Tue, Feb 27, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Children losing ability to hold pencils

NEED FOR BASICS:Physical therapists specializing in pediatrics say children need opportunities to develop the hand strength and dexterity needed to hold pencils

The Guardian

Children are increasingly finding it hard to hold pens and pencils because of an excessive use of technology, senior pediatric doctors have warned.

An overuse of touchscreen phones and tablets is preventing children’s finger muscles from developing sufficiently to enable them to hold a pencil correctly, they said.

“Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago,” said Sally Payne, the head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust.

“Children coming into school are being given a pencil, but are increasingly not able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental movement skills,” she said.

“To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers,. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills,” she said.

Payne said the nature of play had changed.

“It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil,” she said.

Six-year-old Patrick has been having weekly sessions with an occupational therapist for six months to help him develop the necessary strength in his index finger to hold a pencil in the correct, tripod grip.

His mother, Laura, said she blames herself.

“In retrospect, I see that I gave Patrick technology to play with, to the virtual exclusion of the more traditional toys,” she said.

“When he got to school, they contacted me with their concerns: He was gripping his pencil like cavemen held sticks. He just couldn’t hold it in any other way and so couldn’t learn to write because he couldn’t move the pencil with any accuracy,” she said.

“The therapy sessions are helping a lot and I’m really strict now at home with his access to technology,” she said. “I think the school caught the problem early enough for no lasting damage to have been done.”

Mellissa Prunty, a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in handwriting difficulties in children, is concerned that increasing numbers of children may be developing handwriting late because of an overuse of technology.

“One problem is that handwriting is very individual in how it develops in each child,” said Prunty, the vice chair of the National Handwriting Association who runs a research clinic at Brunel University London investigating key skills in childhood, including handwriting.

“Without research, the risk is that we make too many assumptions about why a child isn’t able to write at the expected age and don’t intervene when there is a technology-related cause,” she said.

Although the early years curriculum has handwriting targets for every year, different primary schools focus on handwriting in different ways — with some using tablets alongside pencils, Prunty said.

This becomes a problem when same the children also spend large periods of time on tablets outside school.

However, Barbie Clarke, a child psychotherapist and founder of the Family Kids and Youth research agency, said even nursery schools were acutely aware of the problem that she said stemmed from excessive use of technology at home.

“We go into a lot of schools and have never gone into one, even one which has embraced teaching through technology, which isn’t using pens alongside the tablets and iPads,” she said.

This story has been viewed 1472 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top