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CHAPTER FORTY: Problems with Handwriting

Summary: Sloppy handwriting can be the result of impaired control of the hands or impaired visual perception. The simplest fix is to write more slowly and carefully. Special paper and pens may also help. If the problem is severe, you may want to seek occupational therapy.

The Issue: Can you read everything you have written? Can other people read your writing? If not, do something about it. Who needs an extra communication problem?

Which injuries cause this symptom: Focal frontal lobe and brain stem injuries.

What you can do: The quality of your handwriting is a function of how fast you write. Write slower if you want your writing to be clearer. When you make notes for yourself, remind yourself that you’re going to need to read them later. Develop the habit of writing slowly enough to have readable handwriting.

Writing quality is improved by using lined paper. Don’t use unlined paper. Writing quality is also improved by sitting up straight and by using a completely flat surface. Some people write better if they have several sheets of paper underneath the one they are writing on. Try it.

Many people can write better if they use a pen with a thick body. Experiment–try a thick bodied pen. Try pens with bodies of different shapes (triangular versus round). Try bodies made of different materials (rubber versus plastic or metal). Try pens that write easily, like felt tipped pens or roller balls. Try pens you have to push on harder, like ball point pens or pencils. Find the kind that gives the best results.

Some focal injuries affect how much control you have over your fingers, particularly frontal lobe and frontoparietal injuries. Some affect the smoothness of your movements, particularly those affecting the basal ganglia and the cerebellum. Some focal injuries affect your ability to make and recognize shapes, particularly right temporal, parietal and occipital injuries. Injuries of this kind are treated by occupational therapists, and if you have enough difficulty with these symptoms you may want to seek the services of an occupational therapist. Some focal injuries to the left parietal and occipital lobes affect your ability to form and read letters. Injuries of this kind are treated by speech therapists, and if you have enough trouble of this kind you may want to seek the services of a speech therapist.

If you have trouble with writing, don’t hesitate to switch to typing whenever possible. Even making notes when you are in the community can be done without writing: If you have a tape recorder in your pocket, you can always dictate a note to yourself. They also make key chains and pens that contain tiny recording devices to allow you to make memos for yourself.

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