Children's pencil grasp is less importantThe increased use of computers and tablets in schools and at home has shifted educational focus toward a child’s keyboard skills rather than handwriting. Children are still expected to learn how to write by hand, but the importance of letter formation and speed is often overlooked.

A recent study, published in the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, found that the kinetics, speed, and legibility of writing were not different among children who used four different types of pencil grips after ten minutes of writing.

The findings suggest that a child’s pencil grip is less important than their ability to correctly form letters at various speeds. The researcher found no kinetic differences among the four commonly occurring pencil grips: dynamic tripod, dynamic quadrupod, lateral tripod, and lateral quadrupod.

A child’s pencil grip pattern is often associated with handwriting problems and messy letter formation. However, this conclusion is not evidence based and overlooks the complex interplay of abilities that are needed for functional handwriting, such as fine motor coordination, cognitive, perceptual, and language skills.

In order for a child’s pencil grip to be functional for handwriting, it must provide the ability to efficiently create a legible written product in the required timeframe. Children must be able to write long enough to adequately complete their homework and class assignments. If a child’s pencil grip is preventing them from achieving grade-appropriate functional writing, it is suggested they be referred to occupational therapists.

The NeuroNet program is specifically designed to address the area of handwriting in children. For handwriting to be a functional tool, it needs to be performed automatically and fluently. NeuroNet exercises are performed in the context of rhythmic movement. Additionally, visual-verbal integration exercises facilitate rapid letter naming and sequences of the alphabet. Parents of children struggling with handwriting can view our Therapist Directory for a list of certified providers, or view our new Listen, Talk and Write program trial.

Journal reference:

Schwellnus, Heidi et al. 2013. “Writing forces associated with four pencil grasp patterns in grade 4 children.” AJOT: American Journal of Occupational Therapy 67(2):218.

Photo reference:

Koziatek, Susan M., and Nancy J. Powell. 2003. “Pencil Grips, Legibility, and Speed of Fourth-Graders’ Writing in Cursive.” The American Journal of Occupational Therapy 57(3):284–88.