Learning Challenges

Helping Students Who Struggle with Handwriting

Expert tips to help teachers and parents improve their child’s handwriting, increase their confidence, and expand their horizons.

ADHD kids that have trouble with handwriting will have a lot of pencil shavings
ADHD kids that have trouble with handwriting will have a lot of pencil shavings

Many children struggle with writing because they do not automatically recall the muscle movements and motor planning skills involved in forming strokes (curves, loops, counterclockwise motion). They don’t have a clear mental picture of how each letter looks so that they can reproduce it from memory. Here are strategies for teaching handwriting and improving legibility:

> When teaching letters, group them by similarity of formation — l/t/i; a/c/d; v/w.

> Have children trace some letters and then write a few on their own. Afterward, have them circle their best ones.

[Self-Test: Could My Child Have Dysgraphia?]

> Use dots, numbered arrows, highlighters, and other means to provide visual cues.

> If a child struggles to hold and manipulate a pencil, there are a variety of pencil grips that can make writing easier: triangular plastic, molded clay, and soft foam cushion that the pencil slides through.

> Consider using a program for teaching handwriting: Handwriting Without Tears and Living Letters are the best.

> Provide students sufficient time to write, in order to avoid time pressures.

[Lend a Hand with These Easy Handwriting Strategies]

> For some students it is easier to write on narrow-ruled paper (shorter line height) rather than on paper with wider-ruled lines.

> Provide a strip or chart of alphabet letters on the student’s desk for reference.

Adapted from The ADHD Book of Lists: A Practical Guide for Helping Children & Teens with Attention Deficit Disorders, 2nd Edition (2015, published by Jossey-Bass), by SANDRA F. RIEF, M.A.