Advice for teenager with recent arm amputation

Question:  Any advice for teenager with recent  arm amputation in regards to a  “one-handed word processing” program

Answer: The Dragon Naturally Speaking software is VERY good and VERY accurate once you train your voice to it.

The iPhone or iPad voice recognition is also fairly accurate if you annunciate your words clearly.

Many patients use a software program prior to regaining proficiency with handwriting in the previously non-dominant hand.
Thanks for the question,
Katie Yancosek

What can I do to improve after completing Handwriting For Heroes course?

Handwriting for Heroes, 3rd Edition
Handwriting for Heroes, 3rd Edition

We love to get questions from readers:
Recently someone asked about what to do to keep writing after she completed the entire Handwriting for Heroes workbook. What a WONDERFUL question! This question means two important things: (1) she finished the program successfully and (2) she wants to write MORE!

A few of our writing activity suggestions include

  1. Copy a favorite quote, poem, or spiritual mantra each day. *You can choose a new one each day, or copy a favorite until you have it memorized!*,
  2. Copy a new recipe onto a large notecard and build your recipe library,
  3. Write a card to a friend or family member
  4. Buy a lovely journal and start to jot down your thoughts, dreams, ideas each day,
  5. Use that same lovely journal and write down 3 things each day that you’re grateful for
  6. Create a handwriting time capsule and mail it to yourself or a family member with a note on the envelope that states the approved OPEN date (it’s fun to make it at least 5 to 10 years in the future)
  7. Turn on an instructional or inspirational video on YouTube and take notes (*if you need to pause the video so you can keep up, feel free. There are SO many things to learn*)
  8. Copy down the lyrics of your favorite inspirational song
  9. Feel free to go back through Handwriting for Heroes and re-do any of the homework activities that interest you.

Yours truly,

Katie Yancosek


Focal Dystonia and Handwriting – tips

K.W. writes:

In 2005, I was diagnosed with focal dystonia which is a neurological movement disorder. The dystonia is worse in my right hand, so I have recently purchased your book to see if it would help me learn how to write with my left hand. I have been doing the exercises in the book for 5 days now, and I don’t really see a difference yet.  How long should I give it? Can H4H really help me? My hand shakes so much when I write I’m beginning to be discouraged.

My name is Nora and I work with Kristin Gulick, one of the book authors. I have done a decent amount of work with focal dystonia and other related disorders. The major premise of initial treatment is to remove the provoking activity (which sounds as though this would include writing in your case, right or left handed) and start with more loose, free flowing, gross motor patterns. Examples of these exercises would be rhythmic tai chi type shoulder movements, reaching each arm individually across your body, or moving a large therapy ball from the right side of your body to your left then back again using the other arm. Once this is accomplished without pain or symptoms, then the idea is to progress to more hand related activities that also involve crossing midline but staying loose and light while still avoiding the provoking activity. Gradually and slowly holding long narrow objects and using them to trace gross patterns (not letters) is then done prior to actually attempting writing. Any activity that causes pain, shaking, tremors, etc should be avoided.

A good resource person who has done quite a bit of research on this topic is Nancy Byl, PhD, PT.
If you Google her name and Dystonia it will lead you to some articles and materials that can get you started if there is not a therapist local to you that you are able to see regularly.

Good luck to you and I hope this information is helpful,
Nora Barrett, MS, OTR/L, CHT

Ed. Note:   I found this podcast interview with Nancy Byl to be interesting.

New Revised Edition!

This revised edition of Handwriting For Heroes reflects the growth of the handwriting program based on research and feedback of many “heroes” who have taken the time to complete the workbook and send us wisdom from their experience.  As always, you can order this edition directly from the publisher,, or other fine e-tailers.

The following represent the major revisions of this edition:

  1. Added weekly handwriting goals: this is an important improvement because it empowers self-reflection and goal-setting, both of which are necessary in any long-lasting behavioral change
  2. Added Daily Speed Assessment: allows the learner to record his/her time to complete the Daily Dozen (the 12 main exercises). Speed is only one component of performance, but is easy to chart over time. An instruction to select and **star** the writing sample of highest quality encourages self-appraisal.
  3. Added a Self-Perception Questionnaire on Handwriting Ability: a 5-question instrument used as a pre– and post-test to the program. Whether working with a therapist or solo, the questionnaire is a great tool to evaluate the three main components: readability, speed (efficiency) and appearance.
  4. Added optional Letters-per-Minute Self-Assessment: allows learner to chart his/her writing performance and compare it to a set of normative values. Please visit our website to share your own scores!
  5. Added Weekly Compliance Score: allows therapists to gauge how much of the program is being completed in aid of developing realistic goals for therapy. It may also provide insight into the learner’s motivation and tolerance for handwriting activities.

In the wisdom of the Chinese proverb about “a journey of a thousand miles starting with a single step,” we need only begin!

We sincerely hope you enjoy this updated version of Handwriting For Heroes

—Kristin and Katie


Self-Perception Questionnaire on Handwriting Ability

The “Self-Perception Questionnaire on Handwriting Ability” is a new instrument that can be used to track self-rating of handwriting skills as a pre-test and post-test around a program of Occupational Therapy. Please feel free to download this questionnaire and use it with any of your clients, whether you are using the Handwriting For Heroes method or any other technique. We look forward to hearing your results. The instrument is now available in the online resources section of