Thursday, April 26, 2012

Let's Try Scissors

Let's take a little break from writing. We want to start with scissor skills. We can't tell you how many parents tell us that their child is not allowed to use scissors at home. There are many reasons; the parent's fear of injury, a younger sibling in the house, etc. Parents: IT IS OK FOR YOUR CHILD TO USE SCISSORS (under close supervision, of course)! We like child-sized scissors as they fit better on small hands and are easier to open/close than adult scissors. For those parents afraid of a finger being cut of(which almost never happens- just kidding- never saw it happen), there are rounded-edged varieties. There are also adapted varieties if your child is unable, after practice, to use regular, children's scissors. For these, you should contact an OT to assess which best fits your child's needs. Ok, so, let's begin with proper scissor use. Children should have their thumb in one hole and their index and middle fingers in another hole. Thumb should be up when cutting. One trick to remind children to keep their thumb up is to put a sticker, or draw a smiley face, on their thumb nail. Tell you child he/she should always be able to see it when cutting. Start by just snipping paper. You can prompt your child by saying "open/close". You can also help your child hold the paper with his other hand by placing your hand over his/her hand. It is important, though, that you do not hold the paper for your child, as he needs to get used to holding it on his/her own. Once your child is a pro-snipper, start to progress his/her scissors across a paper. Next, have him/her cut on top of lines, then cut out shapes. Cutting takes LOTS of practice to perfect. Have him/her "help" you cut out coupons (of course, not ones you actually need, unless he/she is a pro). Cut play doh. Kids usually enjoy using scissors, so allow them many opportunities to practice.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Pencil Grasp Tricks

Although there are a variety of useful pencils grips out there sometimes we can encourage kids to grasp it correctly without fancy adaptations.  Sometimes though that extra support of a specialized grip or weighted pencil is needed.  Try these suggestions first to see which road you need to take!

  1. The Lizard Trick - Have your child make an L with his/her dominant hand using thumb and pointer finger then tell them to pinch the pencil.  I call it the lizard trick because I tell my kids L is for lizard and place a little lizard finger puppet over the eraser of the pencil so they can 'take him for a ride'.
  2. The Pinch and Flip Trick - Try placing the pencil down on the table with the point facing towards your child.  Tell him/her pinch the pencil then use the other hand to flip it up into writing position.  This allows the child to start with his other fingers tucked into the palm.

In addition to either of these techniques, you can try having the child hold a small object like a marble in their palm while writing to help keep their fingers tucked.  As long as the object itself isn't too motivating and distracts from the writing activity!  If additional supports are needed, talk to us or your own pediatric OT for recommendations!

April is OT month!

Just thought I'd like to take a step back and give a good general description of how we pediatric OTs help families and children.  Sometimes I'm asked how can children get occupational therapy?  They don't have jobs!  The 'occupations' of children are school, play, and self-care.  Here are just some of the areas of development we assess and treat:

  • fine motor dexterity, the way your child is able to use his/her hands
  • eye-hand coordination
  • balance and coordination
  • ability to complete self-care tasks like bathing, toileting, and tooth-brushing
  • sensory needs, like touching messy things, eating a variety of foods, exhibiting the ability to pay attention and keep hands to self
  • play and social interaction skills
We OTs tend to have a good ability to sense the need of the whole child, taking into account strengths, developmental needs, and environmental implications.  Please consider using our Ask the OT section to gain additional knowledge about your child (privacy please) and guide our post topics.

To learn more about the field of occupational therapy in the United States, try this link:
The American Occupational Therapy Association

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pencil Control

Pencil Control: Let's start getting better pencil control for writing. Frequently, I have a parent of a child, who is not yet able to imitate horizontal or vertical lines, or draw a circle, complain to me that their child is not able to write his/her name. The parent inevitably wants me to focus on teaching their child how to form the letters of his/her name. I try to patiently explain that their child is not yet ready for that, that there are foundation steps to master prior to the ability to write letters. An Olympic ice skater doesn't start out learning the difficult jumps that everyone wants to see. First she has to master the basic skill of being able to stay upright on the ice. There are multiple other skills to master prior to her ever even trying the difficult jumps. Same thing with writing.
Today's OT Strategy: Start by having your child learn to draw controlled horizontal and vertical lines.
You can have him/her draw on paper.
Set up an easel and have him/her use a paint brush.
Go outside and use chalk on the driveway to draw long lines.
Put shaving cream/whipped cream on a cookie sheet and have him/her use his/her index finger to draw lines.
Draw around the edges of a chalkboard.
Any OTs/Teachers out there with any other ideas?  Feel free to share them.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Finger Manipulation

Ok, so we are still working towards getting kids ready for kindergarten.  We talked about pencil grip and gave a strategy to achieve a more mature grasp.  But to effectively use a pencil to form letters and shapes, we first need to have stabilization at the shoulder, finger strength and be able to use our fingers for manipulation.  Here is a spring art activity that will work on your child's finger skills.  Cut tissue paper into small squares.  Have your child crumple the pieces into little balls.  Have him/her use only one hand, if able, if not have him/her use only the finger tips of both hands.  Allow your child to open the glue and squeeze it onto a flower picture (some children will need adult assistance to move the glue around the paper so as not to have one big clump of glue). Have your child pick up one "ball" of tissue paper at a time and place it onto a glue dot.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Finger Strengthening Activity

So, we talked about stabilizing the shoulders for control during fine motor tasks. But what about strengthening the fingers? Todays OT Strategy is not only beneficial for finger strengthening, but will work on bilateral hand control (using your two hands in a coordinated manner), as well. Today's OT Strategy: Give your child a piece of construction paper. Have him/her rip the paper into small pieces and glue them onto a piece of paper to make a design. You can use many different colors of paper.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Weightbearing for Writing

Today's OT Strategy:
Lay out a large piece of paper on the floor.  Have your child lay on his/her stomach and color a picture.  This not only allows the child to be creative, it provides weight bearing through the arms.  We have a saying, "Proximal stability for distal mobility", which translates to mean that a child needs to be stable at the shoulders to effectively use the hands.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

School Readiness Skills

So, it's that time of year again- Kindergarten registration time, that is.  And, it's at this time, when parents register their children for Kindergarten, that some notice that their children may not have all of the skills needed to succeed in Kindergarten. We OT's tend to get referrals for kids that the parents want a "quick fix" for so that the kids are ready for school in the fall.  Because of this, we think our first area to address should be getting your children ready for school.  We will address what we see as the most common school skills  that children are lacking when going into Kindergarten and we will offer some activities and suggestions for you to try at home. Kindergarten has changed since we parents went.  Back when we entered kindergarten, there were not as many prerequisites needed to be successful as we started our school careers.   Our days consisted of some academics, a nap and a snack before heading home.  Kindergarten was the year that prepared the children to start school in the first grade.  Not so today.  Most kids today have been in some sort of preschool for years prior to going to kindergarten, so have a basis of school skills such as writing their names,  with some being able to write their first and last names.  Some children are able to recognize all the letters of the alphabet, both upper and lower case.  Some are even able to form all of the letters, both upper and lower case.  Children are able to sit for longer periods of time to concentrate on school tasks.   But, don't panic if you think your child does not have all of the skills that other future kindergarteners have.  There is still time to help them get ready. First, in order to succeed with hand writing, your child will need a good grasp on his/her writing implements.  Kids start by holding their crayons in a fisted grasp and gradually progress to a mature, tripod grasp. A good grasp is important not only to be able to form legible words, but in order to write at a speed that will allow your child to keep up with the class during assignments.  We won't go into the technical terms for all the grasps, but will start by offering suggestions to progress your child to a more functional grasp. TODAY'S OT STRATEGY: Break your crayons into tiny pieces, about two inches long, and have your child use only those pieces to color.  Your child will not be able to "fist" small crayon pieces and will start to hold the pieces in a more mature manner.  Do this for a couple of weeks so your child becomes accustomed to holding a crayon in a different manner.