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A Pediatric Perspective

Speed and Legibility with Pencil Grip

Published November 4, 2012 11:04 AM by Cecilia Cruse

 I have been catching up lately on all my research and journal readings (in case you missed it, see my recent blog on idiopathic toe walking).  Browsing the current edition of AJOT, a study on handwriting grips caught my attention.  Entitled "Effect of Pencil Grasp on the Speed and Legibility of Handwriting in Children" by Schwellnus, Carnahan et all (AJOT Vol. 66 Nov/Dec 2012) the study examined 120 typically developing 4th grade students with a writing task.  From previous studies and literature reviews, the researchers first clarified the four mature grasp patterns as identified for functional writing:  dynamic tripod, dynamic quadruped, lateral tripod and lateral quadruped (see figure 1 in the full article for illustrations).  The study then went on to examine which type of grip the students used and measured speed and legibility using the CHES (Children's Handwriting Evaluation Scale).  The results documented that of the 120 students that participated they found six categories of pencil grips:  the four mature grasp patterns (as above), one immature grasp pattern and one alternating grasp pattern.  Within the four mature grasp pattern users, there was no significant effect on either legibility or speed with handwriting.  Their findings indicate that alternative grasp patterns may be acceptable for fast, legible handwriting. According to the article, the implications for OT practice may be that therapists should reconsider the need for changing pencil grasp pattern if the child has adopted a dynamic or lateral tripod or quadruped pencil grasp.  So next time you evaluate a child that is not using a perfect dynamic tripod pencil grip (but is using one of the alternate mature grasp patterns instead) keep in mind this study and of course always check for functional skills in the natural environment (making sure the student is keeping up with peers in writing assignments, can copy from the board, is not complaining of pain when handwriting etc.).  How to you evaluate handwriting skills for the children you serve?  


Yes, great point! ... And certainly check for good forearm and wrist stability as well.Thanks!

Cecilia Cruse November 5, 2012 7:33 PM

One key element is missing, a relaxed hold on the writing tool. Handwriting is a physical skill, and no tense hold on any tool is effective. I weep when I see images of children writing, intent yes, also death grip on pencils. Those images are posted from some leading handwriting companies.

Nan Jay Barchowsky November 4, 2012 5:51 PM
Aberdeen MD

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