Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Handwriting in 7th Grade

This afternoon I observed one of my 7th graders in his science class. His teacher whispered to me that his fine motor skills were not so great and it negatively impacted his ability to take notes and draw illustrations for his lab write-ups, but that he really understood the material.

As usual, I walked around the class to view the notes of other students, to get a perspective of the range of abilities in the class. Eek! Many of the students wrote almost illegibly and their pencil grasps—yikes! Vicious left hooks, tightly fisted thumbs to palms, whole-hand grasps—how could they write like that? Plus, many of them wrote letters in awkward, inefficient ways with many of them starting letters from the baseline upward and mixing upper and lower case letters within a word.
You're right, this student isn't old enough to be in 7th grade.  But I do see grasps like this in 7th grade!
Every so often it’s good for me to observe my target OT student in their large, general education classes, to remind myself that the range of typical fine motor skills is very wide. My student demonstrates better pencil grasp and letter formation than many of the general education students in his honors science class, but has other factors which interfere with independent note taking.

Even if he had perfect fine motor skills his disorganization, difficulties with receptive language and understanding non-verbal communication would still impair his ability to be independent with note taking in class. Good thing there is a whole team of professionals working with him, and not just the person who knows about how to make hands work better.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Pinch pots and Spiral-y Snakes

Gotta love classic activities.  Before spring break the FW1 student from MCV prepared some fun activities for her 1st grade student.  To help him focus on cutting an accurate spiral she painted a white paper plate in his favorite color and added some embellishment.  Since he's right-handed she encouraged him to cut in a counter-clockwise direction.  Looks like a cool snake to me, but maybe it was really some other design?
Next, she brought in some holiday-themed Pla-Dough from Target to have him create pinch pots.  I had encouraged her to only bring in recycled items or to use materials from my stash, but she shelled out her own money and splurged.  The student was very engaged with these fun "eggs" in animal shapes.

The student also rolled tiny "eggs" to fit in the orange "nest."

We were surprised to find that there was a little stamp on the base of each container--bonus!

The first grader decided to roll mini-snakes and write a few words.
After the session Dana and I discussed how to make the activity more challenging for the student, to promote better finger stability and coordination.  We agreed that using a more resistive material, such as scented salt dough, would work well, and would also be an inexpensive material to use for a home program.

2 parts flour (not self rising)
1 part table salt
1 part water
few drops food extract (such as peppermint) or a Tablespoon of seasoning (cinnamon, ground cloves)

Food allergies and sensitivities need to be noted and avoided.
For more ideas:  Dough_It_Yourself_Handbook.pdf

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This, Not This

One of the first graders I work with has a pretty inefficient and fatiguing grasp that she likes to use just fine.  So, we try all different kinds of ways to encourage more wrist extension and IP flexion to hold and maneuver the pencil.

We thought of spring-ish words and wrote them on a vertical surface, using a wobbly Q-tip and stamp pad ink.  The connected boxes worked as a boundary for the letter sizing and placement.  This grasp above is sorta acceptable.

This grasp is better...
 ...and the bottom photo is of the grasp we're trying to avoid! 


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Joys of Spring Break

Yesterday was the first day of our Spring Break--total wonderfulness abounds.
Celebrated by going to our local botanical garden, which was recently voted to be the second best botanical garden in the USA--wowie zowie!  Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
It only takes about 2 hours to tour it, but there are many delights.  Your olfactory system is singing in the conservatory where all those gorgeous orchids reside.

That's enough beauty to last me through the week.  Now, on to cleaning the house that's been neglected all semester and getting prepped for a big holiday dinner at home on Sunday.
If you're on Spring Break, too--have a wonderful time being not at work and gear up for the rest of the school year to come.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Writing Anywhere You Can

Last Friday I noticed this clever use of an interior window as an additional writing area in a resource classroom.  The creative teacher taped a huge sheet of writing paper on one side of the glass and students stood to write their "word wall words" on the other side. 
Notice the built-in shelf for the markers.  Very inventive; go Ms. Brinkley!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Rubber-banded Markers for Better Traction

One elementary student has quite a bit of difficulty opening her color markers independently.  We tried slipping these teensy rubber bands into the space between the marker and the cap, but then the cap wouldn't snap closed.  Oh well...
So, we tried winding several rubber bands around the marker and also the cap, to see if she could get a little more traction when trying to pull the two parts apart.  Voila!  With a little practice, it worked!
Once the first one worked, she decided to match the rubber band color to the color of all the other markers...schmart!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Customizing a Fine Motor Activity

For the last few weeks I've enjoyed having a FW1 student with me on Thursday mornings.  Today she planned the fine motor session for one of my elementary-age students, using an activity she customized for his interests.
During a meeting with his family a couple of weeks ago we heard that the student loves all kinds of animals--so Dana created a cutting, writing and memory activity to match his interest in all things slitherly or furry.
The neon-colored paper also captured his attention as he practiced cutting along the lines, which Dana had widened just a tad to give him a better "road" for his scissors to follow.  She noted that he did not always keep his fingers on the scissors in the same manner and attempted some pretty creative grasp patterns during the session.  This was his best grasp of the scissors, which is just fine.
Now it was time to name those critters.  Writing on a vertical surface wasn't the sure cure for his inefficient grasp pattern.  After the session Dana and I discussed ideas for how to promote a better pencil grasp next time. 
In between there were some short breaks and the student practiced doing chair push-ups, to improve his hand/arm strength.  Back to the activity. 
The memory game should have been lots more fun than cutting and writing, but our student decided that he wasn't good at it so Dana had to coax some self-confidence and participation out of him.
After the student returned to class Dana and I discussed his boundary-testing behavior and the fine motor skills he needs to improve to perform more effectively during classroom tasks.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Remember Your Good Body Mechanics When Traveling

Another timely post by my work buddy, Fiona:

Written for those of you who actually do travel...while folks like me consider it a vacation to work outside and just hang out with the cat:

Keiko takes a break.. by kws