My 8 year old is experimenting with handwriting and "finding her style". Sometimes she has lovely clear writing, others I can hardly read it!
She loves those "how to draw" type books, we've got several and she spends hours drawing, using the guides form them. I've been looking for a calligraphy book in a similar style but haven't found anything. There are some free online sheets, showing different styles of alphabet, so I plan to print a few of those out. I'll laminate them and keep them with the drawing books.
With my ds, we did the Writing Without Tears while he was in OT. It taught him proper form and where to start and stop letters. He was 9 when he did the program. He was able to write before, but this was an attempt to make writing a more easy, natural activity for him, since he has dysgraphia. We are not concerned about impression with the exception that he was unable to write in a timely fashion and it was nearly always illegible, which was totally effecting him in school. It did help in terms of legibility, but although his writing is still more legible than it was, he has reverted to most of his original methods of letter formation at age 11. He is still very slow, too.
I got both kids a calligraphy set a few years ago from hearth song or magic cabin. My dd loves using hers and her brothers. Ds ignores his. Writing is not for everyone.
Drawing is a separate brain activity from writing although the progression starts at the same point as a child. Writing has to do with language, so kids with dysgraphia can still excel at art and drawing, but struggle with writing. It is a right/left brain difference. Betty Edwards has a good book/workbook called Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain. It is not specifically geared toward children, but children can do any of the exercises in it. It is great for developing and understanding spacial relationships between 3-d world and 2-d drawing.
I don't agree with your premise. My DD has fairly serious fine motor deficits -- her handwriting will NEVER be a portrait of her personality.
I also think that "what other think" is a poor reason to do anything, especial forcing a special needs child to work on something challenging.
That being said, we used Handwriting without Tears to help my DD learn to communicate in writing, which is a useful life skill. Both my kids used it to learn to write.
For my DD with fine motor issues, we also did lots of activities to develop her fine motor skills from manipulating small toys to working with art supplies.
but everything has pros and cons
DD1 struggled with fine motor skills and her dyslexia did not help her (lack) of writing at all. She did lots of OT for the fine motor skills and we eventually had a academic language therapist that worked with her 5 days a week for 3.5 years. Lots of instruction in writing letters. I don't know the specifics of everything she did with DD1, it worked wonderfully and I was rarely present for it. DD1 can only write in cursive though, which a common teaching method for dyslexics, looping letters in cursive make it less likely for them to flip their letters. She has never learned to print although she does try here and there. Her handwriting at age 10 is functional. It isn't wonderful and probably never will be. I have bigger things to focus on with her and frankly I feel that most of her world is going to exist on some sort of a screen so typing/computer skills is going to be very important.
I agree with LindaOnTheMove... I don't see handwriting as even being a particularly relevant skill in this day and age; and have struggled with whether to even bother pushing it with my ds9. He writes legibly enough to fill out a doctor's health history form and employment application or a check. Not small enough, but I suspect he will get there with time.
We work on hand muscle strength. Gymnastics, throwing a baseball and catching (which actually does work a lot of the muscles in the hand), painting, play-doh and pottery, video games (in moderation--but we allow them at all for this purpose) and anything else I can find to make him work the hands. If we make meatloaf, he's blending the stuff together into the meat with his hands.
I don't have any lofty goals for my kids with handwriting. Special needs or not.