Saturday, November 8, 2014

The tripod grip: Really the ultimate pencil-gripping grasp?

Isla, only 17-months in this picture, is already using the tripod grip.

When my niece looked at my picture of granddaughter Isla working on her scribble art project, my niece exclaimed, "She's already using the tripod grip!" My niece, a physio-therapist, had been taught that this was an advanced pencil-gripping technique which many children don't master until the age of four or later.

I confess, I didn't know what my niece was talking about. When she left, I took to the Internet. I soon read that many folks believe the most efficient way to hold a pencil is the dynamic tripod grasp. In the dynamic tripod grasp, the pencil is held between the thumb and index finger, with the pencil resting on the middle finger.

Some parents worry so much about this grip that when a child fails to use it they go looking for a physiotherapist. Is this really necessary? The short answer is "Maybe not." I discovered in Physiotherapy for Children that there are a number of acceptable grasps. As long the grip is functional and does not cause muscle strain, parents should relax.

Why anyone would be immediately concerned with a variation in pen-holding technique amazes me. One of the finest students I every met did not use the tripod grasp. He gripped his pen with brutish practicality. His penmanship was atrocious, but he was quick and he could read his own writing even if no one else could. He never had a mark that wasn't in the 90s. He really didn't give a damn about penmanship.

For the last word on this read the conclusions reached in a paper found in the U.S. National Library of Medicine:

The dynamic tripod pencil grasp did not offer any advantage over the lateral tripod or the dynamic or lateral quadrupod pencil grasps in terms of quality of handwriting after a 10-minute copy task. These four pencil grasp patterns performed equivalently. Our findings question the practice of having students adopt the dynamic tripod pencil grasp.

My advice: Look at the results and not the technique. If the child can accomplish their goals using whatever grip they are using, leave 'em be.

One of Isla's finished scribble projects. She scribbles and I colour. We both like 'em.

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