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When the Handwriting is On the Wall - July 2007

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When the Handwriting is On the Wall

By: Liora Laufer, Certified Graphologist and Founder/President of Callerobics Co.

I am often asked if in this technological era penmanship should be taught? Has the computer replaced the need to go beyond printing? The answer is a resounding yes.

We are all aware that legible cursive handwriting is important for communication. However, not many realize that legible cursive handwriting can also promote discipline, concentration and even improve thinking process.

It is obvious that handwriting involves the hand, but it also involves the brain, many muscles and nerves. Thus, it follows that the way we move the hand and how we write must depend on our physical, mental and emotional states. It explains why, although as children we are taught to form letters according to an established pattern, each of us develops a unique individual script. Astute educators are renewing efforts to teach the skills of good penmanship after realizing that repetition of handwriting exercises are essential in developing good working habits neatness, carefulness, and consistency.

Handwriting analysis (graphology) evolved from examining inherent writing characteristics and those which are acquired. The U.S. Department of Labor and the Library of Congress classify graphology as a professional tool in the behavioral fields of counseling, personnel evaluations, and vocational aptitudes. Graphology can be used at various level, handwriting analysis can be a useful tool for occupational therapists. It can confirm observations made through other behavioral patterns, or it can provide an alert before an unexpected behavior pattern emerges.

The act of writing is made by combining letters into words, lines and pages. Therefore, a full handwriting analysis must separately consider the micro level where individual letters are analyzed and the macro level where overall patterns are considered.

For example, looking at pressure in handwriting is not one of the components that jumps out from the paper and grabs your attention, as opposed to writing slant or letter size. Still it is one of the most important components of the handwriting. In fact, of all the writing components, writing pressure is one of only two non-forgeable qualities.

Writing pressure relates to the force applied by the writer to the pen on the paper. When the writing pressure is light, the pen does not penetrate into the paper. Medium pressure will produce a slight penetration, without digging into the underlying sheets of paper or the writing surface. Strong pressure will penetrate into several layers of paper. We determine the degree of force in our writing by feeling the original sample with thumb and index finger. Therefore, it is very difficult or even impossible to assess pressure from photocopies. It is natural for the upstrokes and the rightward strokes to be somewhat lighter than the downstrokes.

At first glance it may appear that the writing pressure depends either upon the type of pen used or the person's actual physical appearance, i.e., physical strength. However, writing pressure, like all other components of handwriting, is basically determined by the personality of the writers and not by their biceps size.

Writing pressure tells us how much energy is available for work or for goal-directed pursuits and of the ability to sustain it consistently. Light pressure is connected with sensitivity, spirituality and idealism and often with great creativity. However, the potential is seldom fulfilled for lack of vitality and willpower to follow through. Medium writing pressure is the norm. It is an indication of healthy vitality and consistent energy and willpower. People with heavy pressure have a great deal of energy available to them for their actions. They are strong willed, firm and easily excited. On the other hand they can be stubborn and stern. When they are around, you would not be able to ignore them.

Although we would not judge children's handwriting as we would adults, it is interesting to observe that kids who have behavior problems and are unpredictable in their work habits and attitude also have irregular writing pressure such as sudden changes between light and strong pressure even within one word. Aggressiveness can be seen when final strokes tend to get enlarged toward the end. Most likely in these kind of handwriting the space between letters and words is uneven, and the slant is fluctuating. Usually the space component reflects the writer's self- confidence and his ability to adjust to his surroundings. The forms (letter shapes), which reflect on one's self-image, are sometimes illegible and twisted.

In seventeen years of working with students and occupational therapists, I found that when students have already experienced frustration and failure in their penmanship they resist praciticing their letters. I developed a unique approach to improving penmanship by taking letter writing out of the equation and substituting repetitive shapes that resemble doodles. The accompanying music adds rhythm and flow to the writing. This makes the activity more enjoyable, especially to participants who have a strong auditory preference. As the handwriting becomes more balanced, the behavior and attitude follows as well.

This Month's Featured Vendor: Callirobics

Special Thanks to Liora Laufer for providing an article for this issue's Therapy Corner.

Liora Laufer, the Founder and President of Callirobics Co. is a certified Graphologist. Working with children of all ages and adults with various levels of needs she developed six different Callirobics programs that are now published world wide and are used by thousands. Mrs. Laufer also published extensively on various aspects of handwriting and graphology. She also lectured and offered seminars throughout the united States and Canada.

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Tags: July 2007 Newsletter OT Handwriting Article