OccupationalTherapy.com Phone: 866-782-9924

Handwriting Programs Used by Occupational Therapists

Helene Gillespie, Ph.D., OTR/L

January 22, 2013



What are some handwriting programs that can be used by occupational therapists when working with kindergarteners?


There are many handwriting programs that are available and are being used in kindergarten classrooms. It is important for occupational therapists to be familiar with the different programs available and the features of each.  It is important to also know the following:

  •  It allows OTs to be able to collaborate with teachers in different classrooms.
  •  Each program may have unique instruction features that can be applied across different curriculums.
  • Some of the handwriting programs feature apps that allow the child to practice letter formation on a Smartboard or iPad.
  • Research has not proved the consistent effectiveness of one handwriting curriculum versus another.

Here is a sampling of the handwriting programs used in schools:


  1. â Slanted style
  2. Per site, 87% of D'Nealian lower case letters are same as cursive letters.


Handwriting Without Tears

  1. Developed by an OT
  2. Per site, this program helps children develop their writing through explicit, multisensory, play based instruction.



  1. Upright formation of letters
  2. Per site, supports reading and mathematic acquisition.


Sunform Alphabet System

  1. Slanted formation of letters
  2. Per site, it teaches literacy skills fundamental to a successful beginning in reading, writing and spelling.


Brain Gym

  1. Has 26 movements, exercises or activities.
  2. Per site, the philosophy is that moving with intention leads to optimal learning.


First Strokes Multi-Sensory Print Program

  1. Developed by an OT
  2. Per site, letters are grouped and taught according to their "first strokes" such as a circle, short lines, tall lines and leaning letters.


Sensible Pencil

  1. Uses 11 basic lines
  2. Per site, designed to help new writers achieve success quickly...by using sequential worksheets that move them ahead in short easy steps.


Big Strokes for Little Folks

  1. Developed by an OT
  2. Per site, it is an intensive intervention for children with sensory integration difficulties.



helene gillespie

Helene Gillespie, Ph.D., OTR/L

Dr. Gillespie has worked as a pediatric occupational therapist in both school-based and private
practice settings for over 35 years. Because of her strong interest in the field of
learning disabilities, she completed a Ph.D. in that area, with a concentration in cognitive
neuroscience, in 2003. Helene's doctoral research focused on component skills of handwriting.
Currently, Dr. Gillespie is a consultant for a special education cooperative. Additionally, she consults with
parents and teachers through her private practice: OT in the Classroom, LLC.

Related Courses

Foundations for School Readiness: Sensory Regulation and Yoga (Day 1)
Presented by Britt Collins, MS, OTR/L


Britt Collins, MS, OTR/L
Course: #3841Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Real life examples and interventions'   Read Reviews
This course will provide you tips and tools to integrate sensory regulation, yoga and mindfulness into the classroom for children of all abilities.

Foundations for School Readiness: Visual and Fine Motor Skills (Day 2)
Presented by Emily Dassow, OTR/L


Emily Dassow, OTR/L
Course: #3842Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'I loved all of the treatment ideas! They were so creative and helpful!'   Read Reviews
Participants will learn how fine motor and visual motor skills and development affect students' ability to access curriculum. Practical strategies and treatment interventions will be presented to improve students' function in academic related tasks.

Foundations for School Readiness: Executive Functioning in the Classroom (Day 3)
Presented by Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L


Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L
Course: #3843Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'Very clear and thorough'   Read Reviews
We use executive function skills to manage tasks we complete every day. They help us to decide what to pay attention to as well as help us to manage emotions and regulate behavior. This course helps therapists to understand executive function and learn activities to help children to succeed in the classroom.

Foundations for School Readiness: Early OT Exposure (EOTE), A Mindful OT Screening & Intervention (Day 4)
Presented by Angela Hissong, DEd, OTR/L, CMCP, CMMF, CIR


Angela Hissong, DEd, OTR/L, CMCP, CMMF, CIR
Course: #3844Level: Introductory1 Hour
  'loved the tool'   Read Reviews
Exploration of a screening tool, which links child's engagement with toys and activities to skill transfer in the educational environment. Contemplation of building a portfolio of assessment and intervention for children specifically related to daily occupations in the educational environment while remaining true the concept that children need to play in order to learn.

Writing IEP Goals
Presented by Kim Wiggins, OTR/L


Kim Wiggins, OTR/L
Course: #4100Level: Intermediate1 Hour
  'There were many examples which can be used as well as references for further educating oneself on this subject'   Read Reviews
Goal writing can be time consuming and difficult to complete for therapists. This webinar will teach you a step by step process how to write functional goals for students in the school setting.