Megan Zook Eldridge '98
Getting it write
Combining her interests in occupational therapy, pediatrics, and serving the community, Megan Zook Eldridge '98 has found her niche in a new and growing business. Located in Scottsdale, Ariz., Scribble2Script is changing the way children are writing and feeling about handwriting.
First introduced to occupational therapy (OT) by her godmother, Eldridge found she "gelled" with the profession while doing volunteer work in the field. Working with children seemed a natural fit as well, and while earning her master's in OT from Texas Women's University, she was able to focus on pediatrics during two clinic experiences. "It's all I've really done," she noted.
It was at Eldridge's last internship during graduate school that she met her business partner, Margaret Pierson. "We originally started thinking we would do more along the lines of traditional therapy for kids, but with music and art," said Eldridge. "But we weren't as passionate about that." While doing home visits with children for the state, Eldridge was asked by a client's mother if she could privately help her son with his poor handwriting. Eldridge took on the assignment and soon "the word spread."
The two women refined their plan and after taking classes, attending a handwriting conference, and working with a consultant started a handwriting camp and private tutoring in 2003. What they continually found were children who didn't qualify for OT through the schools, but who needed assistance, and parents who were willing to pay to give their children a boost. After a second summer camp, they subleased a space and started offering after-school classes on a small scale. Finally last September, Scribble2Script opened at a new facility with more offerings.
Currently Scribble2Script has a Hand Gym, where students work in groups of four and focus on fine motor skills. Then they proceed to handwriting classes, which are groups of six students. "They aren't teaching handwriting in schools anymore," Eldridge said. "We are identifying and ruling out why students struggle with handwriting, because usually there is a reason." The goal, she added, is to make it fun. "It's not about nuns with rulers anymore. We have several different types of media for them to write with and we work on repetitive practice without the kids realizing what they are doing."
Thrusting a pencil at a young writer is not the best, said Eldridge, nor is ignoring handwriting because of society's dependency on computers. With young writers, Scribble2Script starts with building a foundation of hand skills. "We build letters with wood pieces, sort letters, and write in snow. Actually using a pencil is a high level skill."
Today, Eldridge said, Scribble2Script works with about 80 to 100 children a week and they are planning for about 180 at this year's summer camp. The majority of their clients are K-6 and about 85 percent are male. But they have had inquiries from adults and hospitals, and are hoping to expand their business. In addition, they see a market for more developmental programs, and working with children before they get to kindergarten. The business partners are also exploring the feasibility of franchising, "but we'd like to open our second facility next," said Eldridge. Currently there are only two other similar businesses in the United States - in Texas and Pennsylvania.
A literature major at Pacific, Eldridge said that although not a likely path to OT school, her English skills have been invaluable. "I use my lit degree every day. I'm so glad I chose that. From writing a business plan to writing letters to parents to creating a Web site - it's great having the skills to know how to do that." Pacific's learning environment also impacted Eldridge's confidence. "I don't know if I would be here if I went to a large undergraduate school. Pacific really promoted thinking out of the box and having your own ideas."
Helping children build their confidence through better handwriting is a tremendous reward, said Eldridge, and what keeps her going. "We've created a program that kids really like," she said. "It's rewarding to see all of the hard work we've done and that people come to see us. We are really helping children in a significant way."
The biggest compliment now, added Eldridge, is that Scribble2Script is being referred by teachers and parents. "One parent said they heard about us from another parent - at Burger King! We thought, "Yes, they're talking about us at Burger King!'"