An OT Guide for Assessing Children Ages 3 and Up
written by Marie Frank, OTR/L & Amy Wing, OTR/L, illustrated by Kate Badger
I had heard good things about this fine-motor assessment and with a name like “Schoodles” I had to check it out. The publisher kindly sent a copy of the evaluation for my review.
I have always been a big believer in detailed evaluation narratives packed with clinical observations, with minimal focus on test scores. I have found that standardized test scores do not always accurately reflect the student’s classroom abilities and needs- afterall, sometimes students who would benefit from OT services score in the average range on standardized tests. On the other hand, sometimes students who score in the below average range on select fine- motor or visual perceptual subtests have adequate foundational skills, but may benefit from classroom adaptations (such as alphabet models to copy or color-coded paper) rather than direct OT services.
What Schoodles Assesses
The Schoodles Fine-Motor Assessment provides a framework for occupational therapists who want to quickly screen or evaluate school-aged children (ages 3 years and up) for these basic classroom skills:
· Pencil grasp
· Design and letter imitation and copying
· Drawing a person
· Visual skills
· Muscle tone, strength and postural control
· Sensory processing ( tactile discrimination, body awareness, left/right awareness)
· Self-care (i.e. dressing, feeding skills)
Additional standardized testing may be warranted but starting out with the Schoodles enables the therapist to quickly assess whether some classroom adaptations (such as positioning or strengthening activities) can increase skill acquisition. At the same time, the evaluator can detect what underlying problems are impacting function (i.e. decreased muscle tone, visual skills, motor planning etc.).
What I like about Schoodles
My favorite aspect of this tool is that the therapist scaffolds during the evaluation process. This means that she looks at a skill deficit and increases support to achieve it. For example, if a student is unable to copy a shape, the evaluator can try:
· drawing the shape so that the student can form it from imitation
· asking the student to trace over a shape
Then the narrative can include details of the student’s abilities when given the additional supports and describe possible OT objectives that would address the skill.
Who Should Use Schoodles
I think that the Schoodles is an ideal resource for therapists who are relatively new to working in school systems because it guides the therapist in making clinical observations and address questions such as
· why is the student switching hands during writing?
· why is the student writing too rapidly with poor quality? or
· are impairments in visual pursuit impacting performance?
Schoodles focuses on comparing the student with others in the same grade to determine reasonable skill expectations. The authors also use well documented resources (i.e. Beery’s Visual Motor Integration evaluation, Peabody Motor Scales and Hawaii Early Learning Profile) to provide ages children typically develop fine and gross motor skills. The evaluator can then refer to this data in the narrative when describing the student’s abilities or needs.
The Schoodles Package
Schoodles comes in a 3 ring binder with a zippered pouch to hold easy to find evaluation supplies:
· scissors (regular and loop)
· 3 crayons
· A pencil
· A pen
· A small rubber mat for the provided puzzles
· A scarf or tissues
The assessment is divided into two groups of skills. The first consists of skills such as writing, cutting and completing puzzles that are easily observable in any classroom. The workbook portion provides reproducible tasks to perform these skills. The second group of activities address supporting skills (also known as sensory integration clinical observation skills) such as
· visual tracking
· muscle strength
· right/left discrimination
· graphesthesia/tactile processing
· finger touching
· bilateral coordination and balance (i.e. jumping, hops, gallops, skips, jumping jacks)
All of the classroom and supporting skills are also listed in an easy to use chart that includes a description of the skill, observation guidelines and approximate age of skill attainment.
I have to add that after reading the Schoodles manual I marveled at how all of the assessed skills are described in my book From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills. My book compliments the Schoodles assessment tool by providing the detailed activities and teaching strategies that develop the sensory motor foundations required for reading and writing. Both Schoodles and From Rattles to Writing are available to purchase at Therapro. Inc. and Schoodles is sold through the Schoodles.com website where you will also find a sample evaluation and answers to frequently asked questions.
It is estimated that the Schoodles can be administered in 30-45 minutes and sometimes in as little as 20 minutes. A quick, efficient and reasonably priced assessment tool($65.00 for a printed version, $55.00 for a CD)- what’s not to like?