Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Make writing easier for children

Lots of children struggle with handwriting because it is tiring and sometimes even hurts. They cannot hold a pencil correctly or comfortably and they are slow and often untidy writers.

The palmar grasp reflex begins in the womb when the foetus  is about eleven weeks old, is present at birth and should be inhibited by between 3 and 6 months old. Most of us can recognise the palmar reflex because if we press a finger into the palm of  a baby, the baby grabs it and holds on. The purpose of this is thought to be historic perhaps, to help the baby cling  on to the mother in days gone by, for safety reasons.

There is a connection between the palmar and the sucking reflex for feeding, one stimulating a response in the other. Watch a baby feeding and see the hands moving.

Parents will recognise that time when the baby  is losing the palmar reflex in the first 3 - 6 months of life. This is when the baby starts that game of throwing something out of the pram for the parent to retrieve and hand back , for it to be dropped again. The infant is practising letting go of an object where previously it was held onto because of the grasp reflex. Having learnt to release an object the child can start to develop other more mature  hand movements , eventually perfecting the pincer movement for holding the pencil.

Those children retaining the palmar grasp reflex have difficulty holding the pencil. The hand wants to grasp but the child has to force it into a more open pincer type position.  Look around and you will see many different versions but forcing the hand into an awkward position when the palmar is retained takes energy and some children will hold the pencil very tightly and press down very hard when writing. Others will barely grip the pencil and it will be a very  light and feint touch on the paper. Twisting their hand into the  different positions can hurt . It can be tiring and they may be displeased with the results off their efforts.

Clenching a soft ball in the hand or stroking the palm of the hand at the base of the fingers, stimulating the palmar reflex, will help to integrate it.Once integrated the pincer group can be improved by activities such as threading beads on to a string, making pictures with pegs, pegging cards on to a line etc.

Gwyneth Jeyes
 Experienced Teacher,
 MEd Educational Psychology & Special needs (Nottingham)
 Neurodevelopmental practitioner- Primary Movement Teacher,
 Listening Trainer(Advanced brain),
 Education  & Sound in Education (EASIE)
 EASIE Teacher trainer     
                                        et al.

I left a successful secondary teaching career to raise my own family but was later persuaded to take up a position in a primary school. Being science and maths based I was interested to know what children had difficulties with, why and what could be done about it.  Having a dyslexic daughter acted as a spur. It was a steep learning curve to understand the connection between child development, learning and the brain connections.  Studying at my own expense I was lucky enough to find a school in my area willing to allow me to test different strategies with the children and the results were recorded in various studies. I was working at the leading edge of education and development and left the state system to continue  with  such investigations into learning.