
  • poor organisation skills

What can I do to help my child with dyspraxia?

Sensory integration therapy

Sensory integration therapy involves using equipment to help the child to take in sensory information such as touch, deep pressure, movement experiences and visual information. This sensory information helps improve spatial awareness and coordination.

Practice fine motor activities

Activities to improve fine motor skills will also help with handwriting and self care skills.

Encourage exercise and make it fun

Set up a mini assault course using simple household items – cushions to jump over, a long stick for a finish line, bean bags for throwing, etc. Try to include lots of running, jumping and throwing activities. Time them and challenge them to beat their personal best!

Simplify things

Opt for loose fit clothing that’s easy to take on and off. Look out for elastic waists on trousers and skirts, velcro fastenings on shoes and coats and jumpers rather than cardigans with fiddly buttons.

Easy belts have velcro closing belts in a variety of colours and sizes for children and adults.

Lock Laces elastic shoelaces can replace normal shoe laces on any shoes or trainers and come in lots of exciting colours!

Use checklists, daily diaries and visual supports such as TomTag to make day to day organisation easier and more predictable.

Where can I go for more information?

Dyspraxia Foundation – become a member of the foundation (£25 for 12 month membership) to access a host of information sheets and gain access to your local group.

Dyspraxia UK – can help with finding a specialist occupational therapist in your area who will be able to assess, diagnose and devise individualised therapy plans.