Many therapists, teachers, and parents get caught up in letter formation. What is the real goal of handwriting? is it the direction that the letter is made? Is it sequencing of writing the letter? Is it legibility?
Writing letters from the baseline up or in an awkward sequence is a problem with visual-spatial and memory aspects of handwriting. Children hesitate to mentally form the picture in their head of how the letter writing the letter number is made. They know that the letter must touch the bottom line but cannot recall where it ends.
As they begin writing the letter, they match what is in their mind as to the shape and the letterforms.
To support their memory of letters, a visual cue is the best reinforcement until the child can visually create a mental image of the direction to form the letter.
Legibility and Speed!
However, the ultimate goal is legibility and speed. Whether the child writes bottom up or the way that is prescribed in the program, legibility is the goal. Speed should be similar to peers.
Which program works best?
Many occupational therapists have heard of Handwriting without Tears (HWT) by Jan Olsen. Their program eliminates the top line and teaches children to write using a two-line format. They also have many sensory-motor activities associated with the program.
Another program is the Size Matters Handwriting Program (SMHP) by Real OT Solutions. This program uses a three-line format with the width of each line varying to emphasize letter placement. They also use sensory-motor strategies to remediate handwriting.
These two programs were compared with 11 other programs for legibility and speed. SMHP remediated legibility with better clinical significance than HWT.
Here is a link to the article:
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, June 2015, Vol. 69, 6904350010p1-6904350010p7. doi:10.5014/ajot.2015.015826