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    Ever tried to “correct” your childs’ grasp when they color? Ever wonder which pencil grasp is most appropriate for writing?

    A study was performed on children in the fourth grade on the Effect of pencil grasp on the speed and legibility of handwriting after a ten-minute copy task. The authors aimed to investigate the impact of four common pencil grasp patterns on the speed and legibility of handwriting before and after a ten-minute copy task, intended to induce muscle fatigue. The study consisted of 120 fourth grade students, amongst them typically developing children and children with deficits in handwriting. 49% were boys and 51% were girls with the average age being 9 years and 11 months. The students were recruited from a local municipal school board, and were volunteers. The Toronto District School Board and University of Toronto approved the study.

    The study was a pre/post test design and required children to complete a Standardized writing assessment, The Children’s Handwriting Evaluation Scale (CHES) twice. This assessment evaluates handwriting speed and legibility. The first time was before a copy task and then the assessment was repeated again after the copy task. The copy task was 10 minutes long and written in fourth grade literacy level. To measure the fatigue level of the students the researchers used the Perceived Children’s Effort Rating Table (PCERT). The children measured their perceived level of effort three times, before any writing task (used as a baseline), after the first writing task, and again after the ten-minute copy task. They made note of any muscle pain they experienced.

    There are four different types of pencil grasps that researchers observed: dynamic tripod, lateral tripod, dynamic quadruped, and lateral quadruped. Dynamic tripod grasp involves three fingers- the thumb, index and middle finger, and is the most mature grasp. The lateral tripod grasp is when the pencil is leaning against the thumb web space/lateral side of the index finger. Dynamic quadruped grasp involves four fingers wrapped around the pencil, and lateral quadruped is the same four fingers with the pencil resting on the web space/lateral part of the index finger.

    Comparing these four grasps, the researchers were curious to see how speed, legibility, and perceived level of effort is effected before and after a copying task that is meant to induce fatigue in the students.

    The following results were collected from the study:

    Legibility- generally decreased after the fatigue task- 19% had poor legibility before the 10-minute copying task and 34% had poor legibility after the copy task for both the typically developing children and those with handwriting issues.

    Speed- there was no difference in the quality or speed scores among the different pencil grasps before and after the copy task.

    Effort- the majority of students rated higher effort after the 10-minute copying task than at baseline.

    Different grasps- the effort ratings were similar for the different grasp patters. The tripod grasp did not offer any advantage over any of the other grasps in terms of quality of handwriting. The four pencil grasp patterns performed equally.

    Although the above study was limited to only one age group, and evaluated just print writing not script handwriting and was done on a tablet instead of actual paper, researchers concluded that the quality of the pencil grasp in children is not as important as it is made up to be. Everyone is always concerned about holding the pen right and its importance, but quality of handwriting wasn’t shown to be any better in the tripod grasp than any of the other grasps. The above findings question the practice of having students adopt the dynamic tripod pencil grasp.


    Robin (Rivky) Akselrud, MS, OTR/L is a licensed occupational therapist. David (Yakov) Ettinger, PT, DPT, GCS is a Doctor of Physical Theray and is a Board Certified Geriatric Specialist. Their state-of-the-art outpatient treatment facilty for adult and pediatric rehabilitation, Forward Physical and Occupational Therapy is located at 3815 13th avenue. Please contact us at (718) 677-6777 to schedule an appointment so we can help YOU move FORWARD!

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