#40 - Building Better Writers: Kelli Fetter Discusses Handwriting Essentials

Sep 04, 2023
#40 - Building Better Writers: Kelli Fetter Discusses Handwriting Essentials

✏️ Explore Handwriting Solutions with Kelli Fetter from Handwriting Solutions in this Informative Episode!

***For transcript of this episode, scroll down!


Delve into the world of handwriting challenges and solutions as we chat with Kelli Fetter. We discuss dysgraphia's distinction from dyslexia, vital handwriting components, recognizing assistance needs, developmental grasp sequences, stability and strength's role, promoting handwriting products, and enhancing literacy through handwriting. Gain actionable tips to support your child's handwriting journey.


About Kelli: Kelli is an occupational therapist with extensive experience in pediatrics. She is the founder of Handwriting Solutions which provides handwriting tutoring to students virtually and in-person as well as supports parents, educators, and therapists. She has practiced in pediatric outpatient settings, early intervention, preschools, private schools, and homeschool co-ops. She has served as adjunct professor teaching pediatrics and kinesiology. Kelli’s handwriting specific training includes a Handwriting Specialist Certification as well Handwriting Without Tears, Size Matters Handwriting Program, and numerous training and workshops on dyslexia and dysgraphia. Kelli also is a parent of a child with dyslexia and dysgraphia and is passionate about serving these children and educating families with evidence-based best practices.


Episode Highlights:

  • Understanding dysgraphia and dyslexia's differences and impacts.
  • Recognizing signs indicating a child's handwriting needs assistance.
  • Exploring essential components crucial for successful handwriting.
  • Unveiling pre-writing skills and their significance.
  • Tracing the developmental sequence of grasp changes in growing kids.
  • Demystifying handwriting assessments and evaluations.
  • The role of core strength and stability in handwriting.
  • Kelli's take on older kids' handwriting and grasp techniques.
  • Favorite products for promoting improved handwriting.
  • The integral link between handwriting and literacy.
  • Actionable step for parents to foster better handwriting skills at home.


🎙️ Tune in to gain valuable insights from Kelli Fetter, a handwriting expert, and discover effective strategies for supporting your child's handwriting journey today!


✨✨✨ Want to learn more about Kelli? You can connect with her at:


✨✨✨ For a FREE consultation with Kelli visit: https://calendly.com/kelli-hws/consult


References from Kelli:

  • Book: Dyslexia, dysgraphia, OWL LD, and dyscalculia.  Virginia W Berninger, Beverly J Wolf.  Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co, 2016
  •  https://education.uw.edu/people/faculty/vwb/publications 
  • Chung, P.J., Patel, D.R., & Nizami, I. (2019) Disorder of Written Expression and Dysgraphia:  definition, diagnosis, and management. Transl Pediatr 2020; 9(Suppl 1):S46-S54.
  • Chung, P. & Patel, D.R. (2015) Dysgraphia. Int J Child Adolesc Health 2015; 8(1):27-36.


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Episode Transcript: 

Sam: Welcome back to episode number 40 of the Food Explorers podcast.

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am for today's episode.

I just got off recording with Kelly and she is incredible.

I feel like I learned so much about handwriting,

learning disabilities and literacy from this episode, and I know you will too.

I really feel like I could have just asked her questions forever.

If your child is struggling with handwriting,

you're gonna wanna keep listening because there is just so much valuable

information packed into these 40 minutes.

But first I wanna tell you a little bit about Kelly.

Kelly is an occupational therapist with extensive experience in pediatrics.

She's the founder of Handwriting Solutions,

which provides handwriting tutoring to students virtually and in person,

as well as supports parents, educators, and therapists.

She has practiced in pediatric outpatient settings,

early intervention preschools, private schools, and homeschool co-ops.

She has served as an adjunct professor teaching pediatrics and kinesiology.

Kelly's handwriting specific training includes a handwriting specialist

certification, as well as handwriting without tier size matters,

handwriting program,

and numerous trainings and workshops on dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Kelly is also a parent of a child with dyslexia and dysgraphia and is passionate

about serving these children and educating families with evidence-based best

practices. So without further ado, let's get to the episode. Hey,


I am so excited to have you here today and talk about handwriting for our Back

to School series,

because handwriting is one of those areas that parents really find really

confusing and it's one of the most common referrals I think I've gotten when it

comes to therapy services. So before we get started,

can you give us a little introduction to you and tell us about what you do?

Kelli: Absolutely, yes, Sam, thank you so much for having me today. Um,

so my name is Kelly again.

I actually started and the founder of Handwriting Solutions,

which is a service that provides tutoring one-on-one in person

or virtually as well as we run handwriting camps and handwriting

clubs. And we also offer parent,

teacher and therapist education on handwriting. Um,

so that's kind of what I do for my, my job. Um, and you know,

I'm just so passionate about this because I'm also the parent of a child with

dyslexia and dysgraphia,

and that really is what drove me to,

to start handwriting solutions and to offer this service to families because

there really was a gap in the services that were being provided.

Sam: Yeah, so you really know firsthand what this feels like from the parent side.

Kelli: Absolutely.

So when parents come to me and they're about to pull their hair out and they're

like, what do I do help? I'm like, I've been there.

I've got you. We'll figure it out together if I don't know,

because there's always more research coming out,

and the research is still pretty limited on handwriting.

So we're doing what we can do and we,

we really use those evidence-based practices as well.

Sam: Oh, I am a big fan of evidence-based practice. You were speaking my language.

So you did mention dysgraphia and you mentioned dyslexia.

Can you talk a little bit about what these are?

I know a lot of parents have heard these terms,

but it's probably never even really been explained to them.

Kelli: That’s right. Especially the dysgraphia one.

I feel dyslexia is becoming a little bit more of a known


but I'll kind of start by just explaining that specific learning

disabilities are kind of an umbrella.

So if you look at the fancy diagnostic manual,

which gives the diagnoses,

you will see that there are specific learning this disabilities

under that, there are three pieces to that. There is reading, writing,

and math.

So dyslexia is the learning disability and reading dysgraphia

is in writing or written expression, and then dys ULA is in.

So what we really do is we,

we help that dyslexia and dysgraphia piece because that's where that handwriting

and writing piece comes into play.

But I think it helps when they think about learning differences as a

broader kind of thinking, and then kind of narrow it down.

Okay, there this child is struggling with reading.

What are the barriers this child is struggling with writing?

Here are the barriers.

Sam: Hmm. So what are some signs,

I know you said you wanna narrow it down and look at those different things.

What are some signs that a child may need some extra help with handwriting?

So I mentioned to you that when parents come to me,

the one I hear almost all the time is their writing is just illegible.

Or I went to back to school night and I saw their,

I saw theirs next to another child, and it doesn't look the same.

So what are some of those things that they can look out for?

Kelli: Yep. That those are always two big red flags. Right. You know, and,

and I see so often in social media too,

parents will post a picture of their child's writing and they'll say,

does this look like dysgraphia or what's going on here? Or is this normal?

And it's hard as a parent, it's hard to know.

And I think that that is a good sign is looking at the peers and what their

peers, same age peers are doing. And if you do notice a discrepancy,

another aspect of that would also be, are they avoiding writing?

That was a big one for my daughter.

She would rip up the page because it was so frustrating for her.

So is there some sort of, you know,

avoidance or frustration with writing? And then of course that output.

So, so is there legibility poor? Is there, um,

letters and spelling inconsistent? You know,

those kind of physical output signs are really going to be those red flags

for you.

Sam: Yeah. I love that you pointed out,

if they're not really interested in handwriting or they don't wanna do it,

I think that gets passed over so much and we're just like, oh,

they're not interested in it, and you're like,

they're not interested because it's really hard for them.

And sometimes that disinterest gets taken differently.

Kelli: Absolutely. And it becomes a behavior thing when it's not a behavior thing.

It is. You know, I think as, as OTs and as, um,

just educational professionals, we, we know that we have to dig deeper.

We know that if a child is, is exhibiting a type of behavior,

what is causing that behavior? We're not gonna fix the behavior,

we're going to look at what's causing it.

And for kids with difficulty in writing,

we have to peel back those later layers. So yes, they could be, uh,

avoiding it or maybe they're just really fidgety at their desk when writing

comes around or they're, you know, all of these behaviors spring up. Well,

let's figure out and let's see what that barrier is.

Sam: Mm-hmm. Behavior is a form of communication.

Kelli: Yeah, absolutely. Yes.

Sam: So let's delve a little bit deeper into this.

Let's talk about all those different components that are essential for


Kelli: Right? Because it's more than just the output. Mm-hmm.

So I think a lot of times we forget that and we see the output,

and so we just think, well,

we just need to practice writing more if the output is not great.

But what we have to do is really start at the foundation,

and I've actually created a whole foundational approach to writing and to

dysgraphia or any kind of handwriting struggles.

And that foundation starts with motor skills.

So looking at their core strength,

looking at their overall body strength, their shoulders,

their elbows, their wrist, kind of starting from the core working out.

Do they have the ability to even sit in a chair upright?

Do they have the posture? Do they have the fine motor skills,

the visual motor skills?

So now we're looking at the hands and the eyes and all of that pieced together.

So much has to happen before we pick up a pencil and write.

So then that leads us to hand grasp pencil grasp.

And then there's also the cognitive piece that, you know, as,

as OTs, sometimes we think about the motor skills,

but we also have to remember that cognitive piece too.

Do they have good alphabet recognition?

Do they understand alphabetic order?

Because that plays a huge role in writing because they're trying to

get the words out and the the letters out.

And so what does that cognitive motor piece look like too?

Sam: Oh my gosh, there's so many components here. You mentioned fine motor, visual,

motor, cognitive. There's a lot going on there.

And even those are kind of broken down even more.

So when we're looking at visual and water,

we're looking at where do they place it on the line? How about the spacing?

Kelli: Oh yes. We deep dive. And you know, as part of our assessment,

we really do look at each of those areas because

we want to figure out where that breakdown is so that we can remediate that.

And we also want to figure out what their strengths are,

because building on those strengths are equally as important as remediating the


Sam: Yeah. I actually had Scotty on this podcast a little while ago,

and she was mentioning that she also works with children who struggle in school,

and she was mentioning the how they get just so discouraged

and the confidence with doing things at the table and doing things

like handwriting. So I,

I love that you're talking about building their strengths up to help them,

their strengths are important and building on those.

Kelli: Absolutely.

And I think I literally just wrote an article about this because so much

of their confidence is, is it's, it's hard.

School is hard for these kids.

And so I'm a big believer also of helping that child and that

student and that family figure out what is motivating for the child.

Maybe that's outside of school, maybe that's an extracurricular,

building up those,

their confidence in those other areas will only bleed over into all areas


Sam: Especially with all those components you talked about.

So building it in other areas, building that strength at gymnastics,

that's gonna carry over back to the table.

Kelli: Absolutely. Which sounds crazy, right? You want your child to write better,

write better, sign 'em up for gymnastics class, you know,

send them out to climb a tree. Yes. It's all correlated.

Sam: Gymnastics is one of my favorite.

So let's talk also a little bit about pre-writing skills,

because there are things that come in before writing.

So what can parents do here?

Are there things that they should be starting to practice or looking out for?

Kelli: Yeah,

so that kind of goes back to what we were just talking about is the gymnastics,

like play, play, get your kids playing, get them outside,

get them moving their bodies.

We want their bodies to be developed and their,

they're solid core and they're solid motor skills.

They have to have all of these pieces before they can pin up the pencil.

And then also, you know, thinking about how you can incorporate, incorporate,

um, motor skills, fine motor skills, coloring, you know,

calling is a lost art and it is so valuable for

building up their writing skills. So just, you know, simple things like that.

Having them manipulate different items,

giving them different tools to use. Just really being, I think,

um, a lot of this,

this younger generation is just missing out on that fifth piece.

And so I'm a huge proponent in just getting our kids biv and

flagging and a variety of play. And then also, you know,

starting to build in when they're ready. That alphabet awareness.

That doesn't mean we're picking up a pencil at four years old,

but that we're playing with letters and we're observing letters and we're

observing the stop sign has four letters on it,

and kind of just everyday activities exposing them to letters

and then building upon that.

Sam: Hmm. I think Sesame Street does a really good job of this too.

I know there's a lot of screen time out there today,

which I do think ties a little bit back into what you said about our kids are

not as out there developing those skills,

but I actually think Sesame Street does a great job of teaching letters.

Kelli: Right. And, you know, um,

I'm a huge proponent in using screens to our advantage.

I think it screen time, excessive screen time is detrimental.

Yes, I will definitely say that. And yet, screens are inevitable.

They are a part of our life and they are a part of our future.

So if we can use those to our advantage through programs such as that,

um, and you know, that's another reason why I'm a big advocate.

So we offer virtual tutoring, which initially you're like, oh, no more screens.

But I'm like,

it is so explicit and intentional for how we do it that it does not

look like a virtual session.

And I think as long as parents can be

aware of how they're using the screen,

then that that will lead to better outcomes.

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. There are so many games out there too on the iPad now,

or even on the computer that really facilitate learning and that motor pattern

for handwriting.

Kelli: Right, exactly. So many and so many new ones are being developed. And so again,

if that's motivating for your child, absolutely. Let's pull that in.

In addition to all of those things we've already talked about,

about being outside, you know,

the research shows that just spending more time

outdoors will in, uh, huge,

huge impact on their development.

So I think both it's really where we see the magic.


Sam: So you mentioned grasping when we were talking about the different components of


Something a lot of parents I think don't realize is that grasp develops as you

age and you know,

it starts with kind of that big gross grasp and all the way to that tripod.

So I wanted to ask you a little bit about that and to elaborate on

what these grasps look like and what parents again can be looking out for.

Kelli: Right. So exactly as you said, it does start out, you know,

when you think about picturing like a six month old and what their grasp looks

like, they're using their whole hands. They're,

they're even using their shoulders a lot because they,

they have to really rely on that core stability to help them grasp.

And so they're,

they're just learning maybe to pick up the little cheerios with their,

their fingers. But as that develops through outdoor play,

through, um, brawling and,

and kind of manipulating different tools and toys,

they are refining that grasp,

meaning that instead of recruiting big muscles,

we're going to be developing and recruiting smaller muscles in our hand.

So you can see the grasp with a pencil go from kind of a fisted

whole hand grasp to more of like a forefinger where,

where they're using their thumb and their forefingers to hold it and eventually

to that tripod grasp.

But what I will also say about grasp is

just because a child maybe doesn't make it to that tripod grasp

with pencil does not mean that their grasp isn't efficient.

So something that we also look at is, is the grasp functional?

So are they able to get the written output that they need in an efficient

way, in an effective way, and without pain or fatigue?

If we kind of check all three of those, then I'm okay.

If they grasp isn't that perfect tripod grasp.

And the irony is my own daughter's grasp is probably one of

the most awkward grasp that you will see. And yet, and you know, being,

being an OT and doing what I do, it kind of, I'm like,

but it's fine because she's functional, she is effective,

she is, that's comfortable for her. Um,

and then we'll see if it impacts her,

her endurance in the long run, then yes, we will make, um,

kind of edits to that and adjustment to that. But, you know, I kind of,

I spend a lot of time at the beginning and then we can also refine also several,

um, I mean,

many thousands probably of people have changed their grasp in adulthood,

so hope is not lost. Um,

if their grasp pattern isn't functional or working for them,

they can be motivated to change it.

And there are so many alternative pencils these days that can help.

And even just little pencil grips that can help achieve that better grasp if

that's a struggle with 'em.

So I think as long as we're like open-minded about it too,

I think that'll help us have more functional outcomes.

Sam: I was actually going to ask you about this, because in the OT world,

I do think there's a lot of,


I guess I would say a little negativity, not the word I'm looking for,

but when it comes to working with older kids or even teenagers with their grasp,

because we do talk about functions, so they're, they're like,

if they're not functional with the grasp, change to a computer,

change to something else. Now,

I personally have a little bit of a different opinion on this because I used a

non-functional grasp for the first probably 16 years of my

life. And I was in pain, I was fatiguing, I could get the letters out,

but it was, you know,

when I actually went to OT school that I learned about grasp and I changed

it myself. And I do write all the time.

We have to write notes in the clinics I work at.

We have to write for all these different things.

So I changed mine down the road.

So I am actually an advocate for working at later ages,

but I I did wanna know your opinion on that.

Kelli: Yes. And that is one of my like soapbox kind of,

um, it's just yes, I see so many times where people,

um, will say, uh, it's, they're in middle school, it's too late.

Let's just give them a computer. And my opinion, and also the research,

particularly Dr.

Beringer's research really indicates that our,

our brains are plastic and we know this.

And so that neuroplasticity is what that's called.

And we know that we can make changes throughout the lifespan.

And so with writing it is never too late.

And what I like to think is we can accommodate,

so we can use those laptops. Absolutely. Um,

we can use the speech to text, we can use all of these amazing tech,

low tech and high tech tools to help us.

And we also can remediate because we know that we could see changes.

I've seen firsthand changes you've personally dealt with,

with the that and the improvements that you can make.

So really it comes down to that individual. Are they motivated?

Is that going to, um, to really make a difference?

And if you can let them know and share with them that it will make a difference

in their academics and then even past high school in college

even, that, that will make a difference in their life,

they will absolutely see the benefit of trying something new and different and

really getting that explicit remediation as well as accommodation.

Sam: Oh, you are definitely speaking to my heart right now because we do learn,

we do learn every single day of our lives from the time we are a baby until

we're a hundred years old.

And so I do definitely fall along that same thinking of neuroplasticity.

And I also really enjoyed that you said we can do both.

We can do an accommodation,

but we can also learn in the meantime and improve those skills.

Kelli: Right. It's not an either or.

And I was just listening to a podcast yesterday about, um,

a gentleman who learned how to read at age 62, learn how to read.

So, and you know, reading and writing are so interconnected that it it is not,

it will never be too late. And if your child is struggling,

no matter their age, absolutely. Get them the help that they,

they so desperately need,

get them the re remediation and also figure out some accommodations too.

Sam: Awesome. So if a parent was going to get an evaluation for handwriting,

they wanted to do an assessment, what would this look like for them?

Kelli: Sure.

So in a handwriting assessment that we do at Handwriting Solutions does look a

little bit different than your traditional, um,

assessments because we really hone in on handwriting.

So we would look at writing samples, they would send in writing samples,

we would, um, interview the parent, we would interview teachers. Um,

we would really use that team approach.

If they've had any therapies in the past, we would wanna know that too.

And then we would give them, um, a pretty wide range of handwriting,


assessments that look at literally the breakdown of how they form a letter

line placement, sizing, spacing, that technical piece.

And then also look at their writing speed, their sentence skills,

their spelling,

which is also sometimes an indicator of some handwriting difficulties. Um,

and then just overall their, their sentence dictation.

So when they hear a sentence being read, can they, um,

remember that sentence and write it? Can they copy a sentence?

Can they write their alphabet without a prompt?

So kind of seeing their abilities with a visual prompt,

with the copying, and then without the visual prompt.

And then also just a,

a larger writing response to kind of really see their thinking when having to

write a longer, um,

paragraph or even essay for an older child.

And so we get all of this data and part of it gives us tangible

data that we can look at and percentiles and such.

We can also compare that to grade level, um, or age level equivalence.

And then we really just look at that individual child and their goals

and what areas they're really needing more re remediation on.

Also, what areas that we might recommend some keyboarding or cursive even.


what way will best get them the outcome that,

that they want and need and that, um, we see is the best fit.

Sam: Wow. So you look at, you look at a lot, how,

how long should a parent expect an evaluation or assessment to be?

Kelli: Well, the, the interviews usually take place before the assessment,

so that's the good part. So the child's not having to sit there. Um,

but typically about 45 minutes of us working directly with the child can

get us everything that we need to do in addition to the interviews that occur


Sam: Oh, I really like that you do the interviews before.

So you give the parent a call and you do an interview with them on the phone.

Kelli: Absolutely, yeah. And you know, I feel like it just, it,

it gives us a better picture of what to look for, of what their, um,

interests and goals are. Um,

it kind of sets us up for success for the assessment and then, um,

you know, then,

then the parent can really open up about their child and what they're seeing

without the child feeling like they're being picked apart, so to speak.

Sam: I think that is one of the hardest things about evaluations when you have a

child in the room and the parents try and explain what is going on.

So the fact that you do that beforehand is awesome.

Kelli: Yeah, it makes a real difference, I think, in, um,

in that relationship too,

I think with the parent because we value building that relationship with the

parent as well as with the child.


Sam: So you did talk about core stability and shoulder stability and fine

motor skills. Again,

this is an area that really is probably under discussed

with families.

Can you talk about what part stability really plays in


Kelli: Sure. Yeah. And you're right, it is, again,

we think about writing and we think about the output. So, you know,

the old saying is stability

precedes mobility.

And really that means that our core has to be strong enough to, um,

allow us to sit upright in a chair to have the shoulder strength.

So a lot of times you might see a child that is riding and they're moving their

whole arm or their shoulder or their elbow or their wrist with

very little to no, um, finger movement.

And so that's usually a red flag for us that they're,

they're really struggling with that stability,

and so they're not getting the mobility at their fingers.

So kind of building up that, that core first. Um,

and then moving to those fine motor skills is kind of how we, we, um,

pursue that.

And that doesn't mean that we're not working on fine motor skills too,

but really kind of just bringing that all together.

Sam: The one I see so much is when a child kind of just slides down out of their

chair and in an evaluation a parent is like, stop being silly,

or like, stop sliding out. But to us, what I'm looking at is, oh,

he doesn't have the core stability or needs, you know,

some extra sensory input to stay up.

How hard is it to write if you are literally sliding out of your chair?

Kelli: 100%. I love it. Yes, yes. We've all seen those,

those kids sit wide or they're like sitting upside down in the chair or, um,

they, they're spinning in the chair, you know, there's some sort of need,

whether that's a sensory need or, um, a core, you know,

need or there's, there's something more going on.

And the other thing I like to think about is, as an adult, I know,

or I would say that most of us have sat in like a, a stool,

like a high counter stool, um, and our legs dangle.

And knowing how hard that is, I don't know about you,

but if I go to a restaurant like that and they have the high seat,

I've gotta put my feet somewhere. So even just adjusting the, um,

eating of the child. So maybe a,

a different size chair or a different size table will help promote that too.

So again, we're looking at remediation,

increasing the core strength versus accommodation,

having the furniture fit the child. Mm-hmm.

Sam: And something else that I notice a lot with the kids who have a hard time

sitting up in that chair, it also changes the position of their shoulders.

So if they're scooted down in their chair,

if they're leaning over their shoulders,

their elbows aren't where it needs to be at the table.

So they have to physically lift their arms to compensate for that.

Kelli: Absolutely.

And that's why one of my favorite postures is actually to have a child

lie down on their tummy with their elbows propped up and put up

the paper. Usually we're coloring or drawing or doodling,

but we can also do some written work too in that position.

But that kind of automatically gives 'em a little bit of shoulder and elbow

stability and really forces 'em to use that, um,

hand and those, those fingers to write or color.

Oh, that's great. That's a great idea for parents to practice,

is having them lay on their belly and color and see if they can move,

move their hand independently.

Absolutely. And let me tell you,

it's hard because I would suggest if a parent wants to try this to get to home

on the floor with their child, and then you realize

to work with my core a little bit too, or my shoulder strength, um,

or even our back muscles, you know, we forget about the, that whole, like,

that's part of our core too. Um, so it's also a strengthening position as well.

Sam: Oh, I love that you added that in. Definitely. I don't know about you.

When I became an OT and had to show these things to kids, I was like,

oh my gosh, I can't do it.

I had to learn how to physically do a lot of these things.

Kelli: Absolutely, absolutely. Yep. It, it builds a little, um,

humility to our practice.

Oh my gosh, yes.

Sam: So my next question's a little bit of a fun one because one of my favorite

things to do, I'm definitely an Amazon person.

I love finding new products that can help families.

So do you have a favorite product for promoting handwriting?

My personal favorite is Mr. Bubbles, the foam soap that comes in all the colors,

because I love practicing letters in that.

Kelli: Yes.

And I think that is probably just that whole idea of like

practicing letters and soap, practicing letters with chalk,

with dry erase board, that multisensory approach.

The research has shown that it ttes different parts of the brain so that

it's not just pencil to paper practice, but it's,

it's practicing in a way that uses all of our senses.

So our, our taste, our smell, our touch, our our auditory,

our vision. So any kind of tools. So yes, I use,

and it's so interesting too,

when I watch children go from writing on a chalkboard to writing on a piece of


there're are kids that their handwriting is beautiful on a chalkboard because

they're getting that feedback from the chalk pushing down,

they're having to push at a certain, um, level or intensity,

and then they, they pick up a pencil and the pencil doesn't, um,

give them as much feedback and it's lighter. And,

and so their handwriting just ends up being a little bit messier.

So any sort of multisensory tool with that.

Another thing too that I've used is dry erase markers. Um,

sometimes for my older kids, this is nice because they, uh,

particularly if they fear, have a fear of making mistakes, it's,

you can erase it really quickly and it's no big deal and it's gone. Um,

or if pencil pressure is a challenge,

they can very erase markers are easier to push,

so you don't have to push as hard, it glides a little bit. And then I love, um,

clothes, pins, chopsticks, um, tongs,

any kind of manipulative like that to get them ready to write before we write is

nice. And then I, I'm like Amazon Target Dollar Spot and,

and the Dollar Tree. All of those places just have some really cool,

um, tools. It's so funny, like anytime I,

I bring something new into office or share on, on screen, my, um,

kids that I work with are always like, what's that? You know, they're,

they're so intrigued.

And so I end up sharing a lot of times with parents and they end up purchasing

their, their own as well. But, um, you know,

you don't have to spend a lot of money.

This can be things you have at home already. And then, um,

another favorite too in the multisensory is just going outside and seeing how

you can manipulate the nature. So, you know, I live in Florida,

so I recommend, you know,

the clients near me take a stick when you go to the beach and write your letters

in the sand. But you can do that no matter where you are.

You can find a stick out in the woods and write in dirt, you know,

or paint with or sidewalk chalks.

So really just incorporating all of those multisensory strategies.

Sam: Oh, that's so cute. Use what you have and if you wanna get something new,

you can get it very affordably. Dollar Tree really does have the best stuff.

So another thing I heard you mention earlier in this podcast was that

a key component to handwriting is actually literacy.

Can you tell us a little bit about how those two intertwine so much?

Kelli: I love this question, and here's why. Because when we think about literacy,

we think about reading,

but what we're missing is this whole other piece of literacy, which is writing.

So when I explain this to parents, um, and even, um,

educators and other professionals,

reading is the input that is how they gain information,

but writing is that output and we kind of, we have to have both.

Writing is the piece of literacy that shows their knowledge. Um,

and then also the research shows that that incorporating

writing and really emphasizing writing as a part of literacy impacts their

reading skills and their spelling skills. So without writing,

we really lose out on a lot of solid literacy skills and


Sam: Oh, that's so interesting. I've never heard it explained like that before.

Kelli: Right. Um, and again, Dr.

Berninger is another great resource for this because she really

spearheaded the, the research in writing as a, as a piece to literacy.

Sam: Oh, that's so cool.

I'm gonna have you send me some of these articles so that I can share them in

the show notes.

Kelli: Absolutely.

Sam: So leaving here today,

what is something parents can start doing at home to help improve their child's


Kelli: Play, play, play, play. I think I've said it about a hundred times already.

Um, outdoor play, get them manipulating items. Get,

you know, again, we've talked about screens,

but getting them off the screens too. Um, drawing, coloring,

incorporating letter play and, and games. So,

so many board games are amazing for writing and

for just alphabet awareness, um, and free writing skills.

So drawing skills. Some of my favorites, Pictionary Junior,

bingo. Uh, I mean, there's so, so many perfection.

That's a good fine motor. Ga you know, I, my office is stacked and I,

I have a whole list on my website too of games that, that I recommend for, um,

building up fine motor,

visual motor skills as well as rewriting and even alphabet recognition.

Um, and then the other piece I would say to parents is just don't delay getting

help. Their writing,

just like their reading will not get better doing the same thing over and over.

So getting help and getting help early when you see that there might

be an issue going on, it's really going to, um, lead to,

to better and quicker outcomes. And also it is never too late.

So maybe you're just realizing that your child is struggling, um,

in middle school or even high school. It's okay, it's not too late.

You can still get them the remediation and the help that they need.

Sam: I always say nothing changes if nothing changes. So I think yes,

if you are struggling, get the help,

the worst that happens is you get an evaluation and they don't need,

you get an evaluation assessment and they don't need the help, but chances are,

if they're struggling, they do.

Kelli: Right. Exactly. And I mean, I'm thrilled if I have, you know,

I'm very open and honest with families and because I've been through it as a


And so when they come in for that assessment or that we do that assessment

virtually, I,

I really look at that whole child and that learning profile.

And also I see if they're a good fit for us or if they might need something

different. If they might, might, might need, um,

occupational therapy services intensive.

If they might need more of reading or phonological skills,

then I refer to an SS l. So, you know,

I think that assessment is just worth, it's, is so valuable for that reason.

Sam: Yeah. And this is out of my own curiosity,

but because you do handwriting coaching,

are you actually able to provide these assessments throughout the entire


Kelli: Yes, exactly. Yeah. So what we do is tutoring it is, um,

not the therapy because we go beyond that,

that handwriting piece to that written expression,

and we come at it from an educational lens.

So we act as educational consultants essentially.

Sam: Oh, that's amazing. So anybody listening, if you guys need Kelly,

she can help you throughout the entire country. Well, Kelly,

thank you so much for being here today.

This was so amazing and I know it's going to be so valuable for this community.

Kelli: Yeah, it's been great. And I'm just, I always just,

hopefully my passion shows because it is, it is my passion.

It is something that I have spent years learning and researching and,

um, and again, like who is serving these kids?

They are slipping through the cracks.

So we're just excited that we can be kind of the, the leader in this and,

um, and help more families.

Sam: Oh, yes. Well, thank you again for being here.

I'm gonna link all of Kelly's information for you guys in the show notes if you

wanna learn more about her.


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