Eye tracking and/or spatial awareness difficulties can have a dramatic effect on a child’s handwriting ability. Weak skills in these key areas make it difficult for children to form letters correctly (curves and lines often not joining to complete the letter shape), as well as being unable to appropriately space letters in words and words in sentences. Other poor presentation skills include being unable to write on lines and often missing lines out when following on with a sentence.
It is also worth pointing out that a child with poor eye tracking and/or spatial awareness skills will also find reading difficult.
Eye tracking is the ability to control and coordinate the fine eye movements needed:
- For left to right eye movements, without moving the head, needed to follow a line of writing as the letters are formed or for reading a line of print.
- To focus and move the eyes to follow an object without moving the head, in all directions.
- To track/follow objects near and far.
- To focus on one object without moving the eyes.
Poor eye tracking skills can make handwriting very difficult, causing letter formation, spacing and positioning problems, leading to poor presentation. Often words are missed out or repeated, causing composition and legibility issues.
Activities that help to build these strengths and skills are: Swing Ball, target games and catching games.
Game idea: Goal post skittles
You need: Posts/marker, large plastic drink bottles/skittles and a range of ball sizes.
How to do it:
Place the posts about 2 metres away from the start position and about half a metre apart. Place the skittles about half a metre behind the posts but directly between them. The child starts by rolling a large ball through the posts to knock the skittles over. Before they roll the ball explain to get a maximum score, they need to knock all the skittles over in one roll and that the best way to do this is to look directly ahead through the posts at the skittles, NOT at the ball or their hand.
It may take a little practise, as they improve they can use a different size ball or move the skittles so that they form different patterns which means they have to be more accurate with the roll.
This game can also be used as a foot and eye activity, the same rules apply, they must look to where they want the ball to end up not at their feet or the ball, tricky!
Spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of:
- The space around you and your position in that space.
- The position and relationship of other objects in relation to one another and yourself.
Poor spatial awareness skills make handwriting difficult as it affects the ability to understand and produce the directional pushes and pulls required to form letters; as well as difficulties with spacing and positioning. Combined, these difficulties can cause poor presentation and possible legibility issues.
Activities that help to build these strengths and skills are: games such as ‘Twister’ or ‘Simon Says’ and jigsaws and pattern making.
Games idea: Pattern making
You need: Beads, building blocks, Lego or shapes.
How to do it:
Talk through the process of making the same pattern as shown on a card or already produced; for instance, the red square goes on the right of the blue square and the yellow square is below the blue square. Ask the child to verbalise what they see and are doing to recreate the pattern.
Patterns can be created and copied with all sorts of items – beads, building blocks, Lego and shapes.
As skill levels improve tessellation (a pattern of shapes that fit perfectly together) activities and square or patterned paper for colouring and creating their own pattern designs are enjoyable.