Any child who has visited my clinic knows full well that my sessions rarely include an electronic toy or game. The good old fashioned pencil, paper, and chalkboard suffices for me. We play tons of games using our hands and our eyes with these simple tools. But, with that said, I have been “converted,” * you might say, to the benefits of including apps in handwriting remediation. And I have been researching the strategies that apps can present that would allow a handwriting struggler to become a handwriting winner! Let me share some with you, may I?
Five Essentials for App-licability For Handwriting Success
1. A Stylus: Handwriting success depends upon an efficient pencil grasp. It’s fun to trace letters with our fingers when children are in the early learning stages of letter recognition. But, when it’s time to put “pencil to paper,” a stylus that resembles the width and length of a pencil will provide children with the correct motor movement patterns for carry over during pencil activities. **
2. Tactile Input: Pencil pressure determines our ability to efficiently create a legible letter formation with a pencil during handwriting tasks. During desk-top activities, we might use sandpaper or tissue paper to allow children to experiment with pencil pressure. Apps that require children to put pressure on their finger or stylus can provide some of that same input.
3. Attention Skills: Handwriting success depends upon our ability to visually attend to the fine-motor demands of paper-and-pencil activities, as well as to use our eyes at both near and far distances (e.g., when copying from the board). Apps that provide colorful directional guides (e.g, up and down), color-coded guide lines (e.g, top, middle, and bottom lines), and colorful shapes to develop letter formation skills (e.g, circles and lines) can offer practice for attention skill development with near vision tasks.
4. Spatial Awareness: Legible handwriting depends upon our ability to determine the correct amount of space between letters, words, and sentences to allow for readability. Apps that provide ample opportunities for children to use their fingers or a stylus to move objects around the set and to accurately place them within the appropriate space or on the line can help them to understand spatial concepts and apply them during handwriting tasks.
5. Visual Perceptual Skills: Handwriting mastery relies heavily upon our ability to “see outside of the box.” Children can learn visual discrimination (e.g., determining size, likeness, and differences), visual memory (e.g, recall of previously learned letter formations), and figure-ground skills (e.g., ability to focus upon the task at hand while ignoring distractions on the page) with apps that provide hidden pictures or I Spy challenges.
Technology is fun. And I must admit that I have a few games that I love to play on my iPad. Apps can benefit a child’s handwriting mastery if they are limited to a “supplemental status,” using them as additional practice versus the main focus of the child’s handwriting instruction.
So, let me leave you to App-away! And let us know which apps you have found to help children master their handwriting skills!
*Meghan, over at Mac and Toys, offers some excellent suggestions for apps that educate!
**Please note that the Griffin and Pencil 53 are examples of a pencil-style stylus and are not being recommended by this author. The “I Spy With Lola” and Highlights Kids apps are examples of figure-ground activities and are not being recommended by this author.
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. It can be purchased her website, Handwriting With Katherine.Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.