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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How do Fine-Motor Activities Help to Develop Handwriting?

Babies begin learning about the spatial relationships between what they see, reach for, grasp and manipulate during the first year of life. My book From Rattles to Writing: A Parent's Guide to Hand Skills describes the development of  incredible milestones during the first 5 years so that children can do the following:
  1. smoothly move their eyes across a maze, whiteboard, screen or line of print
  2. stabilize their trunk and shoulders while manipulating objects and writing
  3. Comfortably and effectively grasp writing tools
  4. Process and respond to sensory information in order to tolerate touch and effectively grasp writing tools
  5. discriminate sensory information in order to use the right amount of force-- so that paper doesn't rip and toys don't break 
  6. coordinate right and left sides of the body in order to stabilize objects such as paper with the non-dominant hand while cutting or writing
  7. develop a highly skilled dominant hand used consistently for skills such as writing
  8. discriminate right, left, up, down, diagonal directions, clockwise and counterclockwise- all skills required to learn letter and number formation
  9. cross midline (CML) when reaching with the right hand for objects left of the body center and reach for objects with the left hand when located right of the body's center. Children with CML challenges may have difficulty forming letters made up of diagonal lines - such as X, Y and Z
  10. create letters of correct size, oriented to the writing line with even spacing between letters and words. 
As an occupational therapist who has worked with children and adults with developmental disabilities for over 40 years, I like to design activities that help children with challenges to develop these types of skills- the skills that prepare children for handwriting.  That is why I wrote the book- Flapping to Function: A Parent's Guide to Autism and Hand Skills

The following videos demonstrate few  activity adaptations that might be helpful for parents, teachers and therapists to develop some of the skills listed above.

1) Pulling the coil upward provides sensory stimulation to muscles and joints, strengthens the trunk, and arms. This works on visual attention and tracking as student watches the rings spiral downward.
This activity develops coordination between  right and left sides of his body as he uses his preferred hand to reach for more rings while grasping the coil with his non-dominant hand.  He finds the repetitive motions calming....

Source: Sensory Processing Disorder Activity: Stringing Coiled Hose by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Writing letters on the plastic pieces  with dry erase marker develops motor control. The student must  stabilize the plastic  with the non-dominant hand while writing and learn how to form half and whole space letters to fit on the small or large plastic pieces. Then placing the letters on the Velcro strips teaches the skills used to orient letters to writing lines.

Source: Sensory Visual Perception Writing Activity by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Working or writing on a vertical surface helps children to correctly grasp a writing tool with the wrist in the best anatomical position. This can be done when coloring on a white board, painting on an easel or using a 3 sided folded cardboard box as shown in the following video.

Source: Make Your Own Paint Easel by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Watching the rings spiral down the curvy ring stack (made out of a bird mister) develops visual attention and tracking skills. Many children with autism seek this type of visual stimulation and may attend to this activity better than some others. If the rings are small enough they will have to use both hands together to stabilize the ring stack while pushing each ring on. I also like how this activity is tall, perhaps at eye level- this is helpful to use with highly distractible children because the materials are directly in front of their face..  

Source: How to make this helpful toy for children with autism by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Manipulating weaving plastic pieces develops strong fingers, bilateral hand use and visual perceptual skills when children copy patterns. Its a lot of fun!

Source: Weavable Toys Develop Fine-Motor Skills for autistic children by RecyclingOT on Rumble

Pushing objects  through the stretchy elastics provides sensory feedback that helps to develop strong fingers and motor control. It encourages them to coordinate using hands together as they stabilize the container. You can up the challenges by using larger objects that require more force to push between the elastics. Many people on the autism spectrum seek out this type of deep pressure sensory stimulation.

Source: Sensory Processing Activity: Pushing Objects between Elastics on Container by RecyclingOT on Rumble

This video demonstrates how to promote effective grasps on pencils and scissors while having fun with a fidget spinner toy.

Source: Recycling Occupational Therapist demonstrates Fidget Spinner by RecyclingOT on Rumble