Handwriting

Handwriting. Yup, handwriting was one of the two key reasons that led us to occupational therapy (OT). Yes, believe it or not, it was handwriting (or the lack of) that convinced me.

We were recommended to send Hubby-jr for an OT assessment way back when we first looked into his speech/language development delay in 2007 (he was four then). But when we received the news he had mild/moderate hearing loss in his right ear – which helped explain most of his developmental delays – we didn’t pursue the OT assessment. We thought we had it figured out, more or less.

Perhaps my judgment was clouded at that point in time by the initial shock of his hearing loss and formal confirmation of his developmental delays (social and language). Looking back I think I was simply overwhelmed and I found all of it hard to digest. So much so I couldn’t bear the thought of one more assessment. Why go through it if it was not absolutely necessary?

Well that was then, I was wrong and in hindsight I regret not going through with the OT assessment.

So what was different this time round that made me take that step? Desperation? In part I guess. But honestly – his serious difficulty with handwriting tipped the scales. It gave me a tangible reason to seek OT. To me it was the only visible symptom.

Okay, some of you may be wondering how bad could his handwriting have been. Hmmm…let me count the ways. His letters were poorly aligned, for example his “r” was as tall as “h” and “t” was as short as “a”. There were no spaces where there should be (in between words) and random gaps between letters where there shouldn’t be. This despite me having taught and drilled him in K2. It was also either too dark (too much pressure on the pencil) or too light, there was no middle ground.

I also received feedback from his class teacher (and his previous kindergarten teacher) that he was very slow in his written work. At the beginning of the year (P1) he was always the last in copying from the board and he almost never could complete any written work in time. If the teacher gave him time to complete his work, she had to ask the rest of his classmates to do some colouring while waiting.

At home, I could see for myself how labourious it was for him. It took him tremendous amount of time and effort just to write neatly. A five sentence handwriting assignment could take him 30-45 minutes just to complete!

I began to seriously wonder why it was that difficult for him to do something that shouldn’t be all that difficult. I also knew I had to do something. How on earth could he survive school if he continued writing at this rate?

Hence when I was recommended to send him for an OT check (the second time), I was very open and we just went for it. Like I said, I was desperate. I was desperate for any explanation, more importantly for any solution.

Having said that, the results of the OT wasn’t what I expected. I kept thinking it had to be his fine motor skills. Well turns out, Hubby-jr’s difficulty with handwriting had little to do with his fine motor skills. It had more to do with poor core muscle tone which probably is a result of his vestibular and proprioceptive sensory issues.

Poor core muscle tone?! I must have gaped when the occupational therapist told me that. Hubby-jr is an active boy who has amazing stamina. He climbs, runs and slides down “fireman poles” at the playground which he visits almost every evening since he was almost 2?! As a friend of mine aptly exclaimed when I told her the diagnosis, “that is SO BIZARRE!” She has often seen him at play.

Well, I guess that’s why we pay the experts. They can pick up stuff that seemingly look normal to us. For more information on the basic skills needed for handwriting check out this link.

The occupational therapist was right (in case you were skeptical). Since we started OT in March, Hubby-jr’s handwriting has improved signficantly. His pencil control is much better, he can write neatly (when he wants to) and quickly now. In school, he can now complete his work in time! Amazing.

But he is not done with OT. He still needs it. Handwriting was only the tip of the iceberg.

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