Occupational therapists (OTs) help people with physical, mental or social disabilities to independently carry out everyday tasks. They work with children and adults of all ages, whose difficulties may have been present since birth, or the result of an accident, illness, ageing or lifestyle.
Their aim is to understand each person’s requirements and lifestyle so they can create the best treatment plan for them to help people carry out their daily tasks and with more confidence and independence. This may be through suggested changes to the person’s environment, whether that be at home, work or school, and may provide equipment which will help with some activities. This may also be through re-education and learning of new techniques of achieving tasks.
Occupational Therapy and handwriting
Handwriting requires a combination of many skills. When a child with handwriting difficulties is seen by an OT, the therapist needs to assess the level of functioning in the following areas.
- Visual Motor Integration- hand to eye coordination.
- Fine Motor Skills- hand dominance, bilateral and motor co-ordination, in-hand manipulation, functional pencil grip,
- Gross Motor Skills- muscle tone, core strenth, hand, arm and shoulder strength.
- Visual Perception- discrimination between numbers, letters and words that are similar, spacing between letters, placing the letters on the writing line and using margins correctly, identifying which letters have been formed completely, letter and number reversal.
- Cognition- memory, language comprehension, concentration or specific learning difficulties e.g. spellings, problem solving and reasoning.
- Sensory processing difficulties- tactile, visual or proprioception.
If a child has difficulty with one of these skills, their overall writing performance may be weakened. As a consequence, a child may express an unwillingness to participate and may show a slow progression. A child’s school may observe a discrepancy between the quality of the child’s written work and verbal and cognitive abilities.