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The Current Gap in Special Education Funding

The Affect on Children with Handwriting Difficulty.

School-based occupational therapy services allow for children struggling with handwriting to receive skilled intervention.

Special Education services are funded by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), state and local education agencies. In 1975, IDEA legislation proposed to subsidize 40% of special education costs. However, the 2018 budget allotted for $12.9 billion, which is only 15% of those costs. This leaves the other 85% of special education expenses to the state and local school districts. Fortunately, all districts are legally mandated to provide services for children in need, but the 25% missing in subsidy (~$21.5 billion) from the federal government has left local districts with staggering expenses.

Occupational therapy is a crucial service for helping children with handwriting difficulties:

  • A survey of more than 900 school-based therapists found that the most common reason for referral for therapy was handwriting problems[1].

  • Up to 60% of the elementary school day can include fine motor activities and 85% of those fine motor activities are spent handwriting.[2]

Clearly, occupational therapy is an important service for children who struggle with handwriting. If children do not receive the services they need, parents must rely on private services, costing $100-$200 per hour, or risk their child falling behind in school.

If you would like to learn more about the process for receiving special education services, you can view the U.S. Department of Education guide to the individualized education program.

Children are spending more time with touch screen devices instead of drawing, coloring or writing.

Handwriting Matters

It’s been shown that early handwriting competence correlates with higher reading scores. Handwriting is a core skill that must be established in order to engage in higher level composition. The integration of touch screens into our children’s lives has resulted in decreased exposure to handwriting. If handwriting is a skill that requires consistent, meaningful and repetitive practice, then technology is taking away that practice time from children. The risk is that children will fall behind in school, and require school-based therapy services, such as occupational therapy. The reliance on these services may be avoided with unique solutions that combine technology with handwriting. This would allow for repetitive and meaningful practice, while also enabling performance tracking and early detection of handwriting difficulties.

Preventing Reliance on School-Based Services

As handwriting difficulties become more prevalent in schools due to increased tablet use, more children will need assistance to improve their handwriting skills. With a major gap in funding for school-based therapy services, a cost-effective solution is needed to ensure children receive the handwriting practice they need to succeed in school. If you want to learn more about OUR solution, continue to our page about our Hold It Write handwriting tool.


[1] Case-Smith, J. (2002). Effectiveness of school-based occupational therapy intervention on handwriting. American Journal

of Occupational Therapy, 56, 17–25.

[2] Mchale, K. & Cermak,S. (1992). Fine motor activities in elementary school: preliminary findings and provisional implications for children with fine motor problems. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 46, 898-903.

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