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OT Services in the IEP: Handwriting

12/12/13
by Wrightslaw

My 8th-grade son’s handwriting is illegible. His IEP includes OT, but no handwriting practice.

The school district and OT teacher maintain that handwriting practice is not a function of OT.

If your son’s handwriting is illegible in the 8th grade, you’re right to be concerned.

When children write, they must make a link between their motor skills and their language system.  Handwriting is a special skill in its own right.

Your son more than likely needs direct instruction or assistive technology so he can progress in the general curriculum.

Problems that can impede progress in handwriting are not always apparent just by looking at your son’s papers.

Handwriting Assessment

The OT should conduct an assessment of his handwriting to include observation of:

  • execution
  • legibility
  • speed

All of these skills become increasingly important as your child moves through the higher grades. Teachers use written work to measure how well your son is learning.

When your son needs to write essays, he will have to focus on many different tasks at the same time – handwriting, spelling, grammar, word choice, sentence formation, organization, and planning.

When memory is overloaded, it is even harder to form letters neatly and correctly.

In the list of what an OT does, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) includes:

  • Help develop and evaluate handwriting curriculum
  • collaborate with teachers on effective strategies

1. Is your son’s OT helping to develop curriculum and effective teaching strategies – like handwriting practice?

2. Does your son’s IEP include handwriting goals?

3. Is it clear in the IEP what services the OT will provide in order to help your son meet his goals?

Present Levels

IDEA requires a statement of your son’s Present Levels of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance. These present levels indicate your son’s unique characteristics or needs.

An example might be – Handwriting that is slow, labored, “drawn,” nearly illegible due to improper size and spacing of letters and words.

The IEP Team’s next question should be “what is the school going to do about this”- specific OT services.

You may need to request, in writing, an IEP meeting to review and revise your son’s present levels, goals and services.

Your son’s OT should attend the meeting as part of the IEP Team.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Melinda 12/28/13 at 11:50 pm

    My son has mild cerebral palsy which effects his handwriting and fine motor skills. He gets OT services at school. The doctor put on the OI form that he isn’t spastic or hypnotic. She did write that the area of handwriting needs further evaluation and adaption. We got AT for him at school. We are considering evaluate for dysgraphia. He is clumsy and walks on his tip toes.. Would he qualify for an OHI since it effects the educational setting? Thank you

  • 2 M. S. 12/21/13 at 10:42 pm

    17 yr. old son has horrific handwriting. I complained every year to his Blue Ribbon-Lower Merion School. They kept saying it was very nice. I am an educator and thought perhaps I am being too strict. Now, he is in private school – they are appalled that this was allowed to happen.

    Parents need to be more aggressive than I was. It is too late to improve it now. Needs to be done in elementary school, not HS. How sad!

  • 3 Nan 12/13/13 at 4:44 pm

    One of the too common problems is how children are taught.

    The goal should be legibility at age appropriate speed. The model alphabet should be the same in the beginning as it is in later grades and in adulthood.

    Educators fail to realize that the common practice has been, and often is to teach a print-like script to beginners, simple letters, drawn primarily with strokes from top-to-bottom.

    Then in second or third grade motor memory for forming letters is turned upside down! Strokes that form letters change sequence and direction for the cursive that is commonly known. It is difficult for many students. Instruction time is too limited to teach a second alphabet.

    I have had amazing success with “Fix It…Write” for middle school age and older persons.

  • 4 Dad2Luke 12/12/13 at 8:31 pm

    My son’s handwriting was terrible and his pencil grip caused our outside OT to panic. The school ignored this and this hand grip became habit. Fast forward 4 years. to grade 8 –
    He can only print, it is nearly illegible, the letters are about 1/4 inch tall, and it takes him forever (and many pages) to write anything. No one wants to correct his papers. This is now dragging his grades down. Do not let the school pass on this. They need to teach him how to write just as much as they need to teach him how to read.