In This Episode:
Welcome to Episode 79 of Dyslexia Devoted and today we’re talking with Kelli from Handwriting Solutions about why handwriting is so important.
This Episode's Topics:
- Is handwriting outdated?
- Is it too late for older kids to fix their writing?
- How can we support kids with their hand writing?
Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
- [email protected]
- Get the Dyslexia Devoted Newsletter
- Blog Post: 5 Strategies to Help with Handwriting at Home
Connect with Lisa Parnello:
Hello and welcome to dyslexia devoted the podcast dedicated to building awareness, understanding and strategies to help those with dyslexia. I'm your host, Lisa Parnello, dyslexia therapist and founder of Parnello education services. Join me as we dive into today's episode of dyslexia devoted. Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of dyslexia devoted. I'm so glad you're joining me today because I have a special guest for you. My friend Kelly from handwriting solutions is here to talk to us all about handwriting. Before we jump into that, I have a special favor to ask of you. If you could share this podcast with a friend that would mean the absolute world to me. Because I've learned in the world of podcasting, most people get their podcast, not from some sort of social media post, but from a friend. So if you could share this post with so if you could share this podcast with a friend, it would mean the absolute world to me so that we can keep spreading the word about dyslexia to as many people as possible. So parents, educators, anybody who you think could really benefit from it. Just as a heads up before I hit play on the interview, I'm aware there are some audio issues at the beginning of the episode, we were trying to help Kelly get sorted out with a brand new microphone, so just be a little forgiving, as we were trying to get technologies to be our friend. And sometimes it just chooses not to be so friendly. Alright, without further ado, let's jump in and learn from Kelly. Hi, Kelly, I'm so glad to be interviewing you today. My audience members, I am interviewing Kelly from handwriting solutions so that she can talk to us all about handwriting because as parents and educators of kids with learning differences, you know, their handwriting can sometimes be atrocious. So I thought Kelly would be the perfect person to have on our podcast for this week. So Kelly, tell us a little about yourself and how you got so interested in teaching handwriting to kids.
Thank you so much, Lisa, first of all, just again, thank you for asking me to be on the podcast because I love sharing my passion about handwriting and why it's so important and also how we can help these kids. So how I got started, I previously was a pediatric occupational therapist. So I practiced in outpatient pediatrics for many, many years. And then I also was an adjunct professor teaching pediatrics and an OT program. And once I had my daughter, and I realized some of the struggles that she was having starting in kindergarten, first grade, and she eventually got her dyslexia and dysgraphia diagnoses and I was stuck, I was lost. I absolutely found some help. For the dyslexia piece. It feels like there's so much more research out there and providers and tutors and education. And so that piece of it was easy. But the dysgraphia piece I was I was totally lost. And even as an OT, I was like they did not teach us about this in college. So I really just came at it from a place of personal need of how can I help my daughter. And so I took all the trainings, I read all the research, I read all the books, I just did a deep dive and all things handwriting and all things dysgraphia I was able to help her. And then her friends started asking for help. So thus handwriting solutions was born. And we now serve children around the world. Well, e learning and really beyond this via because we kids with dyslexia can struggle with handwriting, we know that kids with ADHD can struggle we know that wrote pumpkins, particularly during these COVID years. So, you know, it's really cool to kind of fill that gap up and be the resource for these families when their kids so desperately need help. So that's kind of how how it all came to be.
That is such a wonderful story. And so similar to my own, I learned nothing about teaching kids with dyslexia in any of my teaching programs. And it wasn't till I went, you know, deep diving into all the nerdiness of it all that I learned more. And it's unfortunate that as educators, we have to do that. But at the same time, it's so nice that you have created a business that helps kids in a way that unfortunately, a lot of schools and educators don't know how to help them. So one of the things that comes to mind is I know I've had so many parents say well, writing is outdated, nobody needs to curse if it doesn't matter if their handwriting is a mess. We're going to type everything anyway. Why do we really need to improve handwriting? So I would love to hear I have my own opinions that I'm pretty sure aligned with yours. But I would love to hear it from you. Why do you think that it is so important for students to improve their handwriting especially in the digital age? So many things being typed up. Oh,
yes, this is definitely a popular myth, and in yen, and so on. So few things actually, that I want to talk about here. First of all, the research explicitly shows that when children write by hand, they fire more parts of their. So the neurology supports hearings, they are retaining the information better, when they write by hand versus typing, and so on. So the research is there, that in itself should be should show the importance of handwriting, but also literacy. So often people think literacy is reading. And that's part of it. But writing is also equally a part of literacy. And we can't leave that part out. So when we think about reading, that's, that's the decoding of the word, but be able to get that back out from our brain to the people. And that's that encoding. And being able to write by hand, only makes their reading stronger. And the research also Dr. Burning chert talks about this in her book, that being able to write by hand, in first grade, and second grade improves a child's reading ability, and then being able to write in cursive, and third and fourth grade improves their spelling and their written composition, which I just think, is so cool. So, you know, coming at it from a science standpoint, absolutely. Handwriting is important, and also is just an important life skills. Even beyond these academic years, we really need to have these skills for writing and communication. Because writing is our language by hand.
Awesome. I was, I was writing notes while you were talking because I had some great connections to what you were saying. And I didn't want to forget them. Just a week or two ago, I did an episode about how AI helps and hurts kids with learning differences. And in that, I have seen a bunch of teachers start requiring kids in middle school in high school to start writing essays by hand. Because so many kids had been cheating, that they have to write by hand to prove that they're not just using chat GPT. Although, you know, I'm sure they could find some way around that rule, too. But it is something that I've seen. And then so many of these kids have gotten used to Well, I didn't really have to learn how to write very nicely, I'm gonna type everything. And now they're kind of stuck. One of the other things that I was thinking about, as you were talking was the way that when I teach kids to read for their dyslexia and teach them to spell better, their handwriting a lot of times naturally gets better. And I'm not even teaching them explicitly anything about handwriting or sizing of letters or anything, I might tell them, you know, that letter goes below the line. But in general, a lot of times, their handwriting actually naturally improves as their ability to make those stronger letter sound connections. And their handwriting actually gets better as they get better interventions, because their brain is making so many more connections. And it's always so amazing. When I show the kids, you know, their handwriting on the first week, they came to me and compared to their handwriting six months later, they're like, Wow, we didn't even practice handwriting. How did that happen? And in there, it is so ingrained that that goes back and forth both directions. It's so important. All right, our next question, I've noticed so many more students, especially the older ones who are struggling with proper letter formation since the pandemic when they weren't in classrooms. And a lot of times parents didn't know, you know how to teach a kid to hold a pencil properly when they were in, you know, first second grade. I've got a seventh grader right now who has no idea how to hold a pencil. And it's so hard to teach him the right way when he's so much older and not so motivated being you know, a 13 year old boy. And it's one of those things that I've seen a lot of and I've even taught some kids cursive because their printing was so atrocious. I didn't even know how to repair it. And I'm wondering if you are seeing this too, and what you think that we can do to help these older kids who are really struggling with writing, because they weren't in school in the years that you normally learn to write neatly.
100% I am seeing this. And you know, a lot of times parents come to me and they're they're lost. You know, they're not sure the school isn't really helping. The teacher may or may not even say you know that there's a struggle there. But the parents seeing that struggle, and a few things. One, I want to just remind parents that it is never too late. Our brains are plastic and we can learn new skills across the lifespan. So if anybody ever says oh your child's in third grade, now they are not going to be able to improve their handwriting or their pencil grasp that is 100% not true given the right tool and some motivation that's for helps to, they will be able to improve. As far as how we go about this, it's really about to building up those foundational skills that they might have missed. So maybe they don't have a learning disability, maybe it truly is missed instruction, we just go back to the basics and go back to those foundations explicitly and systematically teach that to the child build up any of their lagging skills. So if they are lagging skills, and fine motor or visual motor, or their posture, or their strength, or any of those foundational skills, we would build those, those lagging skills up in order to get that fluency. And I love what you pointed out earlier about how sometimes some, some handwriting does improve with us some reading intervention. And I've seen that both ways. And I've seen it personally as well as with our clients too, because of that cognitive load, too. So you're you're teaching them phonological skills, so that when they go to write, they're having to think so heavily about phonological skills, letter formation, I emplacement, spacing, spelling, there's all of these things that go into actually getting the letters and words out of their brain. And so you're taking off a piece of that, because you're explicitly teaching that. And that's essentially what we do with handwriting tutoring as well, we exclude any page and we build up those lagging skills, so that they can essentially become a habit and a routine for this child. So when they do go to write, they're not having to sit there and think about how to form the letter F, they can actually think about what they're writing about. And so all of that is going to lead to that fluency and automaticity with writing, but to come full circle. No, it's never too late. The quick wins, I think, are really effective for the older population. Often, if they've struggled with handwriting for a while, you're gonna have some frustration, some avoidance there that that motivation may not be there. But I promise if you can come at it and use their strengths, met it from a strengths based perspective. Give them some quick wins, because they need some positivity in their life. If they're struggling, they're getting frustrated. And we don't want to add to that frustration. So give them some quick wins, build on their strengths, find out their interests, if you can find their interest out and get them motivated to write in that way that is wonderful. Also, so much of handwriting practice doesn't have to be this redundant, rote copying, and all of this, we can make it fun. We use multi sensory skills to embed that learning and really facilitate those neural connections. And so we've never had a kid not come to tutoring and be like, motivated, because it is fun. And then they see their progress. And that's what's really cool. Then, like you said, six months down the road, we pull out those first samples. And they're like, what? That's so cool. So we can get there with these older kids, too. It's not too late.
Absolutely, yes, I've had so many people were like, well, teaching phonics is boring. And I was like, actually depends on how you do it. I don't have any kids who say they don't want to come today, because they're not motivated to come, the kids bounce in the room and are super excited. And it's just all about how you show them to do these things that can be boring if you present them that way. But if you present them in the right way that kids really want to do better. And actually, that's what makes kids like to do something is when they feel pride in it, when they feel their successes when they feel that they can do things better than they could do before. Things that they were ashamed of before embarrassed about or, you know, they compare themselves to their classmates all the time. And if they see that, like, Oh, my writing is terrible compared to this kid next to me this perfect letters and their cute little hearts above their eyes, and you know, that kind of thing. And then they see their own work and at scribble scrabble looks like a kindergartener did it they feel pretty bad about it. So kids feel really good when they see their progress when they see their success. And they know that they're doing better than they were before. And it makes such a huge difference. So I had mentioned cursive before so I one thing that I've definitely done is show them some cursive strategies for some of them when their printing is so terrible. And I just want to do a bit of a reset on how do we hold pencils? How do we you know, line up paper and things like that. So do you teach mainly printing or do you teach cursive as well? Or what strategies do you use to decide you know, between the two maybe let me know a little more about how you what kind of focus you have with your handwriting instruction?
Well, this is actually a perfect segue when we were talking about the older kids and their frustration and struggles. So there are times when We, we don't just put print on home, if it's causing so much frustration and avoidance, I just say, let's take a step out there. Let's pause on that. And I introduced cursive because it is new. And often kids with that novelty, they're more motivated, and it's fun. And it's up to you when you arrive. So you kind of win them over a way. It's starting fresh from scratch, they don't have those those core habits already built. So we absolutely we teach print, we teach cursive. And we also work with some kids on some keyboarding skills to if that's part of their goals as well. Because essentially, what we want is them to get their thoughts down to. That's the that's the goal. However we can get there. That's what we're going to do. But what we found is a lot of times kids who struggle with writing, maybe have dyslexia or dysgraphia. Hey, well, actually, our ver cursive is beautiful. They learn that skill. And then I mean, some of our parents are like, that's not my kids cursive writing, and I'm like, Oh, yes, it is. Because it is, it is does not even look near what their print looks like. And then they have that sense of pride that makes them more motivated. And that makes them a better writer. And everybody's just happier, right? So I love teaching cursive. And so many of the schools don't really put an emphasis on it. Sometimes it's not even a part of their curriculum, some schools are starting to bring back cursive. They might be teaching it maybe in one grade, and then that's it, and then they forget about it. So there's not that repetitive practice and coming back to it. And therefore the skills, what kind of waste or if that child isn't in that school in that grade at that time, they kind of miss out on that too. So we we often have kids come to us who their print is is fine. Their parent just wants them to learn cursive. And so that's great, too. I'm like, we can do that as well. And we've made some really, really good progress on that. I think of one client in particular, she was in middle. And she has dyslexia and dysgraphia. And we taught her cursive and she is finally able to write essays. Because of that she can't she could not before she could not write and print even a sentence. And so just to see that success and that competence is really, really a game changer. So I'm a huge proponent of hers.
I love it. Yes, I've had a few kids that I've taught them their cursive and it is definitely better than a lot of their printing. It's just getting them to use it outside of my office sometimes. We're at the word either essay from schools like why is your essay look so terrible? Why didn't you write in cursive? You know how to write beautifully in cursive for like, well, it can represent my like capital. So I just went to Brent. Kill him again. But we just need to keep you know, teaching them how they can improve their handwriting into other areas. And it is so nice to see that there is always hope. And I do find the kids love writing in cursive. Actually, it's actually the parents were like cursive is outdated. They don't need to learn that anymore. But the kids themselves are always actually really excited. Like, can you teach me cursive? Or they'll write the name of the top of their spelling pages with me be like, Look, I wrote a cursive. Like actually, it was definitely not your name and cursive, but I will teach you the right way to write your name in cursive. Because they will do their own like made up version. And so that's when I'm like, you know, if you want to learn that, then sure. Because it's good for your brain and you know, doesn't ever hurt anyone. And then everyone needs to have a signature, you know, very important. Yeah.
And you know, they also not only need to write it, they need to be able to read cursive. So that's the beauty of learning to write in cursive is that they're also going to be learning to read and cursive. And that is huge. Because I do see a lot of kids come in and say, Oh, I don't know how to read my grandma's letter or I don't know how to read this history project or whatever. So it kind of has that perk to
absolutely or even like menus, like fancy restaurants will often do the little like cursive script menus, where it's like that weird like Figgy cursive, but still doesn't look quite like a regular letter. Or the kids will see like a cursive q&a, like what is that? And they don't really like know that it's even a letter. I feel like is that a number two? Like no, it's not. It's definitely not a two. And so it's just so important that we keep emphasizing handwriting, especially you know, with some of these kids who didn't get that instruction when they should have. And I'm so glad that you were here with us today. Is there anything else you would really like to share? Tell our audience about handwriting.
Dennis, there's so much I could talk for hours about handwriting. I think the most important thing I would want parents to know is that, hey, it's never too early. Or I mean never too late. I'm sorry. It's never too late to help the child but also we don't have to be pushing handwriting at three and four years old. She don't want to do that you want to do is build up their skills for yourself. build up their strings build out their fourth string through fine motor skills. I've done use LADOT, and tidy and beads and any kind of manipulative, manipulative and multi sensory tools, all of these happening happening in those early years, those preschool years, because developmentally hildren, aren't even able to write diagonals until age five, and that's a lot of our letters. So we don't want to really, really before we just didn't, we're gonna establish habits and, and not really be the most fluent writer. So I would definitely recommend that as well building up those foundational skills, developmentally, and then also just let her play I love letter play, you know, in those preschool years to just learning the letters using three dimensional letters, building the letters with steps, the four for writing. And, you know, I think a lot of it is also advocating, our parents really are going to have to be advocates for their children to to get the help that they need in school as well as out. So often we have parents that just have do a consultation with us, just so that we can help walk them through that as well. That's
so important. And it I've actually seen the X rays of the little tiny hands of kids. And when you look at the x ray of the three and four year old compared to the five or six year old, there's massive differences in their physiological components. Because they're growing, their bones are growing, their joints are growing all these things. So they actually aren't meant to do the same things. And I see so many parents trying to push to get perfect handwriting when they're like in preschool, when that's not really their goal. Teaching them to do things like Legos makes a huge difference. Because they can do their little pinchy fingers, they which you know, you use those same pinching, you know, movements to hold a pencil, and things like that. And so if we can just keep embedding the things that get them ready and remembering that they are kids and playing is part of learning. And that is so important. I have a blog post that you had written for us that I had shared with us on a previous episode. So audience members as you were listening to us, if you would like to read the blog post that Kelly has done for us to teach you even more about handwriting, that will be linked in the show notes for you. And then tell us how they can find you, Kelly, and what you have to offer. And I can put it down in the show notes. So anybody listening to this can click and then find out more about you and handwriting solutions.
So our website is handwriting solutions dot o RG you can also email me at Kelly k l li of handwriting solutions dot o RG. We're on Facebook, we're on Instagram. What I love to provide with anyone is a free consultation. So if you just want to talk through some struggles, if you're a parent and your child is struggling, or if you're just curious if they are on target if you're a teacher, and you need help with a student in your class, or you want to learn how to facilitate more handwriting in your classroom, if you're a therapist, and you want to learn more about dysgraphia, I offer a free consultation. And I that is just my favorite thing. I love getting on a zoom call or a phone call with with people and talking handwriting. So definitely take advantage of that it's free, you know, there's no loss there, you're only going to gain information. So hopefully, the audience will will take advantage of this. And I would love to hear from them. And again, thank you so much, Lisa, for having me on today. I have a like you mentioned a blog as well that there are 70 articles probably all about handwriting. So if you really deep dive on that checkout. On my site is
awesome. Thank you so much for sharing such a wonderful offer with my audience. And I'm sure a few of them will be taking up on it. And so thank you so much for joining us. And it has been such a pleasure having you here today. And I'm so glad that my audience can learn from you. Because while I am an expert in all things, dyslexia, I like having experts in other genres that I don't dive nearly as deep in my research as you do. And so I'm so glad you were able to share your knowledge with us today. And thank you so much. And everybody. If you want to learn more about Kelli, check the show notes or if you go to Parnello education.com and you click on the link with all of the blog post and the podcast stuff. You can also find it there too. All right, friends that wraps up this week's episode. I hope you gained so much extra knowledge about handwriting from our interview today. And don't forget, please, please, please go share this podcast with a friend. Because this is how podcasts get found is mostly through people sharing with friends and family. So if you could share this with a parent or educator that you know who could benefit from it, it would mean the absolute world to me. That's it for today. See you next time.
Thanks for tuning into today's episode. If you want to learn even more worry about dyslexia check out Parnello education.com forward slash courses See you next time