The Connection Between Core Strength and Handwriting Skills
Kimberly Addon, MOT, OTR/L
Occupational therapists frequently assess and treat challenges with fine motor skills, including handwriting. Since handwriting is a skill that involves the hands, one might assume that an occupational therapist would focus entirely on a child’s hand strength and coordination in order to address concerns about handwriting. In actuality, this is just a part of the picture.
One concept that all occupational therapists are familiar with is “proximal stability leads to distal mobility.” This phrase describes the connection between one’s core and one’s extremities. In other words, a strong, solid core is needed to provide the stability necessary for the smaller muscles of the fingers and hands to move in coordinated, complex ways. To demonstrate this principle, try to type on your phone while holding it in one hand with your arm stretched completely out as far from your body as possible. Now rest your arm on a table in a more comfortable position close to your body and try typing again. When there is more stability in the bigger joints of our body, our smaller joints are able to move in more coordinated, complex, and controlled ways. With this in mind, occupational therapists always assess and consider a child’s core strength and the strength of their larger muscle groups when evaluating a child’s engagement in fine motor activities, such as handwriting.
How can you help your child overcome these challenges? The first step is promoting good posture during handwriting activities. Good sitting posture is frequently defined as having a 90 degree angle at the hips, knees, and ankles with feet resting on the ground. The body is centered in the chair and upright. If your child’s feet don’t touch the ground, try stacking books or boxes under their feet to promote this posture. Your child’s occupational therapist can recommend additional, more specific adaptations to your child’s work set-up to promote a strong, stable posture.
Another way you can help your child is by playing games that promote core strength. Here are some fun ideas for home:
- Yoga poses (encourage your child to see how long they can hold each pose)
- Wheelbarrow walks
- Animal walks
- Flying like Superman/Wonder Woman (See Below)
Ask an occupational therapist how core strengthening activities can improve your child’s handwriting skills!