Understanding How Autism Affects Handwriting
To understand how autism affects handwriting, lets look at how a toddler writes. In the picture you see a toddler holding a pencil by wrapping all of her fingers around the pencil. She is not using her thumb. Her wrist is high up in the air because she will not use the base of her hand as she scribbles on the paper. Actually, she is using the muscle of her arm to move the pencil. Why? Because the small muscles to her fingers are not yet capable of the tiny movements required to write the way an adult writes.
This is the stage that most of the autistic individuals that we work with are at when they first start our autism recovery program. Though they may be older, their fine motor skills never developed. As a result, if they can write, they will write holding the pencil much like the toddler above and they will scribble or make very large letters.
When the muscles for the fingers fully develop as the child approaches the second or third birthday, the child will have what is called fine motor skills. Motor indicates movement and fine indicated tiny movements. Just before the fine motor skills develop, the child will be able to write very large letters.
As the fine motor skills develop, the child will begin to use the thumb and just a few fingers to hold the pencil. She will rest the base of hand and possible her arm on the table and simply move her fingers and thumb in order to write. Doing so will cause the letters that the child writes to get smaller and smaller as the writing begins to take on its adult form. This is finally what gets to happen as our autistic children recover from autism. Regardless of their age, if their fine motor skills have not developed, they will begin to do so. Parents are truly happy when they realize that this is happening.
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