The discussion is about Inge. She writes a bit sloppy, which results in scoring lower then she should, because the teacher cannot read her answers properly. Inge is in third grade and really does her best, but she is unable to write neatly.
“We have already tried many different pencils and also those grippers,” says Steven, the teacher. “And in the beginning the handwriting seemed to improve, but only for about fifteen minutes.” I explain that this happens more often, that a new strategy helps for a while, but then, after a while the improvement is gone. Sometimes this is because an aid has not been used properly, which happens when wobbly cushions are overused. Another reason is that it is exciting and fun to try something new and therefore the child is more motivated to work. Until that feeling wears off. And then the child runs into the same problem again. In Inge’s case, poorly legible handwriting.
“Inge also has a bad posture,” Steven explains, “she slouches often. Together we ensure that she goes through all the steps to sit well; pull up the chair, buttocks in the back of the chair, back straight. But when I check after a few minutes, she’s back to slouching.” I ask questions to find out if Inge is aware of her body so she can coordinate her movements. If Inge is underresponsive for posture and movement, so receives too little sensory input through that sense, she won’t feel how she sits and she will not be able to maintain postures for long. It turns out that Inge is clumsy; more than others dropping things and bumping into furniture. These are indications that she is underresponsive for posture and movement.
This gives Inge two problems, she has difficulty maintaining a good writing posture and she does not feel her pencil well enough. Fortunately, there are solutions that can help Inge improve these basic writing conditions.
As to her posture I give the following tips to Steven: Before Inge starts writing, she should first ‘shake up’ her body a bit. There may be more students who would benefit from this, so plan a break for exercise before writing. Do a dance together, do a few chair push-ups or have the students ‘push their table into the ground’. Inge can then give her hands and forearms a good massage. I show Steven how to do that and ask him to do it togehther with Inge the first two times, so she can learn.
To keep her muscles active while writing, making her better aware of her movements, Inge could also do chair push-ups in between or she could write standing up. When she is standing, the muscles are much more active and she can probably hold an upright posture much better. Steven says he is happy with these tips: “I know more students that could benefit! We’ll definitely try that. I have a table in the room that is the right height. I will make sure to create a workplace there.”
To feel the pencil or pen better, you can put a gripper around the pencil, something Inge can feel well. Always use thin aids, such as round foam or gel grippers, to stay as close to a natural pen grip as possible. Writing is done from the fingers and the wrist, so they must be able to move well. And the pen or pencil should also be able to roll slightly between the fingertips, which is a good reason to only use round grippers. Before you get started on grippers, try wrapping a rubber band around the pen or pencil to see if it helps. There are also pens that already have a rubber grip. This extra input could be enough.
These strategies are a basis on which to continue. Once this is done, if Inge can maintain a good writing posture and is able to grip her pencil well, then Steven can work with Inge to improve her handwriting.