Can a pencil grip improve handwriting? Improving handwriting is the reason to use a pencil grip in the first place right? Or is the reason because a grasp-pattern “looks non-typical” or maybe children were taught skills too early? Why is it that there are now so many different types of pencil grips available?
One of the first grips was the Stetro Grip. Then the simple foam grips that provided comfort and increased circumference for easier grasping appeared. Next in no particular order are The Grip, Grotto Grip, Handi-writer, Triangle grip, Star Grip to name a few. These grips are different from the adapted grips that were developed to give children access to holding a utensil. The grips named above were created to change an existing grasp pattern for the pencil (or other writing tools).
Children do develop a dynamic tripod grasp between the ages of 2:8 to 3:0 years. At about this age, children are beginning to first imitate then copy very simple strokes such as vertical lines, horizontal lines and circles. Tracing occurs a little after the initiation of copying as tracing does require greater visual tracking and motor control.
Over the years, younger and younger children have been encouraged to hold pencils, crayons and other writing tools to perform higher-level skills for which they are developmentally unprepared. Many well-intentioned pre-school programs want to give the children a ‘Jump Start” for school by teaching these preschoolers to write their names. Since many preschool children do not have an understanding of how the strokes make letters and have not developed precision in handling tools, they compensate by holding the utensil perhaps tighter or using a whole-hand pattern. They are developing these non-typical patterns to control a pencil to ‘draw’ these strokes that are in fact letters. They are laying down a motor plan to write these letters. The position of the hand, visual perception and kinesthetic feedback are all being learned each time they perform a task. These skills are many times splinter skills. As the school age child continues on in school these patterns are still there as learned. The teacher wants a grip to improve the grasp pattern, which will improve the handwriting-?
As most therapists know, it is really hard to change a grasp pattern on a writing tool. It is not as simple as putting on the grip to get improved handwriting as the result. If a pencil grip is going to be introduced, it needs to be initiated with a task that does not have a motor plan already laid down. In other words, don’t start with handwriting. Be creative with using the pencil grip with the focus on grasp prior to starting the writing process. Play tic-tac-toe; push holes in paper with Styrofoam under it etc. Most important, determine if the grasp pattern is a big deal anyway or does it just look non-typical.