Explore use of sensory strategies that your child enjoys and save them for special times when working on a relatively challenging skill such as cutting. Your child may develop a positive association with using scissors if he or she likes to:
- chew gum, each crunchy foods or suck from a water bottle
- wear a weighted vest, lap bag, collar or wrist weights
- listens to favorite music either in the room or using headphones
- smells pleasant scents such as vanilla or peppermint provided by a spray, cotton balls soaked in extract, candles or aroma therapy diffuser.
- sits on a dynamic surface such as ball chair or cushion
Positioning the child to sit on a chair facing backwards (as I am doing in the photo) enables the child to stabilize arms on the back of the chair. I am also getting some deep pressure sensory stimulation by wrapping my legs around the chair legs. Children with autism often have low muscle tone and this can help them maintain their posture while manipulating materials.
Explore use of different types of scissors to see which works best. Preschool age children with little hands should learn using small scissors such as the "learning Scissors" designed by occupational therapist Mary Benbow. Some children will find it easier to begin learning the squeeze release motions by using adapted loop scissors (see links below).
Sturdy paper such as index cards or a manila folder are easier to control than flimsy paper. Children should begin by learning to snip on thin strips of paper before learning how to cut across longer pieces and then on lines.
Cutting uphill as shown in the picture puts the child's wrist in the best anatomical position for controlling scissors with the thumb facing upward. simply tape the paper to the wall.
Some children find it difficult to move the helper hand grasping the paper while the worker hand is cutting. I have found it helpful if they can learn to follow verbal or point cues to move the thumb to cover named stickers. For example, the child in the photo below is told to cover the bird sticker and as she cuts she is told to move her helper hand to cover the elephant sticker. She will be able to best control the paper if she is grasping it close to where she is cutting.
Occupational therapists love activities such as using tongs and scoopers because they help children learn the open and close motions used when using scissors. Many more "pre-cutting" strategies are described in my book FROM RATTLES TO WRITING: A PARENT'S GUIDE TO HAND SKILLS.
These are just a few of the strategies that may help children with or without autism to develop hand skills, specifically cutting skills.
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