Upper vs. lower case letters first

Marnie Danielson, MS OTR/L

This topic is frequently asked by teachers and therapists around the country, “Do you teach upper or lower case letters first?” There is no right answer to this question, but here is my attempt:

Teaching upper case first: When working with students, I almost always teach upper case letters first. I suggest Alphabet Beats UPPERCASE Letters to teachers and parents and create a ABUprogram for that class or student.

Upper case letters are bigger and easier to form for kids with motor control and motor planning issues. Visually they may be easier to form as well. I typically do not teach upper and lower case letters together when working with children with special needs.

Teaching lowercase letters first:   If a child has age appropriate fine motor skills (at a 6 year ABLlevel), then it is OK to begin teaching lower case letters first if that is your preference. Sometimes I prefer teaching lower case letters first if a child has visual discrimination issues that need to be addressed.   I use the Alphabet Beats lower case letters program.   The lower case forms are more specific than the upper case letter forms. Therefore they may be easier to identify for these kiddos.

Motivation: If a child is very motivated to learn lower case letters before upper case, I go for it! We all share the goal to make learning easy and fun. A child’s motivation is a key element to doing this.  Happy Writing!


Helping with Handwriting Practice

Marnie Danielson, MS OTR/L



As an occupational therapist and a parent, I find it is always difficult to get children to practice handwriting. Imagine if another adult was trying to get you to practice something you are not confident with and is difficult for you. Working with children who have special needs, I’ve often pondered how to motivate them to practice handwriting. Here are a few tips that have helped me:

  •  Keep is short – Give them exact expectations such as “let’s practice these 3 letters 10 times each and then we’re done!”
  •  Keep it fun– Play a board game and after each turn practice writing a word.
  • Give rewards If they earn 3 stickers for neat handwriting this week let them pick something from a treasure chest.
  • Try video modelingWatching letter formations on your electronic devices (like The TV Teacher) is fun and very motivating for children.

apple 2-boy and momTeaching children to write is challenging but handwriting is a fundamental skill needed for academic development. Keeping writing fun is a key element to success, particularly for children with Autism, Down Syndrome, or children with learning differences.


For more information about The TV Teacher’s award-winning handwriting programs, please visit our website: www.thetvteacher.com

Handedness for writing

Marnie headshot-2015


As an occupational therapist, I frequently get asked about handedness, or hand preference for young children. Some children will show a hand preference as early as 1 year old. Others will switch hands frequently at 5 or 6 years old. Developing a hand preference is critical to handwriting development. Children with Autism, Down Syndrome, and other special needs often have difficulty establishing hand dominance. Here are some ideas that may help parents and teachers.

  • Take note of which hand the child starts an activity with; encourage them to continue using that hand throughout the activity.
  • Present scissors, spoons, pencils (any utensil or manipulative) at mid-line or in the middle of a child’s body (think belly button) and see which hand he uses to grab that utensil
  • Verbalize to your child or students “you are using your right hand” so they learn the name of the hand they have chosen.

Establishing hand dominance is not only a frequent issue with parents, but one that teachers and therapists address as well. Parents and teachers will need to work closely with children when helping with this issue. Therefore, communication between school and home is a critical piece for maintaining consistency. Happy writing!

pens left and rightFor more information about The TV Teacher’s award-winning handwriting programs, please visit our website: www.thetvteacher.com