Ataxia student

I have a first grade child in my room with ataxia. I am not very knowlegable on ataxia and could use some help. Handwriting is a struggle for him. We allow him to type his work but I was wondering if handwriting will improve in his future? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

I think it will depend on which type of ataxia he has. Handwriting and using a computer may improve with useful hand therapy techniques. Do you know the cause or what type of ataxia your students ataxia?

Good for you for researching ataxia.I felt it my duty as a teacher to know about all the children in my class.I used to do handwriting with some but now i have Cerebellar Ataxia I now know how difficult it is.It is knowing if they are just being lazy or whether it is due to deterioration in motor skills.The same understanding can be shown in Games and PE. It is knowing the child .Are they frustrated and concerned about their ataxia?.No amount of exercise has improved my handwriting but it used to be very neat.Keep up the research.Typing helps but co-ordination often means we have to edit our stuff as we click the wrong buttons.

Good luck


I have done extensive exercises every day on fine motor, gross motor, core muscle strength and I can still write. I have jerky movements though rather than a continuous tremor, (have Ataxia/Dystonia mixed) and found weighted splints helped me.

They are kind of regular splints but instead of the metal been under the arm to support weak wrists it is on top over my lower arm and hand so it has the same effect as if someone had their hand on top of mine to steady it. If he's very young have you tried drawing or writing letters with your hand over his to guide it?... then maybe try the 'weighted splint' idea so he can steady his hand independently. I don't know if these would work with a constant tremor though.

I switched to Mac as the keys were flat and square and space inbetween unlike Windows computers at the time, where I was hitting several keys at once every time. I've seen Windows laptops with 'MacBook' style keyboards recently (Sony Vaio is one I think), I'm not sure about keyboards for desktop computers, but this style may also help his ability to hit the right key, unless he has keyguards already available? ... I'm just thinking socially too.. not sure of his age (first grade doesn't mean anything to me!) but he may prefer to have one that he can mange without one to be same as everyone else (assuming he's in mainstream class)

My fine motor skills have also improved since getting an iPad, from apps that involve tracing things with fingers rather than holding a can probably come up with something similar like finger painting, maybe going over lines already pre-drawn if its a younger child? If he has access to a touchscreen computer it could be done via art software too and maybe included in either art or IT curriculum?

If he's still very young and depending what type of Ataxia it is, it maybe best for him if you assume he could improve with the right help rather than just assume he's not going to be able to do something.

My son is a first grader with Ataxia too!! As a mom, I agree with the above comments: thank you for doing research on this. My son’s school has been very supportive of him. I too wonder about his writing in the future. It used to scare me so much. However, now that we have iPafs and other assistive technology, I am not worried as much. iPads work great! Good luck to you.

I don’t know how old first grade is as I am in uk but my daughter is 3 and goes to a school nursery and struggles with holding pens and fine motor and gross in general. Our physio reccomended the use of wrist weights for children they r like little braclets with patterns on sams are less then a lb in weight together think they r 150g each hand and theyy. Steady her hands also simple things making sure when she’s sat at table she is 90 degree angle with feet flat on floor or something like a book under feet if the table and chair too high. Agree with the asistance but we was told to always do it from behind and support the elbow so of course u will need to let the student know u r going to support the arms from behind don’t wanna scare them. We also found chunky crayons and rubber grips for pens and pencils helps too

I don' know what kind of ataxia he has, but it is a degenerative disorder, I don't expect the handwriting to improve. know 1 child tht has it. It is a rare disorder. Ataxia is a word that refers to lack of balance. I tsught school for 20 years and then had to retire. Steps are not my friend or anyone that has it. It is like you tell your body what to do, and the respone is not what you expected. BE kind! Amy

Do you know what type of ataxia your student has, whether it's hereditary or idiopathic ( non-hereditary of unknown cause )? I have the non-hereditary type and my handwriting has deteriorated over time as ataxia affects ones dexterity/fine motor skills as well as other things. Your student may find it easier to print as I do. Also, I agree with others that an iPad is easier. You are a very caring educator to try and help your student! Ataxia is very frustrating but as an adult I prefer to say "challenging". Bless you...

Amy said:

I don' know what kind of ataxia he has, but it is a degenerative disorder, I don't expect the handwriting to improve. know 1 child tht has it. It is a rare disorder. Ataxia is a word that refers to lack of balance. I tsught school for 20 years and then had to retire. Steps are not my friend or anyone that has it. It is like you tell your body what to do, and the respone is not what you expected. BE kind! Amy


I have a 5 year old daughter who is in primary 1. She too has difficulty with writting. She has been supplied with a slopping writting board and chunky pencils. She finds writting difficult at times, writting is a slow process for her and complains of sore hands. Pencil grips have been tried but causes her written to be worse. She gets input from both O.T. & phyisotherapist. Her school is very supportive.

Thank-you for being so intrested in your pupils & their needs I'm they will always be greatful for having such a caring teacher.

My ataxia has significantly impacted my handwriting. I was an art major in college with drawing being my strongest skill. I can barely draw simple line drawings now and those are pretty bad. My handwriting was A+ before ataxia. Now it's pathetic. It was one of the things that truly surprised me about my disease.

I recently bought a hand exerciser with springs in it (grip master) that I'm hoping will strengthen my hand and perhaps overcome my weakness somewhat. Just as I exercise on a treadmill to strengthen my legs etc.

It's partially mechanical and partially brain focus and function. I forget what word I'm writing in the middle of a word. I even switch between cursive and printing within a word.

I hope this helps.

Now that I have Ataxia myself I have a much better understanding.Years ago,faced with large classes all I could do was survive.I think now any reduction in frustration is good.What I would do now is value a child for what they can do not what they can;t.It doesn't really matter in the long run about handwriting.After all handwriting is not a measure of someone's intelligence.A good teacher should realise this and not make judgements but they are very busy not with pleasing themselves but usually trying to meet targets forced on them.In my experience the child turns out ok in the end.It is only easier for the teacher if they conform What you can do is make your pupil feel valued.Some things may help the process but our brains are wired differently due to a cause and no amount of help from you is going to produce neat handwriting. But what you can do is make the child feel valued.If they getfrustrated or bored it leads to behaviour problems when they get older.Then the teacher of them when they get older has to pick up the pieces,then they might give some silly labels.


When I worked with children I would always focus on their 'potential' rather than focusing on the 'problem'.