More than ever, schools are spending minimal time helping kids to develop handwriting skills. At the same time, we have more children with autism, sensory processing disorder, and developmental delays who need extra help with handwriting. If you're a concerned parent, you CAN help your child who is struggling with handwriting.

There are many issues involved in handwriting, including memory, language processing, posture, muscle tone, body awareness, tactile issues, and so on. If your child is having difficulty handwriting, request that your school have an occupational therapist (OT) with training in handwriting issues evaluate your child. Be sure to follow up to make sure your child is evaluated promptly! Once you identify which issues are at play, you and the OT can work on your son or daughter on penmanship. Meanwhile, as your child gets older, he will need to continue to develop the composing aspect of writing. Talk to your child's teacher about separating out these two skills if your child's handwriting is making it difficult to write a paragraph, book report, or--in the case of an older child--research paper or essay. When you separate out composing from handwriting, it can greatly help a child who has uneven skills. There's nothing more frustrating than knowing what you want to say and not being able to get it down on paper with a pencil, unless it's not knowing what to say and having handwriting problems to boot!

Here are some tips to help your child with handwriting.

1. Have your child write freely with a pen or pencil for a few minutes for practice. This will encourage self-expression. Praise her for the effort and don't make corrections. Let her get used to the idea that she actually can compose her thoughts and "write." If she's stumped on a topic, provide a simple one, and reward her for writing anything on the subject. There are books filled with lists of writing prompts geared to specific age levels. If she's very anxious, start small, free writing for as little as one minute. Build up to longer intervals.

2. Encourage composing letters, emails, or messages that are short form and handwritten.

3. Have a family blackboard and encourage your child to use it to draw and write. Having to write on a blackboard that's on a wall or easel will help build the muscles used in handwriting.

4. Encourage her to form letters, not just to draw. Writing letters and words, and drawing, use different parts of the brain. Be sure to encourage handwriting of letters and words, although you can encourage drawing, too, as that will help your child develop stamina for writing.

Author's Bio: 

Nancy Peske is the coauthor of the award-winning book Raising a Sensory Smart Child: Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues and the parent of a child who was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and multiple developmental delays at age 2. You can learn more about sensory issues at http://www.sensorysmartparent.com and at the Raising a Sensory Smart Child Facebook page.