Vision Skills: Can you see them?

 

Vision Skills: Can You See Them? www.handwritingwithkatherine.com
It is important to protect your child’s vision!

 

The next time you are sitting among a group of children, take a look around and see if you can pick out those who have a vision problem.  Now, setting aside eyesight, as it is only one of the 17 visual skills we use each day, don’t count those wearing glasses.  They are obviously living with a visual issue.  But, what about the others?
 
 
You may be surprised to learn that about 25% of children are experiencing a vision problem, with 11.5% of teenagers living with an undetected or untreated vision issue.   But, when you surveyed the group of children, were you able to tell which of them needed help?  Don’t feel badly.  I wouldn’t be able to pick them out that easily either.  Vision skills can be “invisible” and difficult to detect.  But, if you have just a small bit of information, you can uncover the behaviors that indicate that a vision problem may exit.  These are the “Vision Red Flags.”  And we are going to chat about them right now!

 

FIRST, THE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT VISION HEALTH!

 
Simply put, we should discuss vision health because approximately 80% of the learning that a child does occurs through his eyes.
1.  Reading
– plays a key role in learning through the gathering of information.
– requires efficient visual skills to see both near and far clearly, and to switch between the two effectively (e.g., copying from the board).
– demands efficient eye movements to follow a line of print or scan a page for information.
– demands that a reader interpret and accurately process the information he is seeing (visual perceptual skills).
2.  Handwriting

Basic Strokes - Universal Handwriting Program
Basic Strokes – Universal Handwriting Program
– plays a key role in learning through the communication of knowledge and ideas.
– requires efficient visual skills to learn and remember letter and word formations.
– demands accurate spatial awareness to produce a legible product.
– requires good posture to facilitate a fluid handwriting style.
3.  Everyday Activities
– require efficient coordinated eye movements for using our two hands together to tie our shoes or to write in a notebook.
– demand accurate tracking and scanning skills to play sports, video games, or work on the computer.
–  require good visual perceptual skills to help us navigate our environment, drive a car, or ride a bicycle.
– demand good visual attention skills for following a schedule, participating in school and work, or to remember information we have read.
 
Vision skills can work well only if we have taken the time to “see” if they are in good working order.

NEXT, THE WAYS THAT WE CAN SPOT VISION PROBLEMS!

Vision Red Flags Checklist
A free Vision Red Flags Checklist!

 

 

It is simple, really!  Spotting the red flags that indicate the possibility of a vision problem can be done just by watching a child “in action.”  Observe him as he participates in his normal activities:  eating, dressing, reading, writing, and playing.  As you do, note if you observe any of the following behaviors:

 
 
 
Does he:
– stumble or walk into walls as he explores familiar environments?
– appear awkward during running or climbing activities?
– have difficulty with coordinated movement sequences (e.g., Simon Says or playing soccer)?
– walk on his toes frequently?
– have difficulty recognizing right/left, up/down directions (on himself or in games)?
– hold a crayon or pencil awkwardly, at times switching hands?
– apply too much or too little pressure on a coloring or writing tool?
– lean on his hand, rest his head on the desk, or lean in close to his work?
– rub his eyes or forehead or put his hands over his eyes periodically during close work?
– appear to be looking through you or avoiding eye contact during activities he enjoys?
 
Also take a look at his eyes for these movement behaviors:
 – Does one or both of his eyes drift in or out, either consistently or inconsistently?
– Do you observe fast movements of his eyes, either with or without engagement in a movement activity?
– Is there tearing or redness of the eyes?
– Does he demonstrate excessive blinking or squinting?
 
If one or more of these behaviors exist, especially these last movement behaviors, it would be a good idea to have his vision assessed by a developmental optometrist to determine their source.
 
And just so you can record your observations, I’ve included a free download on my website, “Vision Red Flags Checklist,” that can be used by parents, teachers, and caregivers during everyday activities!
 
It is important to note that school vision screenings routinely check children’s distance vision – what we refer to as 20/20 on the eye chart.  This exam is used to refer children for glasses if they complain of blurry far-away vision and/or can’t eye-charts All About Visionsee the board from the back of the room.   For most pediatricians, this is the same situation. 
Children’s vision, to be accurately assessed, should have the attention of a developmental optometrist.
 
For more information about the importance of vision assessments, when your child should receive them, and the free vision assessment available to ALL children ages 6-12 months, please click here:  InfantSee.
 
Well, folks, I hope that this information has helped you to SEE the hidden value of efficient vision skills!
 
As always, thanks for reading!  I look forward to your comments and hope to see you next time!
 
Katherine
 

 

 

The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published by and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine.

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

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Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.


 

Handwriting Skills: Thinking of an app to help with that?

pencil stylus from 53
Apps with pencils!

Any child who has visited my clinic knows full well that my sessions rarely include an electronic toy or game.  The good old fashioned pencil, paper, and chalkboard suffices for me.  We play tons of games using our hands and our eyes with these simple tools.  But, with that said, I have been “converted,” * you might say, to the benefits of including apps in handwriting remediation.  And I have been researching the strategies that apps can present that would allow a handwriting struggler to become a handwriting winner!  Let me share some with you, may I?

Five Essentials for App-licability For Handwriting Success

1.  A Stylus:  Handwriting success depends upon an efficient pencil grasp.  It’s fun to trace letters with our fingers when children are in the early learning stages of letter recognition.  But, when it’s time to put “pencil to paper,” a stylus that resembles the width and length of a pencil will provide children with the correct motor movement patterns for carry over during pencil activities. **

2.  Tactile Input:  Pencil pressure determines our ability to efficiently create a legible letter formation with a pencil during handwriting tasks.  During desk-top activities, we might use sandpaper or tissue paper to allow children to experiment with pencil pressure.  Apps that require children to put pressure on their finger or stylus can provide some of that same input.

3.  Attention Skills:  Handwriting success depends upon our ability to visually attend to the fine-motor demands of paper-and-pencil activities, as well as to use our eyes at both near and far distances (e.g., when copying from the board).  Apps that provide colorful directional guides (e.g, up and down), color-coded guide lines (e.g, top, middle, and bottom lines), and colorful shapes to develop letter formation skills (e.g, circles and lines) can offer practice for attention skill development with near vision tasks.

4.  Spatial Awareness:  Legible handwriting depends upon our ability to determine the correct amount of space between letters, words, and sentences to allow for readability.  Apps that provide ample opportunities for children to use their fingers or a stylus to move objects around the set and to accurately place them within the appropriate space or on the line can help them to understand spatial concepts and apply them during handwriting tasks.

5.  Visual Perceptual Skills:  Handwriting mastery relies heavily upon our ability to “see outside of the box.”  Children can learn visual discrimination (e.g., determining size, likeness, and differences), visual memory (e.g, recall of previously learned letter formations), and figure-ground skills (e.g., ability to focus upon the task at hand while ignoring distractions on the page) with apps that provide hidden pictures or I Spy challenges.

Word Spy works on visual scanning skills!
Word Spy works on visual scanning skills!

Technology is fun.  And I must admit that I have a few games that I love to play on my iPad.  Apps can benefit a child’s handwriting mastery if they are limited to a “supplemental status,” using them as additional practice versus the main focus of the child’s handwriting instruction.

So, let me leave you to App-away!  And let us know which apps you have found to help children master their handwriting skills!

 

 

*Meghan, over at Mac and Toys, offers some excellent suggestions for apps that educate!

**Please note that the Griffin and Pencil 53 are examples of a pencil-style stylus and are not being recommended by this author.  The “I Spy With Lola” and Highlights Kids apps are examples of figure-ground activities and are not being recommended by this author.

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. It can be purchased her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

 
 
 
 
Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Are they simply DRAWING? (Part 3)

Art can enhance writing and handwriting!
Art can enhance writing!

 

 

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

                             Andy Warhol

 

 

 

Welcome back for Part 3 in our discussion about handwriting, our eyes and our hands, and drawing.  Last time, I promised that I would expand our art ideas for handwriting enhancement to include projects for motivation and success with our older students.

 

I’ve chosen these two quotes because they provide a vital link between handwriting struggles and the use of art to help students over the hurdles.  They express my own thoughts about the use of motivation and creativity to inspire children to strive for a higher peak, to reach toward a goal, or to be able to express themselves in many different mediums.  Words can, indeed, evade students who have not mastered handwriting, as we’ve discussed in a previous blog, “What do handwriting and optical illusions have in common?”  The automatic production of letters, the ability to maintain thoughts in short-term memory long enough to get them on paper, and the use of a fluid and fast handwriting style pave the way for writing skills.

And art can create a space for our older children to develop those essential skills.

Let’s find out how we can make that happen, shall we?

 

1.  Focus on handwriting foundational skills.

 
In our previous posts in this series, we have uncovered the underlying skills that link handwriting instruction with writing success.  I’ll take a moment to list them here:
Visual Perceptual Skills:  The Keys to Learning and Handwriting Mastery
Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning
 
1.  Visual Motor
2.  Visual Perception
3.  Fine Motor
4.  Trunk Control
5.  Shoulder Stability
 
 
For a review on these skills, you can check out Part 2 in our series, where we matched them up with art project for our little ones.  Work on these same skills can be included in many fun and creative art projects for 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th grade and beyond!  Let’s go exploring!
 

2.  Create a space for independence and experimentation.

 
The use of art to enhance handwriting skills must not (I repeat) must not walk, talk, or look like handwriting practice!  Letter formation worksheets have no place in an art center.  The use of art for handwriting mastery should be presented as an opportunity to experiment with different mediums, to create without judgment (from within or without), and to express thoughts and ideas. 
 
Collages are great for fine motor skill development for handwriting!
Collages are great for fine motor skill development!

wrist, hand, and finger strengthening work.  They can open the door to creative thinking and expression if you allow the artists to “make it theirs” with adaptations!  The Sticky Note Crafts can provide further fine motor skill enhancement if you substitute light card stock and glue for the Sticky Notes.  (Lots less expensive, as well!)

 

 

 

  • Sneak in the handwriting practice with projects that link visual art creativity with writing skills.  The Dreaming Story is such a wonderful project, offering fine motor, visual motor, and handwriting practice – as well as writing skill development!  I wish I had created this one!
The Dreaming Story from Art Projects for Kids is great for developing handwriting skills!
The Dreaming Story from Art Projects for Kids

 

  • Visual Perceptual skills are quiet and elusive, needing a bit of a nudge to present themselves for enhancement.  Sketching, graphic design, and learn to draw books and activities utilize visual perceptual skills to the max!  It’s not cheating to have a bit of fun with art and handwriting.  And it’s definitely okay to have the students jot down some notes on how they felt about learning new art techniques, the steps they took to finish their project, and the story behind their creations.

 

Sketching can help develop handwriting skills.
Select a simple sketch and have students guide their classmates in drawing it…back-to-back!
  • Visualization plays a major role in the mastery of fluid and legible handwriting skills.  Seeing a letter formation in the “mind’s eye” allows for automatic handwriting and writing skills.  My favorite Cursive Club activity brought giggles and laughs throughout the room!  The students sat back-to-back, one student with a clipboard, pencil, and paper and the other with a copy of a picture.  The latter provided directions for drawing the picture.  Directional and spatial concepts were the link to conveying the right message to the artist, while visualization played a key role in the artist’s rendition!  Lots of fun!  The Artful Parent shares a similar idea that provides opportunities to use communication skills and visual motor skills together to create!

 

All of these wonderful ideas can bring forth enhanced trunk control and shoulder stability simply by adding a therapy ball, a vertical surface, or a prone position on the floor!

 

 

 

An art project, combined with a written story, can enhance handwriting skills.
An art show can be as simple as a display outside your room or a community-wide celebration!

3.  Provide the opportunity to share and feel pride.

The feeling of pride is a positive motivator that encourages students to strive for that next layer of excellence.  Art boards, shows, and auctions can open up your students’ world of art with a place to “show off” their accomplishments.  It doesn’t have to  about judgment or a contest.  Although, it is fun to find that your work has “won” you some recognition. 
 
 
Visual aids, hand-over-hand assistance, and auditory step-by-step directions can help students succeed with handwriting and art!
Visual aids, hand-over-hand assistance, and auditory step-by-step directions can help students succeed with art!

4.  Connect the dots that link handwriting with art.

It is not enough to simply USE art to enhance your students’ handwriting skills.  It is important to help them see the link between this creative channel and the fruition of their handwriting mastery.  We all need to know the WHY’s of doing something.  That helps us to be motivated and understand the value of it.  Talk about the fine motor and spatial skill development, as well as the hand strengthening benefits, that their art projects are giving them.
 
And every student deserves the opportunity to utilize art as a way to improve his handwriting skills.  Provide plenty of variety with lessons that incorporate the learning styles of all your students.  Students with special needs – as well as ALL students – can benefit from visual aids, step-by-step directions, some hand-over-hand assistance, and alternate ways of performing the task. 
 

 5.  Listen to the feedback.

Art, as well as handwriting, are very personal skills.  Although we teach both subjects using a structured program, the ultimate products are the result of a comfortable and confident style.  In the end, all handwriting skills culminate in a personal handwriting style.  Art is the same.  Ask your students about their art and creative preferences.  Have them share their hobbies – from skiing to video games and right on to reading.  Then use these areas to enhance your art project themes.  Here are some to try:
 
Graphic designs art projects can enhance handwriting skills.
Design your own skis with a graphic arts design!

 

Art and drawing can enhance handwriting skills.
Create a poster of your favorite video game character!

 

Efficient handwriting skills can enhance writing skills.
Design a new book cover for your favorite book!

 

After they’ve created their awesome boards, dynamic posters, or beautiful book covers, have them use their handwriting skills to tell the story of how they did it – from drawing board to final product!  Remind them that everything they worked on in their ART project helped them enhance their HANDWRITING skills!

 

 Well, there you have it!  All in an artistic nutshell!

 

I hope you have found some motivational ideas for both you and your students that will bring art into your handwriting sessions!
 
Be sure to keep us posted on which strategies worked the best and to share any inspirational ones of your own!
 
Thanks for stopping by!  As always, thanks for reading!   See you next time!
 
Katherine

 

 

Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Part 1
Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Part 1
"Open the doors to learning for children through the visual arts." (Art In The School.Org) Art can enhance handwriting skills.
Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L
Katherine Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

 

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

 
 
 
 
Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.
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