How to Measure Progress with Your Child’s Manipulation Skills

What is in-hand manipulation, anyway?

In-hand manipulation is the ability to manipulate objects in the fingers and hand or adjust an object within the hand after grasping it.

There are three types of in-hand manipulation:

1) Translation – the ability to move an object from the fingers to the palm or from the palm to the fingers.  An example of this would be picking up a penny and moving it into the palm of the hand, and then manipulating it back to the thumb and fingers to put it in a bank. This skill starts to develop between the ages of 1.5 to 2.5 years old.

2) Rotation – the ability to rotate or turn an object in the pad of the fingers. Simple rotation could be turning a bead so you can put something through the hole. More complex rotation might be making “meatballs” with playdough within one hand using the thumb and fingers.  (This is one is always a challenge for my kids!)

3) Shift – the thumb and fingers manipulate an object in a linear movement after it’s been grasped.  Think of picking up a pencil near the eraser and then “shifting” or “walking” the fingers up toward the point.  (developing between 4 to 5 years)

What to Look For:

When you’re looking at a child’s in-hand manipulation skills, it’s important to note their speed and accuracy. I find that a lot of my kids drop things or “stumble” through in-hand manipulation tasks. Their speed and accuracy improve with natural development but lots of fine motor and manipulation activities are always helpful in pushing these skills along!

Kids who still haven’t developed in-hand manipulation often use compensatory strategies to accomplish the task in front of them. For instance, if they are trying to manipulate a peg into a pegboard, but it’s upside down, they may touch it to their chest to turn it. This is because they don’t have the higher-level manipulation skills to turn it within their hand.

Other compensatory strategies to look for:

  • -dropping the pegs or coins to pick them up in a different way
  • using their other hand to turn the object
  • picking up one object at a time

How do you know if they are making progress?

I like to use progress monitoring sheets to keep track of my kids’ manipulation skills.  These allow me to easily check off what activity I used, what goal I targeted, AND how my student did! 

Progress monitoring and keeping data are an important way to measure how and if your students are making progress. 

This printable Manipulation Activity Packet includes a simple tracking sheet that allows you to keep data while staying focused on your child and the exciting fine motor challenge at hand. 

fine motor, manipulation skills, progress monitoring, data tracking,
The Manipulation Dot Activity Packet is perfect for home or the classroom. Get 25 pages of fine motor activities and countless ways to address your goals. Use the progress monitoring sheet to track your child’s improvements.

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An “Old O.T.’s” Advice for other “School O.T.s”

Forward from Miss Jaime, O.T.:  When I first graduated from OT school, I got a job working as a contract therapist in a public school.  I had no supervisor, no mentor, and no one to ask questions.

Thank goodness, I ended up placed in a school with such a large caseload that there was also another (more experienced) OT.   She took me under her wing and offered me informal mentorship and much invaluable advice as a colleague and friend.

I left that agency very soon to get a district job, but I am forever grateful to my first mentor, Diane Fine, Occupational Therapy Extraordinaire.  Twenty years later, Diane still works for that agency in that building and has generously offered to share her experiences and advice to new school OTs in the field. Continue reading

Miss Jaime, O.T.’s Favorite Sensory Gifts 2018!

Sensory kids can be tricky. 

Different kids can like or dislike different sensations.  I like to recommend weighted things because I find that they can be calming and grounding for children who are sensory seeking, anxious, impulsive, or hyperactive. They can also be used as “heavy work” for kids who need to “wake up” or get moving.

Picking out a gift can be so frustrating.

This year I thought I’d make a quick list of my top favorite NEW sensory toys – ones that are unique and probably not already in your child’s toy box.

Affiliate links have been included for your convenience.

A Weighted Teddy Bear

This weighted teddy bear is too adorable.  It looks like a typical toy but provides a weighted sensation which can be comforting.  Check it out!

 

 

A Weighted Cap

This weighted cap is so cool! I love that it looks just like a regular hat, but it is weighted to provide extra input to the head.  Such a brilliant idea! Learn more here.

 

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The All In One Magic Magnetized Shoe-Tying Miracle

“How am I supposed to teach him to tie his shoes?”
The Occupational Therapy student’s cheeks were pink.  A concerned look creased her face.

Self-doubt was creeping in. I understood.

Sometimes you get a child on your caseload that seems to have a lot of obstacles to face, just to live a normal independent life.

This little boy was no exception.  Charlie was born with amniotic banding, a rare condition caused by fibrous strands of the amniotic sac entangling the limbs or other parts of the body, which can cause deformities in utero.  In Charlie’s case, he was born without his left hand.

How do you teach bilateral skills like cutting, buttoning, and tying to a child with only one hand?  

You adapt.   And you teach them to adapt.  There’s always a way.

    • Every child deserves to live a full and happy life.
    • They deserve to be independent.
    • And they deserve to accomplish typical milestones, such as tying their shoes for the first time.

I love to use adaptive tools to make these mountainous challenges just a bit easier for my little guys.    So I was super excited to tell my OT student about Zubits.

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“Cookie Cutter Therapy”- Why it’s OK with me….

The other day I did an autumn arts and crafts project with all of the students on my caseload.

Every. Single. One.

Kindergartners as well as fourth graders.

Very often we hear about the problem of a “cookie cutter therapist”.

Meaning – a therapist that does one thing with every single student regardless of their goals or deficit areas.

A lot of people have a problem with this and so do I – sometimes.

I might sound like I’m contradicting myself because I said I’m OK with doing the same activity with every single student but here’s the thing:

One of an occupational therapist’s best and greatest qualities is creativity and flexibility. Teachers have this gift, too!

Every single child has different goals – so tweak that activity to work for them!

Change it Up!

Here are some ways to tweak this simple fall craft.

  • For really weak fine motor skills, take one piece of tissue paper in each hand. Hold the student’s hands up in the air like a “Y”. Crunch the tissues into little balls without using his other hand or his chin or even his belly to help with the crunching.
  • To work on mid crossing midline; place the paper to the other side of the student’s body.  Put the helping hand on vacation (meaning behind his back). His dominant hand has to crossover in order to glue on the leaves of the tree.
  • My student with weak grip strength had to use a clothespin to pick up each tissue ball and place it on the tree.
  • My student with really poor scissor skills had to cut the tissue before he crunched. He also cut a piece of green construction paper to make grass for the bottom of his picture.

So – if you were a random person standing at the door of my occupational therapy room, you’d see every student come out with a picture of a tree with different colored fall leaves on it.

It might look like I’m doing cookie cutter therapy but I’m not.

It’s ok to re-use an Idea

My point is – give yourself a break! It’s OK to do the same or similar activity with different students.

Just use your creative mind to tweak it to work for that student and the needs of that student.

For teachers, this may mean creating groups of students who will complete the task in a different way. For example, the red table will use clothespins to pick up the leaves and the blue table has to crunch with two hands in the air in the shape of a Y.

Once you give yourself permission to do one activity with all the kids; you’ll see how easy it is to change it up.

Need an AMAZING Activity to do with your kids this week?

For a limited time, get a FREE E-Book of Sensory Recipes!

FREE SENSORY RECIPES E-BOOK

Available this week only!

It’s only available this week, so don’t miss it!

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For the Hardworking Therapists Who Work With Children with Special Needs

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I’m sure you’ve heard of Mom guilt, Daughter Guilt, and Irish Guilt, but have you ever heard of Therapist Guilt?

I may have invented it…

You’ve probably read letters and blog posts written toward the parents of children with special needs; talking about how strong they are and how hard they work to help their children.

It’s true.  But many of those selfless parents still have “The Guilts”.

WHAT ARE “THE GUILTS”?

When you have “the guilts”,  there is always something you feel guilty about.   It could be about not having a spic-n-span house, not being able to go to loud family events, or losing your patience with a child with special needs.  The guilt is always there.

It’s often there for therapists, too.

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6 Things You Should Know about Primitive Reflexes

I’m still buzzing from all the amazing things I’m learning in the Primitive Reflexes E-course. As an affiliate for the program, I can whole-heartedly recommend this course – not just for therapists but parents and teachers, too!

*This post contains affiliate links for your conveinence

You’ve got to check out this course.

I’m the first to admit I didn’t know a lot about retained Primitive Reflexes – the school-based framework is more about “fixing what’s in front of you” rather than digging deep for the underlying causes of certain behaviors.

But I have to admit- I’m hooked.

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