Low-Tech Handwriting Adaptations

UDL 4.1 UDL 5.3

Low-tech handwriting adaptations can help address certain underlying factors that impact a student's quality and quantity of written work. Factors related to the physical act of writing include: postural control; shoulder, arm or hand strength; manual dexterity; ocular-motor control; visual perception; visual-motor ability; and sensory processing. Sometimes, a simple adaptation or low-tech piece of equipment can make a big difference for these students. To determine what type of adaptation would be most useful for an individual student, look at seating, the writing surface, the paper, the writing utensils, and the presentation of text. After determining a student's needs, you can implement adaptations such as specialized paper or writing utensils. Some students may only need these accommodations temporarily, while others students may need them long term.

Implementation Tips

Seek Your Occupational Therapists Advice
Use your detective eyes, and consult your occupational therapist about what type of adaptation may be best for your student. Signs like rounded posture, a flexed wrist, thumb wrapped over the pencil, or poor alignment of writing on the bottom line will give you clues about which adaptations to try first.
Student Choice
Give your student options, and a voice in what type of adaptation he or she wants to use. One student may be embarrassed by being the only student in class with a slant board or weighted pencil, while another might feel special and cool to have them.
Slant Board Tips
If you are using an empty three-ring binder as a slant board, put a piece of non-skid material (e.g. [[|dycem]] or rubbery carpet liner) underneath to keep it from sliding around on the tabletop. Also tape the end closed with duct tape or packing tape to decrease the amount students are distracted by opening it up. You can also block the triangular sides by taping cardboard over them to prevent students from playing the the rings.


Most of the time, students are best supported by [[|furniture that is the optimum size]]. Some students benefit from [[ | alternative seating ]] that is more supportive or provides them with increased body sensation in order to focus. Students with significant physical disabilities may have their own seating systems, such as wheelchairs or specialized classroom chairs, with attachments for trunk or head support, elbow blockers, trays, etc.
Writing Surface
Students with strength and/or coordination issues (including trunk, shoulder, arm, wrist, hand and eyes), can benefit from tilting up the writing surface. Slant boards can easily be made from an empty three-ring binder or purchased. Slant boards promote more upright seating, put the wrist in a more efficient position for fine control of fingers, and bring the paper into better alignment with eyes.
Writing Utensils
There are many adaptive pens, pencils and pencil grips available. Some have a different shape or width of the shaft, some are weighted, some support an alternative grasp on writing utensils when a student cannot efficiently manipulate the pencil. Some students who have difficulty applying enough pressure, do well with artist pencils that are softer than "regular" pencils (e.g. 2B - 4B). In addition, there are simple pieces of equipment that help position the hand or manipulate the pencil. It is good to have an assortment of these pencils and gadgets around because each student's needs will be different.
The design of writing paper can make a difference in students' ability to judge size, shape and placement of letters and words. Some that are helpful for many students include [[|highlighted paper]] which is much more clear than a dotted middle line as a visual cue, and/or have raised lines for students to feel the point of their pencils bump against. The Handwriting Without Tears program also has its own [[|paper design]] with just a bottom and middle line that emphasizes top, middle and bottom space rather than the lines.

Related Strategies