Lined paper. Pencil grips. Easels. Tutoring.
All of these solutions can help a child who has illegible handwriting. There are more handwriting devices and strategies than pencils in my desk drawer. But three contributors to poorly legible writing are often easily forgotten:
- Room temperature. Children that are chilly or too toasty will be fidgety. Sweaty kids are sticky kids, with damp hands that don’t hold a pencil well. They aren’t likely to notice any of this, except to ask to go out to play. Chilly kids fidget, as their brain naturally wants to warm up. They tuck their “helper hand” under their thigh instead of steadying their paper.
- Room lighting. Kids are worse than adults in noticing that they cannot see their page clearly due to shadows or simply dim lighting. Bright-but-harsh lighting isn’t much better; it strains eyes, making children want to leave the room without knowing why.
- Noise. Loud noises, unless a child is near a train line or a highway, aren’t persistent. Low-level noise, from a TV show in the background or the preparation of tonight’s dinner, can be enough to sideline a child’s best efforts. The brain doesn’t tune out background noise completely. It uses some of its bandwidth to detect and evaluate it before it ignores the sounds. Children with handwriting challenges can’t spare much bandwidth before their work suffers.
So….do not ignore the writing environment! Always think about these three issues. The solutions can be cheap and easy. They do not require more adult intervention or ask the child to make sacrifices that irritate them. Make an effort to create the best possible performance environment for every child, and especially a child that is struggling to write.