Heidi Schwellnus, Heather Carnahan, Azadeh Kushki, Helene Polatajko, Cheryl Missiuna, Tom Chau; Effect of Pencil Grasp on the Speed and Legibility of Handwriting in Children. Am J Occup Ther 2012;66(6):718–726. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2012.004515
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OBJECTIVE. Pencil grasps other than the dynamic tripod may be functional for handwriting. This study examined the impact of grasp on handwriting speed and legibility.
METHOD. We videotaped 120 typically developing fourth-grade students while they performed a writing task. We categorized the grasps they used and evaluated their writing for speed and legibility using a handwriting assessment. Using linear regression analysis, we examined the relationship between grasp and handwriting.
RESULTS. We documented six categories of pencil grasp: four mature grasp patterns, one immature grasp pattern, and one alternating grasp pattern. Multiple linear regression results revealed no significant effect for mature grasp on either legibility or speed.
CONCLUSION. Pencil grasp patterns did not influence handwriting speed or legibility in this sample of typically developing children. This finding adds to the mounting body of evidence that alternative grasps may be acceptable for fast and legible handwriting.
Dynamic tripod (DT): The DT grasp is the most commonly recommended pencil grasp for handwriting (Schneck & Henderson, 1990). This grasp involves the thumb, index, and middle fingers functioning as a tripod (Benbow, Hanft, Marsh, & Royeen, 1992). The DT grasp allows for small, well-coordinated movements of the fingers originating from the interphalangeal joints and muscles of the hand and forearm (Elliott & Connolly, 1984; Trombly & Cole, 1979). This grasp develops between ages 4 and 6 (Schneck & Henderson, 1990) and continues to be refined up to age 14 (Ziviani, 1983).
Lateral (thumb) tripod (LT): The LT grasp is the second most common grasp pattern described in the literature (Schneck & Henderson, 1990). In this grasp, the thumb is adducted against the lateral aspect of the index finger and often crosses over the top of the writing utensil. By nature of its position, the thumb is not involved with the distal movement of the pencil, but rather the index and middle fingers initiate movement.
Dynamic quadrupod (DQ): The DQ grasp is very similar to the DT grasp but involves the thumb and three fingers. Benbow (1987) found it to be a common grasp pattern in second-grade children. The same distal manipulation of the pencil occurs with this grasp.
Lateral (thumb) quadrupod (LQ): The LQ grasp, identified by Dennis and Swinth (2001), is similar to the LT except that four fingers contact the writing implement, with the index, middle, and ring fingers initiating the pencil movement.
Dynamic and later tripod and quadrupod pencil grasp patterns produced writing with similar speed and legibility and are suggested to be equally functional for writing at Grade 4.
Girls used more lateral grasps than boys but still wrote faster and more legibly than boys.
Therapists should reconsider the need for changing pencil grasp pattern if child has adopted dynamic or lateral quadrupod or later tripod pencil grasps.
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