I sat across from a set of parents at an IEP meeting. Nice people- no horror stories of anger, frustration, or possible litigation. Just an average conversation about a child I recently began working with in a school setting.
My responsibility was to take over the goals of a previous OT, you know the ones that have like 7-8 different goals nestled into one frustrating, difficult to track run-on sentence? Yeah, we’re all guilty of that at some point. Regardless, the conversation was all about handwriting.
The father, quiet and reserved for the most part of the meeting, speaks up to say, “but is handwriting really a necessary skill in this day and age?”
You know how I love skeptics, but this general question is coming up more and more in my practice:
“Is handwriting really a necessary skill?” -Goodness, yes.
“Do we really need to know how to write legibly?” -Holy cow, yes.
I’m not oblivious to the fact that our world is increasingly digital. Even the act of printing things out- who does that anymore? Almost everything is online, digital, and right at your decreasingly dexterous fingertips.
And while this is all fantastic and convenient, you can’t deny the impact of this sort of technology on kids’ developing brains. While that’s a whole other can of worms, I would just like to mention that many kids are missing out on developing a very specific and important skill set that comes along with writing.
With that being said, I urge you to look at the SKILL of handwriting over the concept of writing itself: (Hint – It’s chock-full of goodness.)
-Fine motor skills: Dexterity, Precision, Coordination, Grasping
-Visual motor/Oculomotor skills: Eye teaming, Convergence, Scanning
-Behavioral skills: Attention, Focus, Creativity
And that’s just scratching the surface. Yes, I know there are alternatives out there for children that can’t quite find a functional written form of communication, and that’s wonderful. But does that mean we throw out the rest? Should we pretend that handwriting never happened because something else is more convenient? Ok, I’m not THAT old, but I’m sounding like my great grandparents here.
So here’s my public service announcement: Please don’t overlook the process of handwriting and what that means for a child’s development.
Writing can be both a representation of necessary skill mastery (i.e. a proper grasp = able to button a shirt, tie shoes, or open containers to prepare a meal).
OR, it can be a window into underlying delays in skill development (i.e. poor handwriting can reveal visual motor integration issues, vision issues, behavioral/emotional issues, etc.).
If handwriting is dying, then let’s revive it. At least advocate for its existence. Don’t pull the plug, because I’m afraid of a society that doesn’t know how to write.
P.S. Please pretend you didn’t just read this typed out post on an electronic device…