back to school tricks

5 Back to School Tips Every Parent and Teacher Should Know

I can’t believe that Back to School is around the corner.   In honor of back to school this year, I’ve decided to share my 5 best back to school tips!  They may seem simple, but they work!  So here goes!

 

1) For the child who doesn’t hold their pencil correctly…

This is a great tip for kindergarten, first, and second-grade teachers.   Kids still need reminders to hold their pencils correctly.  Why not make it fun?  Rather than spending money on an expensive pencil grip that the kids lose, chew, and pick apart; simply take a sharpie and use it to make a face on each pencil.  For the Kindergarten teacher who spends an hour sharpening every pencil to get ready for the first day of school, this should only take another ten minutes.   For the mom of the child who needs reminders, it takes 30 seconds.  And it works!

  pencil grip trick
Drawing a face on the pencil is a simple visual cue. Kids love it when I ask them what kind of face they want: girl or boy? happy or sad?, etc.
pencil grip tricks,
The thumb goes on one eye, index goes on the other. It’s a quick trick that works wonders!

 

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Ask An OT: How to desensitize a child’s skin…

theresa2

Ask Miss Jaime OT!

~from Theresa Allender in Seattle, Washington:

How to  Desensitize Skin…

Question:
“My four year old has a super sensitive body. She is uncomfortable with kisses and hugs, she will only wear certain clothes because of how they feel, she is the same about shoes, it’s uncomfortable for her to have her head washed, etc. I was wondering if I could desensitize her to make her more comfortable in her skin.

Also, is this hypersensitive body related to her inability to hear others around her sometimes? For example it seems like she is blocking people out on purpose but she is genuinely startled to be tapped on the shoulder or yelled at for not responding.”

Answer:

Thanks for writing in Theresa!  It sounds like your daughter has tactile and auditory hypersensitivity.  Sensory processing difficulties are very difficult to pinpoint without an assessment.  Even with an assessment, many children’s sensory issues change from morning to night, day to day, or season to season. What bothers them one day may not bother them the next.  Your daughter sounds pretty consistent, which may be helpful in figuring out how to help her.   In terms of “desensitizing” her, you could try massage.  A friend of mine is a Massage Therapist and she happens to work with children.  She says that gentle massage every night after a bath would really help the desensitization process.    You know what your daughter can tolerate, but start slow and gentle with some lotion.  She said that one very important thing is to decrease the time significantly for a child.  Start with five to ten minutes if she can tolerate it and then try to increase it.  But even 20 to 30 minutes total is a great accomplishment and will help to start the desensitization process.  You could try some lavender or pleasant smelling lotion if you think she would like it. If not, go plain.  If you already do this, systematically make your massage a little longer.  Then you can try pressing more firmly, etc.  If she has very sensitive spots, avoid them.  After you brush her hair, you could gently massage her scalp while you talk to her.   If the massage becomes ok, you can “step it up” by using a soft washcloth for the massage, or follow up the lotion with a “drying” massage with a towel or soft cloth.

Pediatric massage can help improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and improve aversion to touch.  It’s also great for improving the parent/child bond.

As for the second part of your question, children who are hypersensitive to auditory stimuli may appear not to hear you because they don’t hear you.  Children who have auditory hypersensitivity will hear every little thing around them, which may limit them from hearing something closer.  Leaves blowing outside, the sirens blowing two blocks away, or the hum of the air conditioner are competing with the voice of Mom.  All of these background noises can be hard for a child with auditory hypersensitivity to “tune out”.  This means that these background noises may be equal or more pronounced than closer noises like mom calling her name.   So it makes it hard for her to respond at times.  Often children learn how to self-modulate so that they can “tune out” the background stuff.  If it’s really impacting her, you could consider a “Therapeutic Listening” program.   You would need to find a therapist who is certified in it, but it seems pretty cool.  Check out this link for more info:

http://www.vitallinks.net/

or you could look at this You Tube Video to get an idea of what it’s all about:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oINBi8zRQUc 

Thanks for taking the time to “Ask an OT”!  If my readers have any other advice for Theresa & her beautiful daughter Maya, please comment!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for stopping by!

~  Miss Jaime, OT

If you have a question for Miss Jaime, O.T., please leave a comment on this page or go to “About Me” and leave your question.   Thanks!

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The “Real” Reasons Your Kid Can’t Tie Yet!

 

There is so much going on in the news in regards to education these days.  The Common Core Craze has changed the way teachers teach and Kindergarten is the new second grade.  That said, there are many things that teachers are teaching that are not remotely on our politicians radar.  Manners, character, and self care skills are just a few.  However, the list is endless.

Anyway, learning how to tie your own shoes is a rite of passage that turns your child into a “big girl” or a “big boy”.  Think back to when you were little and you learned how to tie.  I would bet that your parents or older sibling taught you how to tie.  It takes practice and a certain amount of motivation.  Both the adult and the child need to be motivated in order for the child to learn the skill.  The adult is usually motivated to get the child to tie for themselves so A) they aren’t tripping on their laces and B) so there is one less thing for the grown up to do.  The child is usually motivated to tie because they are excited to be a “big kid”.

When are children ready to tie?

Some children are ready to tie before they even start kindergarten.  Many are ready to learn in their kindergarten year.  Keep in mind this means children who are four and a half and five years old.  It always concerns me when I see a third grader in the halls with untied shoes and when I ask them to tie their shoes for safety, they end up telling me that no one ever showed them how.  It’s easy to buy slip on shoes and Velcro, but kids still need to learn how to tie.  I think sometimes it simply slips parents minds that they need to teach this skill, just like zipping, wiping and washing hands in the bathroom and using a fork and spoon.  Life is hectic and busy, but before you know it you have a ten year old who can’t tie.  Uh-oh!

Of course, some children have motor or learning difficulties that interfere with their ability to easily acquire this skill.  When this is the case, an Occupational Therapist may be the one who ends up teaching them, which is totally appropriate.  If you have a child that receives OT and you are concerned about their ability to perform self care skills, definitely let the OT know.  You may think that the OT should automatically know this or look at this, but the truth is that school based OTs are really supposed to work on skills that directly impact a child’s education.  Not just handwriting (MYTH!) but copying from the board, visual processing, motor coordination, using two hands to manipulate school tools and many other things that affect a child’s ability to learn the curriculum.

I’ve had parents ask me to work on riding a bike, because their child can’t ride with the family or the kids in the neighborhood.  That stinks! An OT will absolutely know how to teach a child to ride a bike, because it’s all about balance, coordination and motor planning.  However, riding a bike has nothing to do with school.  I always feel bad when I explain this to a parent.  I can work on motor planning, coordination and balance, but bicycles are on the other side of the line.

Untied shoes can be a safety issue for a child with special needs.  Shoe-tying is a self care skill and that is school appropriate. So children who have motor or learning difficulties may end up learning how to tie at school.   Everyone else will (hopefully) learn at home.  I think I’ve taught at least a hundred kids to tie over the years.  And I’ve found that there are a few simple reasons why it’s so hard for some kids to tie.

Postural stability

Children who are low tone or have weak core muscles have a very hard time holding their trunk upright and managing the steps to tie. Even children who are simply young have trouble with this.  It’s just too many things to conquer.  You may notice that your child will use one hand to kind of hold themselves up.  This obviously interferes with the ability to tie because they need to manage both laces.

The easiest way to fix this problem is to have the child sit with their back against a wall or something flat.  Try to get them to put their bottom all the way to the back of the wall. Kids often round their backs and scoot their bottoms forward, which provides less support.

20150123_163726

Notice how she is propped against the cabinet and her left leg is tucked out of the way

Positioning

So now the child is seated with their back against a wall.  What next?  Have you ever tried to do that thing where you tap your head and rub your belly at the same time?  This takes a lot of motor planning and the ability to do different things with different body parts at the same time.  Tough Stuff.  So the next tricky thing is getting the child’s body in a position that makes it easy to manage reaching their feet.   We already took care of their trunk by propping it against the wall.  Now we need to get their legs in a good position.  Decide what shoe you want to tie.  Then tuck the other leg underneath and out of the way.  Bend the knee of the tying foot up towards the chin.  The hard part here will be getting the knee to stay there.  I sometimes tell my kids that they should rest their chin on that knee.  It helps keep it in place.  For kids who are a little chunky, the knee usually falls to the side.  This also happens to kids who are low tone.  The only problem with this is that now, the bow will be on the Inside of the foot, instead of the Middle of the foot on top of the tongue.  Although this isn’t the biggest problem in the world, it’s harder to tie because the laces aren’t the same length anymore. Also, the laces will probably dangle on the inside of the foot, making it more likely that the child will trip on them or step on them. So get that knee under the chin.

20150123_163925

Having the child place the chin on the knee keeps the leg and the bow nice and straight.

Bilateral Coordination

Some children still don’t have great bilateral coordination at the age of 5. Bilateral coordination is the ability to use two sides of your body at once. Sometimes it is hard for a child to keep their first hand holding the loop while the second hand does the next step.  I always tell the child “you have to hold onto the bunny, or he will hop away!”  As I said before, sometimes a child will take that hand away and lean on it, using it as a support.  That goes back to the postural control and positioning.  It can be hard to tell why they are taking that first hand away (difficulty with using two hands at once?  or the need to hold themselves up?) but if you get them against a wall in the right position, you may eliminate that urge to take the hand off the loop and put it behind them.

 The Laces

Length -Children’s laces should be the right length, of course.  But  very often they aren’t.  At least they aren’t the right length for a kid who is learning how to tie.  The  laces should be long enough to give the child some leeway as they are learning.  But they can’t be too long or it becomes a big mess AND they will trip on them even after they are tied.  So what is the perfect lace length?  It depends on the size of the shoe, but I recommend that the  laces should be between 11-13 inches long from the tongue (after the shoes are laced).  The Dollar Tree sells packs of laces for a dollar in all different sizes.  If your laces are too short or too long, you really should get a new pair of laces.  It makes a world of difference.  For some reason, kids want to hold the first loop or “bunny ear” with their whole fist, instead of pinching it with their two fingers.  If the laces are too short, they disappear in that little hand.  You need laces that are long enough to work with.

Texture – Now this may seem ridiculous, but it’s really true.  Some of the new funky sneakers come with cool laces that are just too silky!  They are usually round, too.   I prefer the plain old flat cotton laces. They tie easily and they stay tied.  The silky ones tie, but because of their round shape and silky texture, they come united right away.  Little kids usually don’t have great hand strength to tie the final bow super tight.  Those silky laces are like Houdini.  Out of that knot in a few minutes.

Visual Attention 

For some children, half the battle is getting their eyes to look at what they are doing.  For children with very poor visual attention, I recommend teaching one step at a time.  I find that children who are motivated and feeling successful do much better with keeping their eyes on what they are doing. By teaching only step one over and over a few times, the child learns it and then feels successful.  Feeling like something is achievable or within their reach makes it more enticing and may help with the visual focus a bit.

Visual Perception

Some OT catalogs sell toys, books, and other gadgets with laces that are two colors.  This is great for kids whop rely heavily on visual feedback.  I really prefer to teach kids to tie on their foot though.  Otherwise you end up teaching them twice.

shoes

Just one of the many tools out there with different colored laces….

If your child has difficulty with left/right or spatial concepts such as over/under, it may help to use different colored laces.  Buy two colors that are the same length.  Then cut them both in half and tie them back together with the opposite color.  Lace the shoe so the knot is at the bottom in between the first two holes.  Now when you are helping your child you can say, “the pink lace” rather than left, right, this one, that one, etc.  It just takes away one more obstacle.

Sequencing and Motor Planning

Sometimes the real problem is remembering the steps.  I like to use a story or a poem to help the child because it helps them to remember what happens next.  I prefer to use the one loop method but you can teach it however you like.  There are so many different versions of how to teach it but if you get their body in a good supported position with the other leg out of the way, you are halfway there.

I use the bunny and the snake story. First you make the letter X.  I teach the child to make the X on the shoe, not in the air, because it is more work to hold the two laces up and manipulate them than to leave them down.  Then I help the child find the lace on top.  (This is where the two colors come in handy).  The lace that is on top goes underneath and into the middle. If you tied it correctly, it should look like a piece of twisty macaroni.

rotelli

Now the child has to make a loop.  This is the bunny, who sits on “macaroni hill”.   I always talk to kids about how bunnies hop on the ground, so it’s important that he doesn’t look like a flying balloon. “Bunnies don’t fly!” Don’t forget to give the bunny a nice long tail.  The other lace is the snake.  Depending on the child, you can make the snake mean and hungry (you can guess the end) or nice.  I like to have a snake in the story because I can tell the child that the end of the lace (the plastic part) is the snake’s face.  This helps them remember that they need to work with the snake’s belly, not his face, in the middle of the story.  “He might bite you!  Don’t touch his face.  Be Careful!”

The snake decides to sneak up behind the bunny.  This part of the story helps a child to remember where the lace needs to go.  “You would never walk in front of the bunny if you were trying to be sneaky…”  Then the snake loops around and hides his face in the forest.  This is the hard part for a lot of kids.  They keep wanting to pick up the end of the lace. “Watch out!  He’ll bite you.  Not his face, grab his belly!”

The snake pushes his belly through the hole that he made when he walked around.  I tell the child  to “pinch the snakes belly”.  The other hand hops to the top of the bunny ear and then both hands pull.  You can have the snake hug the bunny and invite him to lunch (awww) or eat the bunny for lunch (ewww).  You will know what your child will like and remember.

20150123_163925 (1)

It doesn’t matter what story or method you use.  But having a story with steps that help a child to sequence and motor plan their movements  really helps.

I really hope these insights will help you to help your child to tie!  Please comment and tell us if you have any other good tips! Good Luck!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thanks for stopping by!

~Miss Jaime, OT

 

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Shoulder stability: a necessity for good fine motor skills!

Shoulder stability provides an important foundation for fine motor skills!

It’s really the first thing I look at as an OT when a teacher asks me to “screen” a child for OT difficulties.  Shoulder stability should be established by the time a child starts kindergarten.

When it isn’t, it can lead to difficulties in the classroom, especially for writing and drawing.

What you need to know about child development…

“Shoulder Stability”

This toddler has her arm up off the table - that demonstrates lack of shoulder stability.

This toddler has her arm up off the table – that demonstrates lack of shoulder stability.

Do you remember when you first started coloring?

Toddlers use their whole arm to scribble. Then, as the child progresses developmentally, they begin to rest their forearm on the table. This helps them to start using their hand and fingers (instead of their shoulder and arm) to control the crayon.

They develop the ability to keep their shoulder stable during fine motor activities, which helps them to use the small muscles of their hand. This is called shoulder stability. Shoulder stability is an important developmental milestone for children who are learning to color and write. A child should be able to rest their arm on the table and use only their fingers to move the pencil by the time they enter kindergarten.  Check out your child – is their elbow off the table?  Are they moving their pencil with their fingers or their whole arm?

Interesting Fact:

Babies who don’t crawl for very long or can’t tolerate “tummy time” are often delayed in developing shoulder stability. This makes it harder for them to learn how to write. As they reach first or second grade, they often complain that they are too tired or that their arm hurts during writing assignments. That’s because they are using their entire arm to try to make a tiny letter, which is very hard work!

prone tummy time stability

Tummy time is really important as a baby. It helps children to develop shoulder stability and good fine motor skills down the road.


core strength, shoulder stability,

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So what can you do to help?

Encourage your child or your student to write on a vertical surface, such as a chalkboard or a dry erase board. Tape a worksheet to the board or a wall and let them write standing up. Did you know that they make the chalkboard and dry erase contact paper?  This is a great way to encourage shoulder stability.  The child will lean on the wall which forces them to use their fingers! Give your student a slant board or a six-inch binder that slants downward to the child.  This forces the wrist to extend upward, forcing the fingers to do the work. For younger children, encourage laying on the tummy to read, play games, do puzzles. Encourage crawling, wheelbarrow walking and using their arms to hold their body up.

tunnel, stability stability, crawling
stability on a vertical surface wall coloring, stability

Writing on the Wall is a Big Help!

Laying on your belly to color and play helps to develop shoulder stability

Tummy Time Works!  Here is my one of my success stories.  Look at that perfect Shoulder Stability!

One of my favorite students who spent A LOT of time on his belly with me. Mom followed through at home and NOW he is a Kindergarten Success Story!

One of my favorite students who spent A LOT of time on his belly with me. Mom followed through at home and NOW he is a Kindergarten Success Story!

I hope you try some of these techniques – remember developmental progress takes time and patience, but it happens!

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Scissors tricks- 5 tips to help your child

Scissors skills, fine motor skills 

5 Tricks to help your  child with cutting

1.   Thumbs up for good cutting!  

Teach your child that  “thumbs up” means “good job”. Then, show them that in order to cut properly, both hands should be “thumbs up” or “thumbs on top”. Most parents don’t realize that their child is”thumbs down” on the hand that holds the paper.

In order to have the best control, both thumbs should be facing up.

scissors, scissors skills, cutting tricks, fine motor

 2.  Elbows in!

Many children use their whole arm when they only need their hands. This is a sign that they are still developing shoulder stability.  You’ll notice that they may stick their elbow out,  instead of keeping it stable by their body. This is a sign that they are compensating for weak upper body strength and stability.  You can help this along by having your child spend more time on their belly when reading or doing puzzles, etc.  In the meantime when they are cutting, remind them “elbows tucked in”.  This will give them better control.

scissors skills

3.  Right side up! 

cutting, scissors, fine motor, scissors skills, cutting tricks

If your child consistently forgets to hold the scissors right side up with their thumb in the little hole, make it fun by drawing a face on their thumb or their thumbnail before they begin cutting.  Tell them that the thumb is the bus driver.  He sits in the front seat (small window)  by himself.  The rest of the fingers are the kids, they sit in the back together.  Most kids like this trick.

If they still have trouble after a few times, you can also try gluing or drawing eyes on the “little hole”.  This way, when your little one picks up the scissors, the eyes are “watching him”.  Hot glue does not last very long on plastic, but that’s ok! Hopefully, by the time the googly eyes fall off, your child will have developed the proper habit.

4. The writing hand is the cutting hand!

Children should have developed their hand dominance by the time they are four.  However, sometimes they may still switch for certain activities.  With scissors, I find that lefties often switch to “righty” to cut because the blades of typical scissors work better when cutting with the right hand. (Most lefty scissors have the blades reversed – who knew!?)  Some parents buy their child a lefty scissors to make it easier.  I highly suggest this!

But they may still switch hands.

If your child is switching hands, encourage them to use their dominant hand.  If you aren’t sure whether they are lefty or righty,  watch which hand they use to pick up their fork, crayon, or a toy.   Place objects in the middle of their body and see which hand they prefer.  Once your child has chosen a hand, encourage that hand for cutting, coloring, and using a fork.   One tip to help them remember is to use a tattoo!  Put a removable tattoo on your child’s dominant hand as a “reminder”.  Kids love tattoos and it’s an easy fix.


 5.  Get those muscles strong! 

One of the reasons that cutting is difficult for children is that they have to separate the two sides (pinky and thumb) of their hand.  This is hard work, and sometimes hard work is NOT fun.  If your little guy gets frustrated with cutting, work on their hand strength with other activities that work the same muscles.  This way, the muscles are getting stronger while your child is having fun doing something “different”.  Here are some simple everyday activities that develop separation of the two sides of the hand:

1) Fill an empty spray bottle with water and let your children spray the plants, the car, the chalk off the driveway!

2) Bring it to the beach or the pool and let your children spray you, themselves, or each other when they get hot!

3)  Same goes for old fashioned (trigger style) water guns.

4) Use your old tweezers to pick up beans, beads, or anything small.

5) Use Spaghetti  Tongs to pick up all the dirty laundry (or anything else) off the floor.

5) Use an old sock to make a sock puppet – draw a mouth and a face so your child practices “opening and shutting” the mouth as he talks.

scissors skills, fine motor

Hope these simple tricks help you to help your child with the tough task of learning how to cut!  Good Luck!

#functionalskillsforkids, toileting, potty training

~Miss Jaime, O.T.

 

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