Pencil grips are designed to help individuals who struggle to grip pencils or those with atypical pencil grip styles. These tools are small rubbery tubes that slide over a writing utensil and have spots for the user’s fingers to rest. The intention of these tools is to keep certain fingers in certain locations on the writing utensil, which will ensure users are using a “proper” grip style. For many years, certain pencil grasp styles were thought to be superior to others. Early research suggests that an inefficient pencil grasp could lead to increased muscle tension in the fingers and thumb, which would cause fatigue, especially when engaging in lengthy writing tasks (Missiuna & Pollock, 1995). In response to research such as this, occupational therapists developed products and training programs to rehabilitate atypical pencil grip styles into more efficient grip styles. However, a growing body of literature including a study by Ferriell and colleagues (2000) suggests that perhaps choice of pencil grip style is less important than once thought. Brain scans of participants using a variety of different pencil grip styles showed no difference in muscle activation in the brain, implying that different grips were not reducing cognitive strain in the muscle-controlling region of the brain, or in other words not reducing participant levels of exertion (Ferriell et al., 2000). Furthermore, another study that actively manipulated the pencil grip style of participants using different shaped pencil grips demonstrated that pencil grip patterns did not influence handwriting speed or legibility in this sample of typically developing children. This further suggests that alternative grasps may be equally able to produce fast and legible handwriting (Schwellnus et al., 2012).
There has been no research to date that demonstrates that pencil grip tools can actively rehabilitate pencil grip style, a mission that’s worthiness is also being questioned by professionals in the field. While a pencil grip may be able to force a certain pencil grip style, the usefulness of this transformation is debated.
Research Rating: Due to the experimental nature of the information cited in this description this information is to be trusted as valid and reliable. Future research is needed to assess the impact of providing pencil grips to students with learning disabilities.
Yet to be experimentally validated.
The benefits of changing pencil grip styles are debated in the literature, even if these products are useful for their intended purpose, the impact of a “proper” pencil grip on writing quality is unclear. Some researchers advocate that remediating writing speed and letter formation are more beneficial than remediating pencil grip style in increasing writing quality (Schwellnus et al., 2013).
Special Consideration: Workflow
Exact prices change frequently, which is why only approximate ranges are listed.
$ - Under $5
$$ - Between $6 and $50
$$$ - Between $51 and $250
$$$$ - Over $250
Ferriell, B. R., Fogo, J. L., McDaniel, S. A., Schillig, L. R., Shehorn, A. R., Stringfellow, J. K., & Varney, R. L. (2000). Determining the effectiveness of pencil grips: an electromyographical analysis. Occupational therapy in health care, 12(1), 47-62.
Missiuna, C., & Pollock, N. (1995). Beyond the norms: Need for multiple sources of data in the assessment of children. Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 15(4), 57-74.
Schwellnus, H., Carnahan, H., Kushki, A., Polatajko, H., Missiuna, C., & Chau, T. (2012). Effect of pencil grasp on the speed and legibility of handwriting in children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 66(6), 718-726.
Schwellnus, H., Carnahan, H., Kushki, A., Polatajko, H., Missiuna, C., & Chau, T. (2013). Writing forces associated with four pencil grasp patterns in grade 4 children. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67(2), 218-227.
Written by Harrison McNaughtan, Last Revision May 2018