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Handwriting Problems Very Common for Boys
I received many responses to a question I answered from parents who were childhood dysgraphics and were concerned about their 4-year-old son's frustration at having to color within the lines in day care. In my answer, I had recommended that their son meet with an occupational therapist and also that the parents request that the teacher provide the child with larger pictures. I also suggested their son might enjoy dot-to-dot pictures and mazes to help him develop his small muscle coordination skills. I've included some of the responses I've received and my answers to them.
Q. Will you please define dysgraphia for readers like me who have never heard the word before?
A. Dysgraphia refers to severe handwriting problems. More boys than girls struggle with handwriting.
Q. Perhaps you could pass on this suggestion from our son's occupational therapist. She suggested using colored glue to outline large, simple pictures. Let the glue dry thoroughly. Then, when the 4-year-old colors, his crayon will bump into the glue line. The colored glue and the bump will help him visually see the line and also tactically feel the line. This helped our son greatly, although he hasn't become great at coloring, nor does he like it. He prefers drawing with a mechanical pencil on graph paper.
Another idea is to keep an "art" type box in the car. Ours contained crayons, markers, paper, a glue stick, tactile "things" (pompoms, rickrack), small books and other creative type things. As our son grew older, he added things to the box that kept him busy on our frequent drives. I hope these suggestions help.
A. Thanks for sharing your ideas.
Q. While I understand that the article on "Preschooler's Inability To Color In The Lines Could Be Inherited" was speaking about a possible medical problem, the fact that anyone would insist that children color within the lines appalls me! Why restrict a child's creativity? Give them a large, blank sheet of paper and tons of colors and let them express themselves! Preprinted coloring books should be used only as a last resort and only for older children. I've worked with children and wouldn't dream of telling them what or how they can color!
A. While preschoolers should have plenty of opportunity for creative art to encourage their spontaneity and originality, coloring within the lines serves an entirely different purpose. It develops the small muscle coordination that prepares children for printing and handwriting that follows in kindergarten and first grade. It's usually a fun and happy exercise for children, but for this little boy, and for many others, it became an opportunity to identify a potential problem early enough to work to improve it. Good preschool programs can provide time for both creativity and development of the small muscles needed for handwriting.
For a free newsletter about pencil anxiety, send a large self-addressed, stamped envelope to P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI, 53094, or go to www.sylviarimm.com for more information.
Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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