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Before You Pick a Pencil

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Not all pencils are created equal. Some are specifically designed to help kids who can't grip right, write too light, push too hard or fidget too much. Here are some guidelines for finding the tools and accessories that best suit your child's special writing needs.

For the child who needs to get a grip

Forming fingers around the pencil in just the right way can be a challenge for kids with fine motor issues or low muscle tone. Three solutions to try: Pencil grips that slide on the barrel and hold the hand naturally in place; a Ring Writer that fingers slip through before taking their proper place; and a Handi-Writer that fits around the wrist and holds the pencil at just the right angle.

For the child who writes too light

Some children with fine motor or sensory integration problems may have trouble applying enough pressure to a pencil to make a firm line, or may feel steadier with some extra weight on their writing instrument. Pencil weights slip or wrap around the barrel of a pencil and add some extra heft to make writing more comfortable -- and legible.

For the child who writes too hard

Kids who press down too hard on their pencils may be constantly snapping pencil points, tearing paper, and wearing grooves in their desks. One easy solution is to make sure the pencil is never honed to a sharp point but left a little dull for safer writing. Another is to buy a "primary" pencil with softer lead that will glide more easily and safely.

For the child who needs to fidget

Fidget toys are great for kids who need a large amount of movement, and one of the best places to put one is on the end of a pencil. Many novelty pencils sold in party or stationery stores have items at their ends suitable for fidgeting, but good options can also be found in sensory integration catalogs. Finding the right pencil topper can help your child focus better and be less disruptive in class.

For the child who likes to chew

If your child chews off the eraser of her pencil, try putting something up there that's safe and therapeutic for her to put in her mouth. Chewable pencil toppers are available from special-needs catalogs, and you may also find that fidget pencil toppers like the Porcupine or SpiderWriter models above may feel good enough brushed against your child's lips that she'll be less inclined to bite and chew.

For the child who needs something different

Sometimes a different shape or size of pencil can give your child the right sort of feel for writing. Try triangular pencils that form the fingers into the proper position; fat pencils that may feel more substantial for your child; or short pencils that may be easier to balance or hold with a less formal grip.

For the lefty who's proud of it

Left-handed writers hold their pencils differently, read their pencils backward, and smear their pencil marks often. If you've got a little lefty, get pencils that are either tailored to his needs or proclaim his left-handedness proudly.

For the child who's overly generous

Maybe your child's problem isn't so much finding the right pencil to hold on to, but holding onto the pencil she's got. If your child is constantly giving away pencils to needy classmates, even to the point at which she's got nothing to write with herself, try this remedy: Buy a box of the cheapest pencils you can find (better still, have your child buy it with her own allowance money) to be giveaway pencils. Then have a special pencil or two for your child to keep to herself.

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