OT Teacher Tips


 Dysgraphia
  • Build handwriting instruction into the student's schedule. The details and degree of independence will depend on the student's age and attitude, but many students would like to have better handwriting if they could.
  • If the writing problem is severe enough, the student may benefit from a laptop keyboard or portable word processor.
  • Keep in mind that handwriting habits are entrenched early. Before engaging in a battle over a student's grip or whether they should be writing in cursive or print, consider whether enforcing a change in habits will eventually make the writing task a lot easier for the student, or whether this is a chance for the student to make his or her own choices.
  • Teach alternative handwriting methods such as "Handwriting Without Tears" and kinesthetic handwriting learning techniques.
  • Consider teaching cursive early if the child has picked up many bad habits with printing. Try “Loops and Other Groups” or traditional cursive first, since all the letters start at the baseline. Then, try “Handwriting Without Tears” cursive.
  • Even if the student employs accommodations for writing, and uses a word processor for most work, it is still important to develop and maintain legible writing. Consider balancing accommodations and modifications in content area work with continued work on handwriting or other written language skills. For example, a student for whom you are not going to grade spelling or neatness on certain assignments may be required to add a page of spelling or handwriting practice to his portfolio.
 

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 Kinesthetic Learning
The following are various methods used to facilitate learning of proper letter, number and shape formation.
  • Air writing (visual/kinesthesia) - draw shapes or write letters with large arm movements with and without vision.
  • Mystery writing (visual/kinesthesia) - the teacher or peer moves the student’s hand to form shapes or letters on blackboard or in the air and student guesses what was drawn.
  • Rainbow writing (motor memory/visual) - trace over shapes/letters or numbers several times with different colors (crayons/markers on paper or chalk on board)
  • Tactile writing (proprioceptive/tactile/kinesthesia) - trace shapes, letters, or numbers on carpet square, sandpaper, shaving cream, window screens, foil, finger paints, sand, pudding, Cool Whip, etc.
  • Vibrating pen (proprioceptive/kinesthesia) - practice shapes or letters while getting good sensory feedback.
  • Constructional writing (proprioceptive/kinesthesia/tactile) - construct basic lines/shapes on a color board or flannel board using Wikki Stix, play dough, pre-cut flannel pieces, etc.
 

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 Quick Fixes
  • Use pencil grips on pencils to teach & practice correct finger placement: The Pencil Grip or Stetro Grip.
  • Have student hold a novelty eraser tucked under the ring and little fingers while writing, cutting, drawing or using manipulatives. This promotes the use of the thumb, middle and index finger for skilled movement and the ring and little fingers to support the hand.
  • Sharpen or break pencils down to about 2 inches in length to encourage efficient pencil grasp and better control of the pencil.
  • Place Cylindrical Foam sleeves that are approximately an inch long on writing utensils to increase the diameter and promote proper finger placement.
  • Use a masking tape outline on the desktop to indicate how paper should be slanted.
  • If the student writes with too much pressure on the pencil, have him/her write with a 0.5 lead mechanical pencil and/or have him/her write with their paper on a carpet square or placemat. These techniques will teach a student how to vary the pressure used on the pencil to avoid breaking the lead or putting holes in the paper.
  • If a student writes with a “hooked wrist”, have them do written work on a vertical surface just above eye level.
 

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 Posture and Stability
  • Look at correct sitting posture and appropriate chair and table heights. A child’s feet should be flat on the floor and the desktop should be 2 inches above the bent elbow.
  • Use the 90 - 90 - 90 rule. Ankles, hips, and knees should be bent to a 90-degree angle for appropriate sitting posture.
  • If table is too high, elbows will be up and out to sides. If table is too low, the child will slump in their chair or rest their head on their hand.
  • Use footstool to support feet if the child’s feet do not rest flat on the floor. Allow students to work in various positions other than seated (standing at a vertical surface, lying on the floor propped on elbows). Do warm-up activities to provide kinesthetic input to large and small muscles groups (Jumping jacks, Dancing Finger songs, Donkey Kicks or Animal Walks).
 

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 Vertical Surfaces
  • Working on a vertical surface promotes the wrist extension and shoulder stability necessary for control of the fine movements involved in writing.
    When working on a vertical surface, paper or work should be positioned just above eye level.
  • Examples of ways to incorporate vertical surfaces into your classroom:
    • Let the children write/draw on easels, white boards and/or chalkboards.
    • Desktop slant boards can be used for individual work at the desk.
    • You can also place a 4-5 inch empty 3-ring binder on the desk for incline. Position the binder with the rings toward the top of the desk and the slant toward the child. Then rotate the binder to a 45-degree angle. Consult with your occupational therapist on any questions you may have.
    • Have your students draw or write on paper taped to the wall.
 

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 Pencil Grasp
  • An efficient grasp the pencil is held between the pads of the thumb and index finger while resting on the middle finger. An acceptable variation of this is when the pencil is held between the pads of the thumb and index/middle fingers while resting on the ring finger. The pencil can also be held between the index and middle fingers, in opposition with the thumb.
  • If a child is using an efficient grasp, their thumb and index finger should form a circular shape.
  • An inefficient grasp can include any of the following: fisted grasp, pencil held between the pads of the thumb and all four fingers, thumb wrapped over the top of the index and middle fingers, thumb tucked under the index finger, the hand held in a thumb down position, index and middle fingers wrapped around the pencil, or thumb pressing the pencil into the side of the index finger (thumb and index do not form a circular shape).

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