The effect of a vertical line template and a slant board on printing of children with handwriting difficulties
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One problem teachers face in school settings is the poor handwriting of children and this has become an increasing source of referrals to occupational therapists (OT). The OT not only provides therapy to improve handwriting but also suggests assistive devices to compensate for the problems. The purpose of this pilot study was to determine whether the use of either of two low cost assistive devices, a vertical line template (VLT) and a slant board (SB), or their combined use (SBVLT) had an effect on the printing of first and second grade children with handwriting difficulties as measured by the Minnesota Handwriting Test (MHT). This study also focused on identifying the relationship between the effectiveness of each intervention and the visual perceptual, motor coordination and/or visual motor integration ability of the children as measured by the Beery Buktenica Developmental test of Visual Motor Integration test fifth edition (VMI). The results showed that the improvement in handwriting scores (subtests and speed scores) was dependent not only on the type of assistive device used but also on the baseline ability of children. It was found that though the use of VLT or SB alone was helpful to improve some components of handwriting, the combined use of VLT and SB together was seen to improve most of the components of handwriting. It was also found that the children functioning well below peers and somewhat below peers benefited the most by using the combination of VLT and SB together. However the combination was found to have a negative impact for children performing like peers. The results also showed that those children who scored low on 'motor coordination' subtest of VMI, benefited the most for the 'alignment' and 'spacing' of handwriting by using SB alone as an assistive device. Thus it can be said that the use of both the VLT and SB together is a good intervention to improve handwriting for children functioning 'well below peers' or 'somewhat below peers' in the beginning. However, for those children who have illegible handwriting because of the specific motor problems, it is good to use a Slant Board alone as compared to the use of both the devices together. Thus it can be concluded that it is important to evaluate each child individually and determine his or her baseline capacity before prescribing any assistive device for handwriting difficulties and it is also necessary to provide training and ongoing use of the technology to maintain the gains.