I just realized that it may help you to contact
an occupational therapist
for ideas on prewriting skills and writing support. Children with severe
fine motor delays (as defined by the state) can get occupational therapy through
the school system.
For pre-writing activities, an OT suggested the following for my
daughter: writing letters in fingerpaint or shaving cream (for bath-time fun).
Having him trace and feel letters made out of sandpaper (you can make them).
Practice air writing so he can spell his favorite words. Take him to the
park and have him write in sand. In other words, you get him to learn the
motor plans for letters without having deal with the stress of using pencil and
paper on a horizontal plane.
Another trick is to buy him a coloring book for his favorite thing (i.e.,
animals, Hercules, Power Rangers--whatever it is). Then let him color
using only small crayon stubs. The stubs force you to use a pencil grip.
So he's getting used to using the proper grip doing something he enjoys.
Then when he's ready to write, use some tricks of the trade.
Start him out writing on a vertical plane (ie, tape paper to the refrigerator).
It's easier to write vertically than it is horizontally. Then when you
transition to the horizontal plane, you can make your own slant board buy using
a 3" notebook, clamping paper to it and turning it sideways so that the top
of the paper is elevated 3". Eventually you can fade away to the
horizontal plane by using thinner notebooks. Some children find using a
pencil grip helpful (my daughter didn't).
An excellent book for teaching children to write who have difficulty writing
is Handwriting Without Tears, which was developed by an OT: Jan Z. Olsen,
8802 Quiet Streem CT, Potomac, MD 20854, (301) 983-8409. She's supportive
of homeschoolers too! If you get the Teacher's Guide for the child's
printing book, there are lots of tips on how to make writing as easy as
possible by using the proper form, grip and techniques. She has a
follow-on book for cursive and we plan to use that too when the time comes.
I really feel for you and your son for the frustration caused by being
pressured to write too early. My daughter absolutely hated writing when we
started homeschooling when she was 6. So we stopped writing for a year.
We only focused on the pre-writing activities and crayon stubbs. When we
revisited writing with Handwriting Without Tears, things went much more smoothly
with less frustration. It has taken her longer to learn to write (we spent
all last year doing capital letters and this year doing small letters).
But, she's happier and enjoys writing now. When she draws, she now will
sometimes write words to go with her drawing so it's a sign that we are not
pressuring her too much. (Speaking of writing, I just turned around to get
something and I noticed she just wrote down a shopping list on a piece of paper:
"milk", "bread" and "jcie" (juice).)
The bottomline is that nobody's going to care how late she learned to write
if she's able to write as an adult. Does anyone ever ask "Gee, how
old were you when you learned to write?" What a silly question.
And, like you said in your post, it's important to keep learning and stimulate
interest in learning without torturing a kid with writing when (s)he's just not
"A parent's love perceives no limitations."
Copyright 1999 Tammy G