Handwriting – To iPad or not to iPad

Ipads are becoming very popular for all aspects of the school curriculum and are a very motivating teaching medium. For our students with Primary Language Disorder they also can be an invaluable method of assisting their communication.

Handwriting is a very challenging task for our students as they need to master a number of elements – gross motor, fine motor, occulo-motor, visual perceptual, visual motor integration and attention to the task as well as the language component. Many will say “why teach handwriting when we are going to have this technology literally at our fingertips?” Despite this technology our students will still need to have an understanding of letters and be able to handwrite at a functional and practical level.

Handwriting 1

In Junior School we have been using an App which accesses the Queensland beginners’ plain font – rED Writing. rED is particularly motivating for younger students with engaging graphics, fun monsters and sticker album rewards. Another App (Au School Fonts) is suitable for older students as it has the Queensland plain and cursive fonts as well as spelling words. Use of a chunky stylus approximates hand grasp patterns similar to pencil use.

Handwriting 3           Handwriting 2

iPads use swipe and tap movements. Swipe and tap are not hand movements we use frequently in the completion of our daily living tasks such as dressing, feeding and playing.

If we are to further extend the independence of our students in their handwriting, school and daily living skills we need to include activities which increase postural stability, shoulder/elbow control, hand and finger co-ordination/ strength and provide sensory experiences.

Do lots of animal walks. Use playground equipment (climbing, monkey bars) as a way to build upper limb strength.

Practise writing on a vertical surface such as a blackboard or easel using large arm movements to encourage shoulder strengthening and correct wrist position.

Continue to encourage fine motor play, especially activities that use the forefinger and thumb eg. peg games, threading, lacing, playdough, lego and construction toys.

Encourage ‘messy play’, involving different ‘touch experiences’, such as playdough, water, shaving cream, sand, cooking. Hide objects or trace letters in a box of sand or rice. This helps children to develop greater awareness of where their fingers are positioned in space which is important for pencil grip.

Practise drawing and colouring using short, thick crayons and textas. Practise letters on worksheets encouraging correct pencil grip and correct work direction (left to right, top to bottom).

Remember ‘balance’ is the key – balance use of the ipad for handwriting with these other activities as part of your child’s daily routine.


Janine Day – Occupational Therapist – The Glenleighden School


Blog re handwriting 30.10.12




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