We have moved on from the rigid view we had of the functional pencil grasp back in the 90s. We now know that pencil grip for handwriting is governed by principles and pencil grasp stages rather than one grasp alone. So have some fun and take the quiz!
All of the questions on pencil grip for handwriting are true and false questions.
1. The static quadruped grasp is the gold standard in grips.
2. Pencil grip develops in stages.
Yes, it does. It is a little like kids learning to sit, crawl, walk, and finally run. They need to move through the pencil grasp stages because each stage is the foundation for the next one.
3. Crawling has a bearing on pencil grasp.
Yes, it does! Crawling promotes the development of shoulder girdle stability which is required for the development of pencil control. As the baby crawls and moves from the four-point position to sitting, they weight bear over their hands. This promotes the development of the muscles on the thumb side of the hand, which is critical for pencil grip for handwriting.
4. Pencil grasps are divided into efficient and inefficient grasps.
Yes, they are. An efficient or functional pencil grasp facilitates finger movement. Inefficient grasps are those which have made modifications to the finger positions that block off the finger movement.
5. An inefficient grasp makes modifications that block dynamic finger movement.
Yes, this is true. Fluid finger movements contribute hugely to the speed and quality of handwriting.
6. Finger movement is not compromised when there is an imbalance between the fingers holding the pencil.
No, this is false. Where there is an even balance between the fingers, the movement is smoothest and easiest when it comes to pencil grip for handwriting. Sometimes modifications to the grasp result in one finger exerting more pressure on the pencil than the others. The uneven balance does affect the speed and refinement of pencil control. The control of the pencil is most efficient when there is a balance between the fingers holding the pencil.
7. If we miss out on a developmental stage, the child may miss out on developing some of the muscles and movement patterns needed to develop pencil control.
Absolutely yes! Pencil grasp stages are like all other aspects of development. One developmental stage is built on the next, and so on. So if we miss one, the child will have to use some kind of compensatory strategy to compensate for that missing developmental building block. My Little Learner explores the stages of a developing pencil grip.
8. Pencil grip should be taught.
Yes, it should be. Just as we support our kids with all the other developmental motor tasks, we need to support our kids through mastering pencil grip. But like other developmental tasks, we need to teach in the correct pencil grasp stages.
Adults should not assume that children somehow know the best way to hold a pencil, or that they will acquire (it) through incidental experience.
Mary Benbow, Occupational Therapist
9. We should show our kids how to hold with the dynamic tripod grasp as early as possible, so they have time to perfect it.
Oh no, no, no! This isn’t the case at all. We do need to try and follow the developmental progression so we can be sure the foundational muscles and movement patterns are not missed. Some kids seems to bypass or spend very little time on certain stages. But if we are working with a child who has fine motor or other challenges, our intervention needs to mimic the developmental stages.
10. We should consider changing a modified pencil grasp if the child is experiencing legibility concerns, speed issues, or pain when writing.
If a child has a funky grasp but no functional problems either now or projected into the future where output demands increase, we can let the grasp be. But should they be struggling with any of the issues above, we should consider changing it.
11. We can use a pencil gripper, and it will solve handwriting problems.
No, it’s a pity it isn’t that easy. Pencil grippers need to be used in conjunction with specific foundational muscle strengthening, developing movement patterns and working on developing pencil control.
12. The mechanics of handwriting speed are governed by finger movements.
Yes, they are. Where our kids have made use of an inefficient grasp where they have made a modification that blocks off the finger movements, they have to achieve movement from their wrist or, in extreme cases, their elbow or shoulder. These movements are larger and so take longer. Finger movements are the most efficient.
Mary Benbow described this, and I believe it to be true. But that doesn’t mean we can’t change pencil grasp. It just means it is more difficult.
14. Pencil grip can’t be altered in older kids.
Yes, it can! But only if the child wants to change it. It takes work, usually a pencil grip, and commitment. If the child doesn’t want to change, it isn’t going to happen.
15. Pencil grip for handwriting is old school; it truly doesn’t matter how kids hold a pencil.
Nope, I don’t believe this to be true. While some studies have shown pencil grasp not to have an impact on handwriting, my on-the-ground experience has shown that this is not to be the case. Where grasp is causing pain or impacting the ability to achieve pencil control, it absolutely impacts handwriting speed.
In closing about pencil grip for handwriting
We have to be open-minded about pencil grip. Like any aspect of education or development, having fixed ideas based on what we learnt way back will not serve us well. Instead, using our analytical skills, along with research, will guide us through the minefield of pencil grip.