Can you imagine Julie Andrews’ bell-clear tones here?

“Let’s start at the very beginning….
A very good place to start!
When you read, you begin with
A, B, C…..

Apparently, when we write, we ought to begin with neurodevelopment, not learning the alphabet in order.

Occupational therapist and handwriting expert Cathy Van Haute illuminated my world when I spoke with her recently.  She’s taught Handwriting Without Tears to professionals for 15 years, during which time the program has grown from 8 instructors to 78, and is now the 2nd largest handwriting curriculum in the world; first among homeschoolers.  The reason, she says, is tied to today’s world.

It used to be, she notes, that the number one reason for a school referral for OT services was handwriting.  Now that’s surpassed by concerns about sensory skills.  The Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) program addresses both, because it’s based on sensory development.

Rather than starting at the very beginning of the alphabet, HWT uses a multisensory approach — music, storytelling, manipulatives, and more — to begin at a child’s beginning sensory development.  I didn’t know the diagonal lines in a capital “A” are considerably harder than a simple vertical lines.  So in Handwriting Without Tears, a child begins handwriting at the most basic neurodevelopmental step — vertical lines.  Next, horizontal lines are added, then curves and circles.  By that time, a child can combine those elements into letters with verticals and horizontals — I, F, E — to P, D, B, etc….and it ends at the diagonal lines that form an “A”.

So THAT’S why the very beginning isn’t necessarily the best place to start!

As she left, the effervescent and joyful Cathy zinged me again:  “Do you know why so many kids have difficulty learning to space between words?   It’s because ….

I” (long pause)
“don’t” (another long pause)
“talk”(yet another long pause)
“like”  — still another long pause, by which time of course, I got it.  We don’t talk with spaces between our words!  Especially when we’re around effervescent, joyful OTs.

If you’re interested in more research about handwriting, check out the Handwriting Without Tears website.