Meet Amanda Sammons – our newest collaborator on Handwriting for Heroes

Amanda_Sammons_400Amanda Sammons is an officer in the Army Medical Specialist Corps. She graduated from West Virginia University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in athletic training, from Shenandoah University with a Master’s of Science degree in occupational therapy, and from Baylor University with a Doctor of Science degree in occupational therapy. She currently lives in San Antonio, Texas with her husband.

Amanada’s contributions to Handwriting for Heroes: Learn to Write with your Non-Dominant Hand in Six Weeks, 3rd Edition include positive psychology exercises.  Her ‘Baker’s Dozen’ offers positive psychology exercises to promote optimism and resiliency in your daily life. One of the primary aims of positive psychology is to help people to discover, explore, and improve on their personal strengths. This can be done through a variety of deliberate exercises to train your brain to attend more to your positive experiences and focus less on the negative ones.

We’ll be exploring more about the positive psychology exercises in the coming weeks running up to the release of the new and expanded 3rd Edition.

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


South African occupational therapist on H4H method

I am a occupational therapist in South Africa. Last year (2009) in my final year of studying, a patient was assigned to me who lost their dominant arm. It was the first time i was faced with having to do dominance training. i was able to teach the person how to tie his shoe, prepare food, dress, etc. using one handed techniques and assistive devices. The dilemma however was that the hospital where i did my practical had no resources to teach a patient how to write again… i searched the internet endlessly for exercises and guideline on how to teach an adult how to write again.

Finally i found the answer and was blessed by being sponsored with “Handwriting For Heroes”. This book is really a wonderful resource and so easy to use. The author was able to compile a book that is even easy to use for people who are not therapeutically trained. the exercises are simply arranged into weekly exercise sections that is further divided into daily exercises. these exercises are easy to follow and takes up little time to complete. I have also found it easy to use in outpatient situations where i can only see a patient once a week. i would do the first day’s exercises with the patient to make sure that he understands what to do in each exercise and that he is using the correct movements and flow of his hand. down falls to the product is that they mainly focus on cursive writing and not block writing as well as that some patients find the example and writing space to be a little small. in regards to the first down fall: the cursive writing does teach the client how to let his/her writing flow. With regards to the second down fall: what I do is enlarging the exercises to make it easier for the person to read and copy. otherwise i give the patient a book where i copied the exercises in. in all and all i would recommend this book to anyone and everyone!!!

Deonet Heymans

Rebeccas Reads reviews Handwriting For Heroes

Handwriting for Heroes: Learn to Write with Your Non-Dominant Hand in Six Weeks
Kathleen Yancosek and Kristin Gulick
Loving Healing Press (2009)
ISBN 9781932690699
Reviewed by Randy A Lakin for RebeccasReads (11/09)

When I first received this book, or should I say workbook, “Handwriting for Heroes”, I was pleasantly surprised by its content. I was expecting a lot of reading to be involved as with so many books on the market. This workbook is different, it is filled with writing exercise after exercise, and that is great. This workbook is for any individual that has lost full or partial use of their dominant hand and wants to re-learn how to write. When you stop to think about it, if you want to learn how to write with your non-dominant hand you have to write. The old saying, “Practice Makes Perfect”, is what this book is based on. No matter what your injury is, amputation, stroke, or extensive soft tissue trauma, this workbook is for you.

“Handwriting for Heroes”, targets adults and helps preserves the dignity of those who must “re-learn” the basics of handwriting. Each chapter is filled with repetitive exercises that will increase one’s fine-motor skills. There are six chapters as well as a Certificate of Completion at the end of the book. In each chapter there are also tips for therapist, which include exercises and information about proper posture and lighting. The authors have provided homework assignments that are easily done in the convenience of one’s own home while watching TV or relaxing. The tasks are oriented to the adult learner no matter what your education level may be. Learning to write with the previously non-dominant hand can be a rewarding accomplishment along the path to recovery. It is an accomplishment that leads to improved self-esteem, increased work opportunities, or occupations.

This workbook is designed to help those individuals with dominant-hand problems or injuries regain their writing skills and self respect. The authors did a wonderful job with this workbook. If you have a non-dominant-hand injury or just want to learn to write with you opposite hand, look no further. I recommend this book to anyone wishing to learn how to write with their non-dominant hand.