Your Kids OT blog recently turned 2! Welcome to those who have joined us recently and thank you all for your ongoing support. Here is a round up of the 10 most popular posts for 2015! See if you have missed any!
1. Best tips for tying shoe laces - Everything you need to know to teach your kids about lacing their shoes! This post included terrific techniques, top tips and great alternatives for those struggling with tying shoe laces. Read more here.
2. New visual perception reference sheet - Full of definitions, practical examples where visual perception is needed and potential areas of difficulties as well as a comprehensive list of strategies to try...this has become a popular reference sheet for OTs and teachers. Have you purchased your copy? Read more here.
3. Heavy work for little fingers - 6 finger activities to warm up those little hands! Read more here.
4. Fun with Flextangles - Some paper fun for older kids. Print, draw, fold, stick, move! Tricky for some. Read more here.
5. Homemade finger games - Finger soccer and finger obstacle course. Quick and easy to make for your next therapy session or to play at home. Read more here.
6. Writing slopes and a homemade option - Such a difference slope makes. Read more here.
7. Favourite Finger play rhymes and songs - A popular FREE download for your babies, toddlers and preschoolers! Read morehere.
8. Happy New Year: Healthy Kids! Every day learning in every day activities. - Written a year ago as part of a new year series I continue to encourage people to find opportunities in every day living for every day learning! Read more here.
9. Ask an OT: Does crawling matter? Is it ok if my child skips crawling? - Crawling is important for every age! Read more here.
10. Spatial awareness and simple blocks. - 3 great ways to encourage spatial awareness at different levels using simple wooden blocks. Read more here.
I'm always a little overwhelmed that there are new readers, pinterest followers and FB likers for my little blog. Thank you again for reading, commenting, liking .... keep spreading the word!
I also love to hear from you - what have you found interesting, learnt, modified, created, been inspired from what you have read?!
Looking forward to a great 2016!
Handwriting is a complex skill. Handwriting involves the ability to form letters with consistent letter size, proportions and spacing, so that others can read words and sentences. Producing legible handwriting requires complex visual perceptual skills as well as an integration of motor skills with these visual perceptual skills. A deficiency in visual-motor integration may be evident when observing poor quality handwriting (Volman, van Schendel, & Jongmans, 2006).
Visual perception is the process where the brain extracts and organises information, giving meaning to what we see. Visual-motor integration is the degree to which visual perception and finger-hand movements are well coordinated (Beery & Beery, 2010). There are many components of visual processing which work together to assign meaning to what we see and include eye-hand coordination, figure ground, visual discrimination, form constancy, visual memory and visual-sequential memory.
Eye –hand coordination is the ability to coordinate eye movement with hand movements and includes the ability to process visual information to guide hand function. When children are learning to control a pencil for handwriting, they will rely on visual information as they look at their hand and what the pencil is producing as they write.
The ability to copy a vertical line, circle, horizontal line, right oblique line, square, left oblique line and an oblique cross have been recognised by therapists as an indication of a child’s readiness to integrate visual-motor skills to begin handwriting instruction. Beery & Beery (2010) recommend that formal pencil-paper instruction is postponed until a child can easily execute an oblique cross as it requires crossing the midline, which is the source of many reversal problems. They also suggest that transfer of improved visual-motor skills does not automatically transfer to academic tasks and teaching letters, words and sentences are still required.
Typically children are encouraged to control their pencils and practise eye-hand coordination with tracing various lines, then shapes and then letters. These lines may include bold dotted lines, faded dotted lines, bold unbroken lines, faded unbroken lines to trace on. Children may also be provided with paths, roads or outlines to draw between to produce lines, shapes or letters. Therapist may support children with eye-hand difficulties by contrasting the path to be drawn or by emphasizing the boundary line (eg. with a raised surface).
Eye-hand coordination of fine and gross motor tasks may also be encouraged prior to handwriting instruction. This may emphasize large movements before moving to small movements. Children may be encouraged to develop eye-hand coordination of larger tools before using small tools for more accurate control (eg. crayon rock before ordinary crayon).
Visual Discrimination is the ability to classify objects or shapes based on visual information such as colour, form, pattern, size or position. In handwriting, children need to be aware of common characteristics as well as subtle differences which distinguish letters and words. Children need to identify letters as well as the sequential order of letters to recognize words for reading, writing and spelling. Difficulties with visual discrimination may be seen with letter reversals or lack of attention to detail in letter formation.
For example. When writing “n”, if the initial line is drawn too long it appears as “h” or if the up and over section is too short it appears as “r”. When writing “a”, if the line is produced too long and below the circle it appears as “q”, if the line is produced too long and above the circle it appears as “d”, if the line is too long above and below the circle it is unrecognizable, if the line is too long and placed to the left and below of the circle it appears as “p” or if it is placed to the left and above the circle it appears as “b”.
Visual discrimination in handwriting may also be seen with confusions with the use of lower and upper case letters. Children need to be able to firstly identify letters regardless of lower or upper case formation (ie. classification) and then use these appropriately (eg. Capital letters used at the beginning of a sentence).
Children with visual discrimination difficulties may require additional strategies to classify letters. Providing a multi-sensory approach to learning (eg. use of pipe-cleaners, playdough, rice, shaving foam, etc) may assist with kinaesthetic learning and muscle memory.
Position in Space or spatial relationships involves the ability to process information about oneself in relation with their environment in space, orientation and position. It may involved the ability to understand directional language concepts such as up/down, next to, left/right, over/under, etc. In handwriting, difficulties with spatial relationships may also affect letter formation as described in visual discrimination as children have difficulty relating the position of lines in relation to other parts of a letter. Children may also demonstrate difficulty with writing on a line, adequate spacing between letters or words. They may have difficulty ruling up a page and maintaining writing on the left hand side of the page with the beginning of each line.
Children with difficulties with spatial relationships require a range of intervention strategies to assist with this visual perceptual difficulty. This may include gross motor activities and postural control activities to encourage body awareness as well as shape positioning games such as Tangrams and felt shapes. They may also benefit from copying patterns made with blocks, LEGO models and beads before attempting to copy patterns on paper. Further strategies may include use of speciality writing paper (eg. coloured lines), grid paper, highlighting the writing line, placing a ruler on the writing line and the use of a “spacer” between words.
Figure-Ground is the ability to see an object or form when presented in a complex background. In handwriting, this is needed when copying information from a source (eg. the whiteboard) and keeping track of where you are up to. Children with figure-ground difficulties may begin writing on a line and then after looking up do not know where they should write the next letter on their page. They may also miss important information or segments of a letter or a word when writing.
Extra cues may be needed for children with figure-ground difficulties such as providing information on a piece of paper rather than a board, a square drawn around a word or phrase to be copied or a ruler to highlight the writing line. They may also benefit from scanning exercises.
Visual Closure is the ability to process visual information when the object or word is partially hidden. In handwriting, this may affect letter formation and spelling words. Visual closure in letter formation is closely related to visual discrimination described earlier. Children may also demonstrate incomplete letter formation which affects handwriting legibility and neatness. Activities recommended in the visual discrimination section are relevant for those with visual closure difficulties.
Form Constancy is the ability to identify an object, shape, letter, number, symbol when it is presented in a different way (eg. larger, smaller, rotated, italics, bold, different font, sideways, upside down, different colour). In handwriting this may result in not realising when they are having difficulty with letter formation as they may interpret their formation as accurate. For example they may see the visual closure examples above and may consider the forms to be constant (form constancy) and are unable to identify the discriminating features (visual discrimination). Children who have difficulty with form constancy may also have difficulty transitioning from printing to cursive writing.
Children who experience with difficulty with form constancy may benefit from consistent use of the same writing font in the classroom, presentation of information at the same orientation that it is expected to be reproduced (eg. flat on the table when writing at the table or vertical when writing on a whiteboard). Teaching letters and words using a multi-sensory approach can help children to become more aware of the properties of shapes and letters needed for handwriting.
Visual memory is the ability to remember and recall objects, shapes, symbols or movements in short term memory. Visual memory requires visualization of what to remember. This may affect a child’s ability to recognize and name shapes, letters and words. They may have difficulty remember what these “look like” without a visual prompt. For example, children may be able to copy the letters of the alphabet when it is on a desk strip, however if you randomly ask them to write various letters of the alphabet they may not recall what it looks like. They may also have difficulty remembering all the letters of a word to copy and need to “look up” to copy each letter even with familiar words.
Children with visual memory difficulties benefit from playing memory card games and chunking small amounts of information at a time for writing (eg. word on a flash cards rather than a whole sheet). They may require visual aids for longer than other students (eg. use of desk strips of the alphabet). These children also benefit from multi-sensory learning especially incorporating the use of verbal cues associated with motor movements (eg. tall straight line down, up and over to draw an “h” can be creating walking on a chalk line, creating this with a skipping rope, tracing in shaving cream, writing on a whiteboard, using a ribbon to draw in the sky and using finger to write on someone’s back).
Visual sequential memory is the ability to remember and recall a sequence of objects, shapes, symbols or movements in a particular order. In handwriting, this may affect letter formation with more frequent letter reversals as children have difficulty remembering the order for letter formation as well as the spatial position of the next line. This may also affect a child’s ability to write words which may have similar letters (eg. on, no, one) or a sequence of words to make a sentence.
Children with visual sequential memory difficulties benefit from pairing verbal cues with motor skills as described in visual memory. Children may read and repeat letters for writing words, or read and repeat phrases and sentences for extended writing. These verbal cues may need to be said “aloud” before the child learns to internalise this and “says it in their heads”. Simple sequential memory games using physical props such as beads, blocks, pom poms may precede games using letters, numbers, shapes and words. These may be presented in increasingly large numbers and covered to be reproduced with shorter time frames over time as skills develop.
Occupational Therapists use a variety of assessment tools to identify visual perceptual and visual-motor integration difficulties. If your child is experiencing difficulties with these aspects of handwriting contact a registered Occupational Therapist for a comprehensive assessment.
This post is part of “Functional Skills for Kids: 12 month series by Paediatric Occupational and Physical Therapists”. You can read all of the childhood functionsHERE. Read all Your Kids OT’s monthly posts HERE.
The information in this article may now be found in THE HANDWRITING BOOK! The Handwriting Book breaks down the functional skill of handwriting into developmental areas. These include developmental progression of pre-writing strokes, fine motor skills, gross motor development, sensory considerations, and visual perceptual skills. Read more about THE HANDWRITING BOOK HERE (an e-book which you can download instantly)!
Beery, K. E., Buktenica, N. A., & Beery, N. A. (2010). The Beery-Buktenica developmental test of visual-motor integration: Administration, scoring, and teaching manual (6th ed.). Minneapolis, MN: NSC Pearson.
Volman, M. J. M., van Schendel, B., & Jongmans, M. J. (2006). Handwriting difficulties in primary school children: A search for underlying mechanisms. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 60(4), 451-460.
Mr 5 is starting big school in 2 weeks time. He has his uniform, hat, shoes, lunch box....He is ready (even though I may be a bit emotional)!
Parents I speak with are often worried about how their child will cope with being at BIG SCHOOL! Their main concerns are usually social "Will they have anyone to play with?" "Will they sit by themselves at lunch time?" or sometimes about self care "Will they know when to go to the toilet?"
Kindy teachers are fantastic at helping children settle into big school. They will take them for walks around the school so they are familiar with the buildings, they will introduce class mates to each other (repeatedly), they will schedule regular toilet visits and give lots of reminders about how to sit, raise their hand and interact with other children.
As a parent there are a few things you can practise with your child in these few weeks before school starts to help the transition go smoothly.
(1) Practise getting dressed - Let your child "dress up" and play in their uniforms at home. Don't worry about getting them "dirty" - that's what the washing machine is for! In fact after a few washes a brand new uniform will be less stiff and more comfortable for the first day.
Encourage your child to practise fastenings such as zippers, clips, buckles and buttons. If they are struggling, show them patiently how to grasp and manipulate the fastenings. Sometimes children struggle with the fine motor coordination or using both hands together to manage fastenings. Practise now before the pressure of time hits on a school day!
Choose fastenings where possible which promote success. If your child is not confident with tying shoe laces, don't worry they will get it! Buy the velcro shoes and save everyone unnecessary stress!
(2) Practise getting food out (and not losing their lunch box)- There is nothing more stressful for a child than not being able to eat. Choose a lunch box which they can open and close independently. Check with your school if they need separate containers for fruit or morning tea. Make sure your child can open and close every container you plan to send to school. Label everything and help your child to identify their name and containers (especially if you have just bought them a new one). Use your containers on a picnic with your family and ask your child to identify which container belongs to them.
If you send it packaged food such as biscuits, sultanas or poppers, practise opening these as well. Consider transferring things into zip lock bags or brown paper bags which are easy to open.
Don't forget to practise opening and closing drink bottles as well if you want to prevent leakages through new school bags.
(3) Practise saying good bye to you - Keep it short and sweet. Don't linger and don't show your emotional response (a pair of sunnies is a good idea) to seeing your little boy (or girl) starting school. You could role play this at home. Set your child up at a little table to do some drawing and say "goodbye" and physically walk to another room. You could even reverse this and your child could be the parent dropping off their child (you). Remind your child that you will come back! You could even arrange a meeting spot if you know where they will be at the end of the day (eg. I'm going to come and pick you up from your classroom.)
(4) Practise social skills - Practise with people you meet at the park or friends you have visit. You could model for your child simple phrases such as "Hi, I'm Cindy, what's yours?" " Can I sit next to you?" "Do you want to play tip?" "I like your lunch box, I have Peppa Pig on mine".
If possible arrange a play date with other kids from the same school either before school starts or in the first few weeks. Avoid asking "Who did you play with? Did you make any friends today?". Instead ask your child, "Can you remember who sat next to you in story time? Can you remember who was in front of you when you lined up to go into class?" Even if they can't remember initially, as your child learns the names of other children in their class, they will be able to tell you.
(5) Practise sitting on the floor cross legged - Read books or play games at a low table with legs crossed. If your child isn't used to this position then it would help to practise! Help them not to lean on furniture or other children. Get bigger siblings involved with reading stories as the "teacher" to your child starting school. If your child has difficulty sitting cross legged, they may have difficulty with postural tone, low muscle tone, core muscle strength or sensory processing difficulties.
Start encouraging your child to sit with legs straight and stretch. You could sit with your feet up against their with your legs straight too. Work on core muscle strength activities such as sitting on a gym ball to watch tv, doing sit ups, wall sits and animal walks. If they continue to have difficulty with sitting cross legged, you may need to seek advice from an occupational therapist or physiotherapist.
(6) Practise asking for help - Use opportunities when visiting friends or relatives to encourage your child to ask for help. They could ask the grown up "Where is the bathroom?". This helps your child to look beyond their own parents for help. Sometimes we can anticipate the needs of our child but in a classroom setting, children need to know how to speak up especially when they need help.
(7) Practise going to the toilet - Encourage your child to lock the door when using the public toilet. You might need to show them what the door looks like when it is vacant and when it is occupied. Boys should be shown how to use the urinal or at least what a urinal is for. I've heard cringe-worthy stories of Kindy boys washing their hands in the urinal!
Always pack a spare pair of underwear and socks into the school bag (with a plastic bag) even if it has been months since your child has had an accident. School can be an intimidating environment for some.
I have been deliberate in not adding too many "academic" things to practise before school starts but have included these three (at the bottom of the list).
(8) Practise holding the pencil with a dynamic tripod grasp - Starting the writing journey with an efficient grasp will help your child to be confident with controlling their pencil. Read more about pencil grasps here!
(9) Practise writing their name with the correct directionality - This is something that is asked of Kindy kids repeatedly so if your child is aware of writing their own name or most of the letters, then they are off to a flying start. Always encourage them to use a capital letter for the first letter and then lower case letters following. Not sure of the direction yourself? The rED Writing app is fantastic for Australian school age kids as it shows parents and kids the correct directionality. Read more about the rED writing app here.
(10) Practise one to one correspondence - Encourage your child to point to one item at a time when counting or one word at a time when reading. Try singing the alphabet with your child whilst asking them to point to each letter individually. There are lots of kids who start school thinking "LMNO" is one letter. Show them lower case as well as capital letters. Help your child with the visual tracking to point to each item/letter/word. This an important skill for maths readiness as well as reading and writing.
Do you have a child starting BIG SCHOOL? Are they ready? Are you?
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Hi, I'm Cindy and I am an Occupational Therapist. I enjoy working creatively with children to see them reach their potential. Read more about me here.
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