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The D'Nealian Handwriting Method

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: Our seven-year-old has problems with writing. She has the ability, but is very slow. She started off learning the D'Nealian writing method and at her current school they don't do printing as a daily activity. She is very slow at completing her tasks in the classroom and this affects her overall performance. What can I do to help her?

A: Some schools view the teaching of D'Nealian handwriting as easing the transition from print to cursive writing. The problem comes when a child moves to a different school, as your daughter did, and the new school does not teach the D'Nealian method.

Your daughter's writing may improve as she strengthens her fine motor skills. Make sure she has lots of motivating opportunities for using her hands: fun markers, finger paints, puzzles, Play-Doh or modeling clay, and craft scissors for cutting shapes can all encourage development of the finger muscles. Writing letters and numbers or drawing in different media can also encourage children; try putting chocolate or vanilla pudding on a cookie sheet and let her write in that.

You may also want to investigate getting some occupational therapy for your daughter if the teacher thinks it is necessary. Your pediatrician can help you find a therapist in your community.

Talk with your daughter's teacher about why she is having trouble completing her work in the classroom. There may be some screening available or you may be able to work out a positive reward system to encourage work completion.

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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


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