Tag Archives: pre-writing skills

Baby Steps Toward Independent Writing – Tracing Names

It’s a joy to hear Noah answer people now when they ask him his name.  It’s an opportunity for him to use his newly acquired speech skills in real-life situations, and it’s a powerful motivator for him to speak.

Reading and writing his name is something Noah has been working on as well.  Tammy’s post here:  http://www.prayingforparker.com/name-activities-for-kids-with-special-needs/ got me thinking about getting more serious about name writing for Noah (and the rest of my Littles).

See how we went from this (Mommy’s handwriting):


To this:

name tracing 001 name tracing 002


Pretty impressive, eh?

Well Noah’s a talented little guy, let me tell you.

What I love most about this activity is that at the end, you have nothing but your child’s work on a sheet of paper.  Truly, I don’t mind giving Noah whatever assistance he needs, but there’s something thrilling about seeing work that is 100% his.

Here’s how to do this activity:  (Since sign language is an important part of Noah’s communication skills, whenever I prompt him for speech, I am using voice prompts and sign language.  If you use sign language with your child, you will want to do both as well.)

  1. Supplies:  One large index card
  2. Tracing paper cut the size of the index card
  3.   Double-sided tape
  4. One thick marker
  5. Several colors of crayon or thin marker (I use red, pink and blue in the script).

You’ll find I maximize the speech opportunities as much as I can in this exercise.  Not only does it kill two birds with one stone, it gives Noah a chance to use speech in real-life context, something that doesn’t happen in our daily drilling sessions.


  1. Write your child’s name on the index card in large capital letters.  (Capital letters are easiest for children to form.)  At the beginning point of each letter, place a large dot.
  2. Use double-sided tape to tape one sheet of tracing paper over your child’s name.
  3. Script (Insert your child’s name whenever I have typed Noah):

“We have red, pink and blue.”  (Prompt child to now say each color as you point it out.)

“What color would you like?”  (Child should say a color).”

Hand your child the chosen color.  (Prompt child to say color again.)

Show your child the card and say, “Noah.  This says Noah.” Prompt child to say Noah.  

Point to the first letter.  “N.”  (Prompt child to say N). 

“Good.  Can you put your marker on the dot?”   Prompt child to say “On dot.”

“Good.  Now go down (prompt child to say “Down.”)   (You may have to break down the tracing line by line.  Use speech cues in your directions and make sure your child is forming the letter in the correct order of lines.)

Repeat letter naming starting with pointing to the letter for each letter of the name.

“Good job.”  (Remove the tracing paper.)  “Look.  What does it say?”  (Your child should answer with his name, although you may have to say, “Look.  It says Noah.  You wrote Noah.”

Start back at Step 2 for two more tracings.

This is a great way to encourage real-life speech, color recognition, name recognition and writing all in one fun exercise.  Let me know how it goes!

***If the writing portion of this exercise really taxes your child and prompted speech instruction also taxes your child, do not insist on the speech production portion of this exercise.  Your child may need to use all his available resources to do one or the other for the time being.  Work on integrating the two as he progresses in his abilities.

Pre-Writing Skills – It’s Foundational

As we work along side our little ones, especially our little ones with special needs, it can be difficult waiting for them to start writing on their own.  We can provide the paper, the pens, the crayons, but what else can we do to equip them for writing?



Lots!  There are LOTS of things we can do to equip our little ones for writing, but we have to start from the foundation and work our way up from there.  The foundation of writing skills is hand and finger strength and coordination.  Remember that in laying the foundation for motor skill acquisition and coordination, we want to start big and gradually focus in on the small.

For writing skills, this means pre-writing skill acquisition actually starts way back when a child is about three months old and starts purposefully batting at objects.

Next comes the ulnar grasp, typically at about 4 months, where a child can hold an object in his palm with his fingers wrapping around it.

Around 5 months of age is when we see baby moving objects from one hand into the other, and at 6 months of age baby is usually exploring objects with his hand and his mouth.

Between 6 and 9 months, baby is busy applying all these skills to new tasks:  Drinking from a cup, shaking, banging and dropping toys, and sometimes even throwing things.  (Not MY baby!):)

In a typically-developing child, around the 10- to 12-month mark, the pincer grasp starts surfacing.  This is when baby starts holding objects between his thumb and index finger, and this is where a lot of occupational therapy-type activities or focuses fine motor work begins at home.

(For a detailed explanation of these stages, please visit http://www.ehow.com/about_6697534_fine-motor-skills-infants.html)

Pincer grasp is usually something a child with special needs will master but will also need continuing practice on so the skill is not lost or compensated by an easier method.  I have found it helpful to throw pincer grasp activities into Noah’s core school work a couple times throughout the week.  Here are some ideas for older children who are still working on pincer grasp:

1.  Piggy bank – Give your child a toy bank with a slit in the top and have him drop coins into the bank.  (Piggy banks can often be found at the Dollar Store.)

2.  Bubble wrap – All my kids love this one!  Be sure to find a brand that is easy to pop.

3.  Stickers – The peeling and transferring act in using stickers is a great way to use that thumb and index finger in unison.  Foam stickers are often easy to grasp and separate from the backing.  If using sticker sheets, your child may need you to start the sticker separation for him.  This isn’t cheating – he’s still be using his pincer grasp.

4.  Play-Doh – Roll small-medium balls of Play-Doh and have your child place his thumb on one side of the ball and his index finger on the other and pinch.

5.  Snack Time – Use Cheerios, Fruit Loops, raisins or other small food items and have your child pick them up one at a time to eat them.  Food is a GREAT motivator!

6.  Tearing paper – Have your child make a collage with colorful paper that he has torn using his pincer grasp.

7.  Tweezers and cotton balls – Set up a work box with tweezers, an icecube tray and cotton balls or pom poms.  Have him use the tweezers to move the balls from a central box to the ice tray using one-to-one correspondence.

8.  Turning pages of board books (and then moving on to paper).

9.  Tearing tortillas (see my post here for an explanation:  https://wordsofhisheart.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/pincer-grasp-and-fingerhand-strength-its-for-the-birds/)

When a child has special needs, often he will follow this same order of development, but each stage will take him longer to complete before he moves on to the next one.  It is helpful to use development charts designed for a typically-developing child but to do away with the age expectations.  If you find the developmental charts discouraging, I encourage you to make your own chart using the chronology of the information but leaving off the ages.  In other words, don’t worry about what he should be doing at what age; rather, find where your child is on the chart now by skill, and when he has mastered that skill, move on to the next one.  With Noah’s (6-Down syndrome) language delays, I also find it helpful to apply those principles to his speech milestones.

I’ll be posting soon about prewriting skills for children who have mastered their pincer grasp – stay tuned!