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Does My Child’s Pencil Grasp Matter?

Does the way children hold their pencil really matter?

If you have a pencil handy, pick it up and notice how you hold it. Which fingers does the pencil rest between how are you supporting it? How much pressure do you use when you write? Does it really make a difference in your handwriting? The answer is YES, it does matter! How you hold your pencil really does make a difference—and it will also impact your writing. Your pencil grasp is directly related to handwriting speed and legibility, as having a mature grasp is more efficient and less tiring on your hands (Schwellnus, et al., 2012). Having a mature grasp also directly correlates with fine motor skills and your ability to manipulate other things (i.e. tying your shoes, picking up small objects, flossing, zipping up your jacket, using a fork or spoon).

Handwriting is essential for academic success and a foundation for efficient writing lies in how the child holds their pencil and the order in which letters are formed. It is important to address these concerns as early as possible. After the age of 8, changing grasp and formation patterns is difficult, but not impossible.

What are the stages of pencil grasp development?

There are several stages of pencil grasp development needed to develop a functional grasp that can be used to write efficiently and legibly. Each stage is important and helps to develop different muscles in the hand. Children typically develop control over the larger muscles of the trunk and arms before developing the smaller muscles of the hands. This is why grasp changes over time. Not all children will use all of these grasps during their fine motor development. Some children will use more than one grasp at an age as their skills develop and change. However, they should develop a functional mature grasp similar to the tripod grasp listed below.


Palmer grasp/Fisted grasp: typically develops between 12-18 months.

Palmer grasp/Fisted pencil grasp Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville NC

Digital pronate grasp: typically develops at 2-3 years.

Digital Pronated Pencil Grasp Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville, NC

5 finger grasp: typically develops between 3-4 years

5 Finger Pencil Grasp Carolina Therapy Connection, North Carolina

Four finger/quadrapod grasp: typically develops at 3.5-4 years

Four finger/quadrapod pencil grasp: Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville, NC

Tripod grasp: typically develops at 5-6 years

Tripod Pencil Grasp: Occupational Therapy Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville, NC

What is letter formation?

Handwriting is a complex process that involves many skills and body functions to work in a precise manner. Letter formation refers to the order in which each line segment is produced to make a single letter. Children should learn to form letters from top to bottom and from left to right. The order in which letters are formed either aids or interferes with efficient, legible writing.

Proper Letter Formation Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville NC

Why is proper letter formation important?

  • Children who have poor letter formation usually do not enjoy handwriting and/or the process takes longer than they would like.
  • Proper letter formation increases handwriting legibility, speed and accuracy.
  • Without the proper order of formation, letters are being ‘drawn’ more than formed and handwriting suffers.
  • Teaching proper letter formation can help to limit letter reversals such as b and d.
  • Practicing proper letter formation teaches higher cognitive skills ( i.e. working memory, sequencing, self-monitoring).

It’s important to note that every child’s handwriting style and process of learning is different and THAT IS OKAY! Our occupational therapists use a child-centered approach to help your kiddo become confident in their abilities while making handwriting FUN! If you are concerned about how your child forms letters or holds their pencil, an occupational therapist should evaluate your child. The therapist will determine if there are any skill or strength deficits and formulate a plan that is individualized for your child’s unique needs.


Written by: Amanda Easter, MS, OTR/L, CAS

Amanda Easter Blog - Does My Child's Pencil Grasp Matter? Occupational Therapy Greenville NC


Schwellnus, H., Carnahan, H., Kushki, A., Polatajko, H., Missiuna, C., & Chau, T. (2012). Effect of pencil grasp on the speed and legibility of handwriting in children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66: 718–726.

Pencil Grasp Carolina Therapy Connection Greenville NC

Eliminate Stress from Virtual Learning!

We Want to Help Your Family Eliminate Stress from Virtual Learning

School has started and the stress associated with remote learning is already overwhelming for many families. In addition to assuming the role of teaching, parents are trying to work their own job and continue to provide for family needs. All of this can create a chaotic home, at a time when we are already struggling with how this pandemic has changed our world. Carolina Therapy Connection is here to help children and their families eliminate stress from virtual learning!

Parents and students want to resume a sense of normalcy. The unknowns cause anxiety and fear for all of us. We need to create more routine, structure and consistency in facing these challenging times. Children need and want boundaries to feel safe and secure. The behaviors and feelings experienced when boundaries become cloudy, inconsistent or even ignored, can significantly reduce the learning and well-being of our students.

Carolina Therapy Connection is Now Providing a Virtual Learning Program

Beginning in September, CTC will be offering a Virtual Learning Support program. Some students may rotate between virtual learning and face-to-face learning every other week, while others may be receiving their education completely online. Students will attend the clinic on a weekly basis depending on their individual needs. Each week will allow for 8 hours of time with our academic coaches. Pricing for services will depend on the frequency of weeks requested. Call our clinic to discuss your child’s school schedule and any other specific needs they may have, so we can find the perfect time for you. 

During this time, students will focus on assignments and skills from their school. Having a schedule that your child can rely on for face-to-face instruction can ensure that they receive a higher-quality education and improve their understanding of concepts they have trouble with. 

CTC academic coaches will:

  • Keep students organized and motivated
  • Build confidence and independence
  • Provide clarity and understanding of assignments
  • Reinforce academic skills
  • Provide structure and consistency
  • Help with motivation to complete all work
  • Provide a learning environment that reduces distractions

The Health and Safety of Your Child and Family is Important to Us

  • When you arrive at the clinic, you can call us and we will come out to greet you at your car.
  • Prior to entering the clinic, your child will have their temperature taken and their hands washed.
  • All desks, computers, tablets, and other equipment will be sanitized between each visit.
  • Throughout your visit, all staff in the building will be wearing masks.
  • Before leaving we will have your child wash their hands one more time!

Now is the time to start the school year off right for your child and family at Carolina Therapy Connection! Start early and call us at 252-341-9944 to set up weekly virtual learning support.

virtual learning support

Tutoring Vs. Virtual Learning Support

The Differences Between Tutoring and Virtual Learning Support

With Covid-19, we are in uncertain waters and these waters are not always smooth sailing. In addition to the responsibilities of day-to-day parenting, roles have shifted.  Parents are expected to teach and manage their child’s learning during days/weeks out of school.  Virtual learning can create new situations in the home. Some of the situations may have a positive impact, while others may create barriers for your child. For these reasons, parents often seek academic support for their child to be successful with the virtual learning model. This is why it is important to understand the difference between Tutoring and Virtual Learning Support. 

With personalized tutoring, students are administered an educational assessment to identify their basic academic levels of functioning needed to create an education plan.  Tutors address skills to help students achieve more at various levels of performance. Tutors provide direct instruction with the child and focus on their specific needs. They also utilize specific techniques, strategies, materials and resources to accomplish their academic goals.  Tutors often provide homework support for students functioning on grade level but needing additional instruction to reinforce understanding.  Tutoring is personalized to meet the needs of each student.

Virtual Learning Support is similar to homework support, but actually provides a more generic approach to instruction. 

Classroom teachers will create the assignments, and the academic coaches will focus on:

  • Keeping students organized and motivated
  • Building confidence and independence
  • Providing clarity and understanding of assigned material
  • Reinforcing academic skills
  • Providing structure and consistency
  • Helping with motivation to complete all work

A strong Virtual Learning Support program eliminates much of the stress parents and children experience. Parents can expect their child’s academic coach to:

  • Assume responsibility for assignments to be thoroughly and accurately completed
  • Provide full reports after every session describing what has been accomplished and any concerns noted
  • Communicate with the child’s classroom teacher as needed for clarification and collaboration
tutoring vs virtual learning Support

Are You and Your Child Frustrated With Homework?

How Can an Educational Assessment be Beneficial to You and Your Child?

It is officially fall – that means football, costumes, hayrides, pumpkin spiced lattes (and everything else pumpkin flavored you can dream up) and HOMEWORK. (Wait, homework?).

Yes, if your evenings are like many other parents, it consists of long, grueling nights of frustration, confusion, and nagging.

Chances are your child has been “back to school” long enough for you to begin to see patterns. How much homework is the teacher giving? When is it due? You should know the teacher’s expectations and how your child is responding. Are they frustrated? Do you hear things like…I’m not good at reading? Math is stupid…why do I have to do this dumb stuff anyway?

Many parents accept this conflict with their children as an unavoidable consequence of responsible parenting. Arguing, punishing, and refusing to help rarely result in improved performance in school – and certainly no progress toward what should be our ultimate goal: helping children enjoy learning and have a positive school experience.

The solution to the problem of homework always begins with an accurate diagnosis and a recognition of the demands placed on your child. Parents should never assume that a child who resists doing homework is “lazy.” Your child may be anxious, frustrated, discouraged, distracted, and even angry- but this is not laziness.

To provide the best environment for your child, it is beneficial to create a homework plan. Our Educational Specialist recommends:

  • Breakdown homework by task: Pick one small task that your child can do to get started.
  • During the homework hour, all electronics are turned off, for the entire family.
  • Most elementary school children are able to work more effectively in a common area, with a parent nearby. Parents may work on other projects during this time, but should be available to help, to offer encouragement, and to answer children’s questions. Parents: avoid engaging in phone conversations during this time and be available if your child needs help.
  • Set aside a specified (and limited) time for homework. Set a time after school, after dinner, or a time that works best with your family’s schedule.
  • Be positive and encouraging. Make note of every improvement, not every mistake.
  • Avoid nagging and punishments. Give your child time to adjust and do not assume their lack of desire to complete a task is because they are unmotivated.

If you are already doing many of these recommendations with no real improvement in behavior, it is time to sit down with our Educational Specialist for an assessment of how our Educational Services can help!

Our Educational Specialist, Becky Taylor has over 40 years of experience helping children have a successful learning experience. For more information on pricing and what this process looks like visit our website: Educational Services

Q: Who would benefit from an Educational Assessment of Academic Achievement?

A: Reaching a decision to have an educational assessment typically comes after a period of struggle, distress, and various strategies to help improve the educational process. This assessment is an important step to help a student achieve success and for a parent to better understand how to address areas of concern. Results of this testing will address:

  • Academic achievement
  • Academic levels of functioning in:
  • Math
  • Written expression
  • Language
  • Reading
  • Academic readiness
  • Academic potential
  • Learning style
  • Attention difficulties
  • Communication skills

Results from this comprehensive assessment will provide important information in developing a plan of remediation.

Q: What is involved in an Educational Assessment?

A: Educational evaluations are comprised of informal assessments, standardized tests, evaluator observation, criteria-referenced tests, checklists and interviews. Test scores are analyzed to better understand the student’s areas of learning strengths and needs. The evaluation will include specific recommendations to address what is going on with the student.

Q: What happens after the Educational Assessment?

A: Once the comprehensive Educational Assessment is completed, an appointment will be scheduled with the parent to meet with our Educational Specialist. This follow-up conference will include a summary of the results and recommendations going forward to help the student achieve their greatest potential.

Q: What information can I gain from an Educational Consultation?

A: Consultation and review can be very useful in determining the next best step to address educational problems. Oftentimes, there is a complexity of learning challenges (attention, behavior, speech/language, social interactions, academic) that need to be addressed. Often, a parent has questions about response and services provided by the school; needing to accurately know the areas of academic strengths and weaknesses; or the implementation of services.

Q: How do I get started with the Educational Assessment process?

A: Getting started is easy! Contact us on our website or call our clinic at 252-341-9944 to connect with our staff. We will schedule an appointment to meet with our Educational Specialist.