The handwriting workshop at Meriter Hospital is much more than penmanship drills.

The 8-week program for elementary students focuses on areas such as upper body strength and stability and eye-hand coordination. Some students took the hour-long class, which was held once a week, in the summer to be more prepared for school this fall. Two more evening workshops for students grades second through fifth will start Sept. 28.

"Handwriting is really important," said Noah Walker, 7, a second grader at Cottage Grove Elementary School. "It won't be all scribbly."

At a recent session, Noah practiced throwing animal-shaped bean bags against the wall. Later he practiced writing with a vibrating pen to work on grip strength and to make the task more enjoyable.

"We try to make it fun because the kids are pretty discouraged and don't like handwriting," said Piper Bacskai, a pediatric occupational therapist at Meriter, who helps run the class.

Activities in the class address underlying medical issues that make handwriting difficult. The issues may be weak grip strength, poor fine motor coordination or manual dexterity, visual difficulties and upper extremity weakness.

The class costs $320, and parents say it's worth it.

"They're kind of at their wit's end," Bacskai said.

DeAnna Hart-Lind enrolled her daughter, Lexi Lind, 8, because her handwriting has been a concern expressed by teachers at Horizon Elementary School in Sun Prairie where Lexi is a third grader this fall.

"We thought we would try to get a leg up ... for the new school year," Hart-Lind said.

It has been difficult getting Lexi to write at home but the workshop made it more fun, said Hart-Lind, who now has some strategies to use herself.

"The mazes are fun," Lexi said about one of the workshop's activities. 

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