Time Flies!

Time Flies!

Whew!  Time flies for busy OTs.  I cannot believe we just flew through the first semester of school!  Together with school, students, family life, it goes by so fast.  Before I began working in the schools, time went by a lot more slowly than it does now!

Progress reports.  Angst or exhilaration?  I prepared many progress reports recently, with lots of growth shown through work samples and increase in ability levels for the children I work with. 

When working with children who have emerging skills in handwriting, I focus on the gestalt, or the big picture, on the long term goal.  The long term goal is that the child will be able to communicate through written work.  Whether that’s to show a math problem, or to write a story, children need to be able to write legibly.

Many children need to change their pencil grasp from a less mature grasp to a mature dynamic tripod grasp.  I frequently use pencil grippers to accomplish this, although it’s only part of the story. 

Children also need to have adequate foundation skills in the area of fine motor, using the small muscles of their hands, in order to have good pencil control.  This is true with or without a pencil gripper!

There are MANY MANY fine motor skill activities out there.  Keep in mind that building fine motor skills is almost always going to involve low-tech toys.  You really are not building fine motor skills when you are playing video games that work on rapid thumb control.

I discovered a great website for activity ideas for building fine motor skills in children.  You can visit the site; www.otplan.com

When to use a bulb pencil gripper

When to use a bulb pencil gripper

Bulb grippers are sort of the “jack of all trades” gripper.  I use them for a variety of grasps that I see mostly in kids who haven’t really established a proper grasp yet.  Sometimes a kid will have a very immature supinate grasp (caveman grasp).  Or they might have a vague idea of holding the pencil, but not where to hold it, and are holding it near the middle.  What’s great about the bulb gripper is that it opens up the web space between thumb and index finger to allow for that space to form the tripod grasp.  Here’s how it looks:

And into the dynamic tripod pose:

You will want to be sure to position the gripper so that the edge of the gripper is just where the wooden part of the pencil begins.  The bulb gripper has 3 positions to choose from so kids can find the most comfortable position for their fingers to be in.  The thick part goes toward the eraser to form the bulk in the thumb web space.

For a thumb wrap grasp, use a grotto gripper

For a thumb wrap grasp, use a grotto gripper

A thumb wrap grasp is often tight, putting a “death grip” on a pencil, and frequently results in heavy pressure when writing.  It is, by its nature, a static grasp, and causes LOTS of fatigue and pain when writing.  It looks like this:

In fact, it usually looks worse than this, with hyperextension of the thumb interphalangeal joint also.

Use a grotto grip to correct a tight thumb wrap grasp to separate the thumb and index finger and tuck tall man in the back like this:

And you have a dynamic tripod grasp.

Kids will tell you that it “feels funny”.  It does.  It feels strange to change which muscles are controlling the pencil. 

Help, this child has never held a pencil before!

Help, this child has never held a pencil before!

This is the call I receive from Kindergarten teachers at this time of the year!  Yes, there are many, many children who (collective gasp) really never have held a pencil before!  Amazing as that is, let’s focus not on the why of why that is, but how we can support the little tykes to become successful students.

Which leads us back to, you guessed it, fine motor skills!

Here is the list of my top fine motor skills/activities for the preschool, kindergarten, and first grade classrooms.  Of course these activities can be used for older children too.

  1. PlayDoh - roll into snakes, round balls etc.
  2. Fiskar scissors - use to cut the playdoh
  3. clothespins around a container
  4. wooden beads to string
  5. wooden beads to stack with eraser heads

When you put this all together, it looks like this (shameless plug)!

We’ll look at pencil grippers tomorrow and how they help.