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Courtesy photo. Congressman Tim Walberg watches child use new app developed  by Tricia at Chelsea District Library.

Courtesy photo. Congressman Tim Walberg watches child use new app developed by Tricia McKenzie at Chelsea District Library.

By Lisa Carolin

Chelsea resident Tricia McKenzie is an occupational therapist and an entrepreneur. The combination of the two is bringing her a lot of positive attention these days thanks to an iPad app she created called StartDOT Handwriting.

McKenzie’s 21 years of experience working with preschool and elementary school-aged children inspired her to create the app which is aimed at children from preschool age to third-grade.

“The app uses easy to remember images and stories to develop handwriting skills,” said McKenzie, who says that treating handwriting difficulties has long been an area of interest for her. “Children see the animated example drawn for them, hear each story, and write the letter for themselves.”

She says using a multi-sensory approach helps to reinforce proper handwriting techniques by developing visual motor, visual perceptual, fine motor and sensory processing skills. The learning method groups letters and numbers based on the same initial stroke and similar starting points.

“The students work with digital lined paper which is identical to the paper used for classroom teaching, said McKenzie. “The app incorporates practice pages where students can repeat the handwriting while the app reduces the level of prompting and visual cues.”

McKenzie describes the approach as the “Pixel to Paper” training philosophy, which accelerates the learning and practice of number and letter formation while also reinforcing the tactile and muscle development requirements necessary to succeed with handwriting development.

She says that research shows that handwriting difficulties negatively influence success in reading, writing, language and critical thinking throughout a student’s K-12 education.

In October, McKenzie went to Washington, D.C. as part of a fly-in hosted by the association ACT Online, with the goal to educate Congress and the Federal Communications Commission about helping the mobile economy to flourish.

“I went to Washington to help lawmakers recognize the incredible impact that small technology companies are having on our economy and in the personal lives of many,” said McKenzie, who sat down with a member of Congress who is now using StartDOT with his son.

She recently met with Congressman Tim Walberg, to talk about her trip to Washington, D.C. and said that Walberg tried out the app and said that his grandson might benefit from using it.

The app costs $4.99 on Apple’s App Store. StartDOT handwriting products also include training aids for fine motor skill development, materials like erasable boards, and pre-printed writing paper that coordinates with the iPad App. To learn more, click here.

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