The Struggling Learner Scenario: Poor Handwriting Part 2

Does your child’s handwriting look like ancient hieroglyphics?  Do you attempt to interpret her page of scribbles just as you tried to interpret her drawings when she was… 4?  “How lovely!  Thank you!  What a beautiful… uh… uh… How beautiful!”


In Part 1 you learned to look for clues in 3 different places, clues that will answer the all-important question, WHY does your child have such difficulty with handwriting?


Today let’s look at 3 more possible reasons.


Child’s fist holding pencil, erasing writing on paper. Image caption reads: The Struggling Learner Scenario: Poor Handwriting Part 2.

Clue #4

Could spatial awareness be the challenge?

I’ve talked at length about spatial awareness.  As it pertains to handwriting, though, we need to be aware of:

  • How large or small our letters are compared to each other
  • How much space to put between letters and words
  • How to align words on a page


Does your child write lowercase letters in dramatically different sizes, perhaps all in the same word?  Spatial awareness might be the challenge.  Be sure to practice the difference between small, medium, and large.  You can practice this with random items in your house to start.  For example, big spoon or little spoon?


If you’re ready to stop the madness of storing food containers and lids separately, assign your child the task of matching them.  Hmm, I have a small, round lid.  Can you find the small, round container?


Also be sure that your child has a clear understanding of uppercase vs lowercase.  Review the lowercase letters that drop below the line (y, p, q, etc.) and which ones may be tall and sit on the line (b, k, f, etc.).


Does your child write some words that are squished together into one long word?  Demonstrate placing a pinky finger after a word before writing the next word.


To take it a step further, have your child measure his pinky finger with a ruler and find different items that might be the same width.  A crayon?  A Lego brick?  A jelly bean, perhaps?  Of course, if you followed the nutrition recommendation in Part 1, then let’s say we skip that jelly bean.


Is your child able to write a sentence in a straight line, or do the words eventually droop down toward the bottom of the page?  Spatial awareness might be the challenge.  However, this could also be a clue that visual tracking might be the challenge.  So let’s cover that next…


Clue #5

Could visual tracking be the challenge?

Visual tracking is another skill that I’ve discussed at length, usually as it pertains to reading.  Essentially we want to be able to control our eye movements from left to right.  If they are darting all over the place, we’ll have trouble reading, but we’ll also have trouble keeping our place when we’re writing, too.


Let’s say that we’re writing the letter b.  We draw a straight line from top to bottom.  So far so good.  Then we curve our line back up and to the right.  What happens if our eyes keep wanting to go left instead?


Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not suggesting that this is the reason for common letter reversals (writing d instead of b, p instead of q, etc.).  However, if visual tracking is the challenge, or at least one of them, you might notice some inadvertent letter reversals because of it.


And, if our eyes have a tendency to want to stay left, then our writing, as described in the spatial awareness difficulty above, might want to stay squished to the left as well.  In that case, our words are going to look as if they’re falling off a cliff the closer they reach the right side of the page.


Think your child needs visual tracking practice?  Find plenty of fun exercises in The Free Printables Collection.


Clue #6

Could visual discrimination be the challenge?

This one might not seem so obvious as a reason for handwriting difficulty.


A moment ago we discussed large vs small in terms of spatial awareness.  Visual discrimination ties right into that.


If our visual discrimination skills are up to par then we know that the large, round lid is different than the small, round lid.  Sure, that’s important when searching for the all-too-elusive matching container, but how is that important for writing?


If you draw a long line next to a short line and I can’t tell you what’s different about them, then I’m probably not going to be able to tell you what’s different about a capital P and a lowercase p.  Visual discrimination skills allow me to see the subtle details, identify the differences, and write the correct letter.


The alphabet is made up of all sorts of lines and curves.  I need strong visual discrimination skills in order to decipher which is which, and write them accordingly.


Learn about strengthening visual discrimination skills here.


Bonus Clues

You’ll notice that I made no mention of spelling.  In this scenario I’m only referring to the neatness or messiness of the writing, not the substance.


Nor did I mention attention issues as a possible reason to investigate.  I’m going to assume that you realize attention issues play a role in nearly EVERYTHING.  If you ask your child to take his time, and that leads to a marked improvement in handwriting, then tadah!  You’ve unmasked the culprit.  Kudos for your successful sleuthing!


Likely, though, your child’s particular challenges with handwriting are due to a combination of reasons, not just one.  Keep investigating.  Keep sleuthing.   I hope I’ve thoroughly armed you with the information you need to take most of the guesswork out of which steps to take next.


Oh yeah, here’s what to do next.  If you’d like to take your investigative skills even further, to take a deeper dive into learning differences and difficulties, learn more about online parent training here.


You might also like The Struggling Learner Scenario: Can’t Sit Still.