Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

April 17, 2014

Greetings from a recent Handwriting Without Tears workshop!

A message from Kati Berlin, Occupational Therapist at the Pineville office.

I attended a Handwriting Without Tears¬Æ (HWT¬Æ) workshop in Charlotte recently and would like to share some of the overall ideas and principles from a pediatric occupational therapist perspective.  

HWT¬Æ begins with pre-writing strokes and progresses to drawing shapes, forming upper case letters, lower case letters, and cursive writing. It is sensitive to child development by encouraging gross motor skills before fine motor skills, and pacing the program based on the ages that children are able to integrate lines. Typically, a child integrates a vertical line first, next a horizontal line, progresses to circles, intersecting lines, and lastly diagonal lines. This means that the preschool Handwriting Without Tears work books start with drawing vertical lines, progress to drawing shapes with only vertical and horizontal lines, and end with drawing triangles as these shapes have diagonal lines. Handwriting Without Tears has a work book for grades kindergarten through 5th grade. The work books not only focus on correct letter formation, but also include work on spacing, sizing, alignment, and even writing paragraphs. They also show how the workbooks touch on Common Core standards that many teachers may have be concerned with when writing lesson plans.

HWT¬Æ uses a multi-sensory approach meaning that children use gross motor movements, kinesthetic feedback via writing on a chalk board, and forming the letters with wooden blocks. This program stresses the importance of multi-sensory feedback, demonstration, and gross motor movements before forming letters on paper. This is because once a child has the pencil in his or her hand, there is an added element of learning how to hold and move the pencil to form the letter. If a child already knows how to form the letter, he or she is only learning how to control the pencil.

HWT¬Æ uses very small crayons, chalk, and pencils to encourage an appropriate grasp (usually a tripod grasp). The importance of grasp comes into play when a child needs increased endurance to be able to write paragraphs of information in school. If a child does not have an efficient grasp (tripod, quadrupod, or modified tripod) he or she could fall behind with school work. An inefficient grasp can also cause hand fatigue and cramps, which also slows down handwriting.

Lastly, HWT¬Æ stresses the importance of practicing forming a letter correctly. This is because every time a child writes a letter, he or she forms a neuronal connection from the hand to the brain to plan the movement of the letter. If a child practices forming letters from the bottom-up, it will be more difficult to re-teach correct formation of the letters because the child has already formed a motor pattern to incorrectly form the letters.

There are many more key points that I learned at this workshop. If you have concerns regarding your child‚Äôs grasp or formation of letters, an occupational therapy evaluation may be beneficial.  Contact me to get started. 

Visit their website for more information about this approach at 


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