Handwriting is a complex task that involves many underlying sensory motor foundations being
in place for writing to be automatic and legible. Occupational therapy practitioners look
beyond handwriting practice and focus on supporting growth in underlying areas of need to
maximize writing success, as well as identifying adaptations and accommodations related to
these areas to meet an individual’s current abilities. The following areas are considered by
occupational therapy practitioners to support an individual’s handwriting abilities:
Regulation & Attention – Being able to maintain an energy state that matches a writing task is
essential for being able to attend and complete the task at hand. To support this area,
determining unique personal factors that influence one’s regulation state is essential.
Sensory Discrimination– Accurate discrimination of touch and muscle/joint information allows
for adjustment of the hand and fingers around the pencil with accurate pressure. The accurate
discrimination of input from the movement (vestibular) system is an important foundation for
motor areas related to handwriting including ocular skills, postural control, and spatial
Motor Planning – Accurate sensory discrimination is the foundation for motor planning abilities.
Being able to motor plan during writing allows for one to fluidly forming letters consistently and
in a timely manner without visual monitoring.
Posture and Shoulder Stability – The development of adequate postural and shoulder stability is
also important to help support the body in an upright position, which in turn allows skilled use
of the hands for writing and other fine motor tasks.
Ocular (Eye) Skills– The refined coordination of the eyes is essential for writing and copying
activities. It allows eyes to move across the page when writing, as well as accurately shift
between the board and back to the paper when copying.
Spatial Awareness – Spatial awareness is essential for forming letters with correct size, spacing,
and orientation to the writing line. This ability is greatly influenced by the movement
Fine Motor Skills – The development and coordination of hand musculature allows for essentials
related to writing including a mature grasp pattern and endurance.
Visual Perceptual Skills – The ability to recognize, discriminate and interpret visual information
can impact spatial components of writing, one’s ability to recognize letters in a variety of
presentation (i.e., different fonts).
Visual Motor Integration – Being able to accurately coordinate eye and hand movements is an
essential integration ability necessary for writing with control and accuracy. Visual motor skills,
such as copying shapes, are pre-requisites for writing.
If you have concerns about your child’s handwriting, reach out to see if occupational therapy can help.