How to Choose and Use a Pencil Grip

One of the most common requests school based OTs receive is to help a student improve their less than mature pencil grasp. Now, it is important to remember that not every grasp pattern needs to be changed and it is only one thing to consider when evaluating a student’s ability to effectively complete written work.  However, if a student consistently utilizes a less than mature pencil grasp, it could impact their classroom participation.  Today, let’s explore when you might consider adding a pencil grip and how to choose the right one for your student.

When should I consider a pencil grip?

Adding a pencil grip may be something to consider if the child’s grasp on the pencil is impacting their ability to produce legible work at a pace similar to their peers, or if the child’s grasp is causing pain or discomfort. Specifically, if the student’s web space (the space between the thumb and index finger) is closed, or if the student’s thumb is wrapped tightly around the pencil, this may indicate a grasp pattern that could cause challenges for the student.  I typically do not introduce a pencil grip with younger students, such as those in early childhood/preschool programs.  The best thing you can do for your young students is try to set a good foundation for them to develop a functional pencil grasp, such as engaging in gross motor activities to build core and shoulder strength, hands-on play activities to build hand strength and using small golf pencils or small crayons.  I also find that the older a student gets, the harder it is to change specific motor patterns, such as pencil grasp.  

There are so many choices out there, which grip should I try with my student?

Every child is different, therefore there is no true ‘one size fits all’ guideline for choosing a pencil grip.  I would recommend consulting with your OT for your child’s specific needs, but here are a few general considerations to start with.  I find that a grip that provides the most defined feedback of where the fingers should rest will be the most helpful.  There are some grips available that may provide sensory input, but not defined spaces for the fingers to rest.  These may not be as helpful for improving pencil grasp in the long run.  

The Pencil Grip

  • This is a pretty standard ‘go-to’ gripper that I have available at my schools.  I often find myself starting with this grip, as it provides just enough input and structure for many of my students.  

Claw Grip or Stylo Grip

  • These grips have specific slots for your fingers to rest in when writing, providing a lot of structure and support.

Golf Pencil

  • This isn’t a pencil grip, but using a smaller golf pencil is often easier for students to control and facilitates a more functional pencil grasp.
Do you have a favorite pencil grip?  How are you supporting your students in developing a functional pencil grasp?  Let me know in the comments!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *