Spatial Awareness in Handwriting | The OT Toolbox

Spatial Awareness in Handwriting

You've seen it before.  A child is writing a journal entry or a writing response on a piece of paper and each line of the paragraph creeps in toward the center of the page.  By the end of the passage, the left margin is half way across the page.  When a child has poor use of margins when writing, there is typically a problem with spatial organization.  

Decreased spatial awareness can happen due to impaired visual perceptual awareness.  It may carryover to handwriting that appears very messy with words that are squashed up against one another or spaced with very large spaces between letters.  

Today, I've got some tips for helping with spatial awareness in handwriting, including use of a highlighted margin.

Easy tips for spacing in handwriting

Visual perceptual skills are needed for so many functional skills. You'll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. 

Spatial awareness in handwriting

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Spatial awareness is the ability to perceive the world around one's self and position themselves or objects accordingly.  Awareness of space relates a lot to the proprioceptive and vestibular systems as well as the visual system.  A child who demonstrates poor spatial awareness in handwriting tasks most likely shows some variances of difficulty with gross motor movement, understanding directions, abstract concepts, and language.  

There are ways to accommodate for difficulties with spatial awareness.  One quick tip is to use a highlighted left margin.  This is a great way for those kids whose writing drifts over to the middle of the page as they write or kids who start in the middle of the page.  

NOTE: Even children without visual perception difficulties tend to drift their handwriting in toward the middle of the page as they write paragraphs.  This is especially apparent in free writing, journal writing, or writing prompts.  You will see that children who are developing their ability to form thoughts in paragraph form.  As they write, it is common to see the lines start to drift toward the middle of the page.

More QUICK tips for improving spatial awareness:

  • Use stickers placed along the right margin of  to cue the student that they are nearing the edge of paper when writing.  
  • Draw boxes for words on worksheets for them to write within.
  • Spacing Tools for spacing between words or letters.
  • Draw a red stop sign at the right margin.
  • Graph paper Try 1/2 inch wide rule first.
  • Raised line paper
  • Slant board
  • Try smaller width of lines instead of primary paper.
  • RediSpace paper has a green line along the left margin and a red line along the right margin.
  • Try using a spacing tool pointer stick.  You can easily make your own!

Easy tips and accommodations for poor spatial awareness in handwriting.

Easy accommodations for poor spatial awareness in handwriting.

This activity is part of our month-long handwriting series where we are sharing creative and easy ways to address common handwriting issues in our 30 Easy Quick Fixes for Better Handwriting series.

You'll also want to join the Sweet Ideas for Handwriting Help Facebook group where you can find support and resources for handwriting.