Friday, November 14, 2008

What's So Important About How A Student Holds A Pencil?

Many of the patients that I see in my work as an optometric vision therapist do not have good pencil posture. Instead of the relaxed, efficient grip that should be required of each kindergarten student who is learning to write, many students who struggle with learning related vision problems use a fist grip or hold the pencil very close to the tip or do not secure the paper with their free hand. The issue is not limited to poor or illegible handwriting. In an article in the OEP Vision Therapist, Volume 33, Number 1, 1991, therapist Denis Hoover reported on the observations of Dr. Ernest J. Kahn. This optometrist administered the Sentence Copy test (probably by Wold) to his patients and noticed the following three associations.
  1. Most near-sighted children hold their pencil 1/4 inch or closer to the tip.
  2. Most children who also have been diagnosed with a learning disability utilize "bizarre" pencil grips and also exhibit poor coordination in general.
  3. All the children who used nonstandard pencil postures blocked their line of sight with their fingers so they had to adopt an improper reading distance or head tilt.

So, if your student or child does not use a standard pencil grip, first try to retrain the skill. Many teacher supply stores carry soft grip guides that help a child remember where to hold the pencil. These are inexpensive and very helpful. Then, because this behavior may indicate that the child may be struggling with a learning-related visual challenge or may even need glasses, make sure to schedule a routine eye examination with a developmental optometrist who is experienced in working with children.

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