Low Tech Assistive Technology: MacGyver Inspired

This month, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog is proud to host another guest author series.  In July we will be sharing information on the topic of Technology and OT.  Our series will stray from our typical course and discuss non-handwriting related topics, except for the one that was presented the first week.  I know you will enjoy what our guests will be sharing and will learn a great deal from their expertise.

This week, we are proud to have Rebecca Klockars, the OT Mommy, join us again to share her “OT-made AT for success!”  She truly demonstrates the ingenuity and creativity that occupational therapy is based upon.  If you enjoy her post as much as I did, please be sure to stop by her site and let her know!

OT Mommy, you’re on!

 

toolbox clkerfreevectorimages pixabayLow Tech AT:  MacGyver Inspired

 

One of the things I love about Assistive Technology is that it does not have to be high tech.  Some of my favorite MacGyver-inspired modifications came from searching the plethora of stuff I have in my OT room.

 

When adapting materials for writing, I like to scour my surroundings and look for ways I can reuse materials.  I am sure many of you can relate to the hoarder tendencies in your own therapy room.

 

For example, the art teacher was throwing away “broken” brushes, so I grabbed them.  Like many occupational therapists and special educators, I had a box of unused pegs from peg boards activities.  Through trial and error, I discovered that a peg fit into the handle’s old spot, creating a short paintbrush with a convenient form to enhance the grasp of a developing writer.

From broken...
From broken…
Brush
…to functional!

 

 

If you have a child struggling to keep the pencil resting in the webspace, two elastic bands can provide a handy support.  Just overlap the bands and pull through.  This is great for tablet styluses too.

 

Two elastic bands
From two…

 

Overlapped elastic bands
…to one…

 

Help for Webspace
…to functional!

 

If you have a student with significant grasp difficulties, sometimes for just a few cents worth of PVC piping found in the plumbing section of your local hardware store, a T-shaped crayon holder can be built.   Depending on the size of the tool you are using, you will want to grab a PVC tee connector and two pieces of PVC piping cut approximately 2-3” in length each.  Place the two lengths of piping in each end of the top of the T; the writing implement is placed in the open end.  If needed, thread a strap of One-Wrap through the top to help support the grip.  Here’s an example from Therapy Fun 4 Kids!

PVC Crayon Adaptor from Therapy Fun 4 Kids
PVC Crayon Adaptor from Therapy Fun 4 Kids

 

 

 

Need to build up diameter of pencil but don’t have any foam tubing? Head to the dollar store and get a package of curlers.  These can be used for tactile feedback as well as a build-up material.

 

Curler
From foam…

 

Curler Pencil Grip
…to functional!

 

I’ve gone as far as the gym teacher’s closet to find broken jump rope handles.  Sometimes a marker fits perfectly in the handle, creating a makeshift universal cuff for writing.

 

Positioning materials are just as important for grasp development and writing readiness.  If a student needs a more angled surface than you can achieve with a three-ring binder, make your own. Get an old political sign made of corrugated plastic, some Velcro, and wallpaper corners (found at the local paint and decorating store).  With strategic cutting, bending and velcroing, a slanted surface for either writing or reading is easily achieved.

Book Positioning
From corrugated plastic…to functional!

 

For a great how-to video, visit University of New Hampshire You Tube Channel ATinNH – right here!

 

IPad Stand YouTube from ATinNH
IPad Stand YouTube

 

 

So the next time you are struggling to find the perfect pencil grip for a student, look around the classroom, in the art room, or in the aisles of the local hardware store.  You never know what you will find.  You may even become inspired to be your own AT hacker.

 

 

 

Rebecca Klockars is a mom, occupational therapist, RESNA certified assistive technology professional and author of the blog OTMommy Needs Her Coffee.  When not ranting and raving about things to do with her children (her own and the school-based kids too) she enjoys cooking, reading and building things with PVC, duct tape and velcro.  For more information, visit her site dedicated to Assistive Technology Consideration in Transition Assessment and her blog at www.otmommy.blogspot.com

 

 

Handwriting: is an app applicable? by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting: is an app applicable? by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology by Eleanor Cawley, MS, OTR/L
The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology by Eleanor Cawley, MS, OTR/L
Switch Use: A Success Story in Progress a Guest Blog by Cheryl from OT Notes
Switch Use: A Success Story in Progress a Guest Blog by Cheryl from OT Notes

The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology

This month, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog is proud to host another guest author series.  In July we will be sharing information on the topic of Technology and OT.  Our series will stray from our typical course and discuss non-handwriting related topics, except for the one published the first week.   I know you will enjoy what our guests will be sharing and will learn a great deal from their expertise.  This week, we are proud to publish this blog concurrently with Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L as she presents us with a beginner’s tutorial for helping students achieve their highest level of self-sufficiency with or without assistive technology.

Eleanor, you’re on!

 

community technology geralt pixabay
Transitioning students With disabilities onto the next phase of their lives.

The Challenge of Moving Toward Self-Sufficiency with or without Assistive Technology

 

 

As school districts begin to think about transitioning students with disabilities out of school and onto the next phase of life, the idea of becoming as independent or self-sufficient as possible comes to mind. I prefer to use the term self-sufficient as this term implies a sense of power and strength in addition to not requiring assistance from others.  At the age of 14 years, school districts are required to begin developing a transition plan.  Educators, therapists and parents investigate vocational as well as, social and self-care tasks.  In many high schools, Life Skills Programs concentrating on just this effort are charged with the task of fostering self-sufficiency.

Collectively, we explore both basic [BADLs] and instrumental activities of daily living [IADLs]. BADLs include basic self-care tasks, such as feeding, toileting [including maintaining continence], dressing [donning/doffing and selecting clothes], grooming/bathing, walking and transfers (such as from bed to wheelchair). These are the skills that we have begun to develop since birth. IADLs are more complex skills that we are taught as our thinking skills become more developed and include things like money management, driving/using public transportation, shopping, meal prep, communication using a telephone, computer or tablet, managing medications, housework and basic home maintenance.  The IADL and vocational skills are the focus of the Life Skills Programs.

Please click here to read the rest of her article on Eleanor’s blog.

 

Eleanor CawleyEleanor Cawley is an occupational therapist with many years of experience in the pediatric sector and specifically in transitioning students from high school to post high school.  Much of her practice focuses on using technology when lower tech strategies fail to meet the needs of her students. She is the author of Using Rubrics to Monitor Outcomes in Occupational Therapy and The Student Interview.

 

 

Technology and OT Series

Handwriting:  is an app applicable?
Handwriting: is an app applicable?

Handwriting: Is an app applicable?

Handwriting:  Is an app applicable?

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

This month, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog is proud to host another guest author series.  In July we will be sharing information on the topic of Technology and OT.  Our series will stray from our typical course and discuss non-handwriting related topics, except for this first one.  I know you will enjoy what our guests will be sharing and will learn a great deal from their expertise.  Let’s begin the series with my thoughts on applications for handwriting.

woman ones zeros geralt pixabayAs the Internet nudges print media to the side and encourages the increased use of television, computers, or mobile phones for the collection of knowledge and entertainment, the question, “How does technology affect learning?”  has achieved a higher standing in the minds of parents and educators.  And, although the concern is raised, there continues to be a lack of  guidance for the use of mobile learning with children.  This is partly due to the lack of a “widely accepted learning theory for mobile technologies, which in turn “hampers the effective assessment, pedagogy, and design of new applications for learning.”  (1)

While mobile learning provides “an environment of anytime, anywhere learning” made possible through an interconnecting flow of information between technologies, the production of these “learning tools” does not reflect a consistent theory for teaching and learning effectiveness.  (2)  The future promises a digital literacy that will toss out the linear learning forced on us through paper text and afford our children the opportunity to learn through         e-books, augmented reality and game-based technologies, and computing devices that utilize gesture-based (movement and touch) technology.   (2)  The effects of these promised treasures, however, are yet to be realized as the divide between the producers’ creations and the consumers’ developmental needs remains a wide one, and the implications for education and cultivation of informed educators on the uses of digital literacy tools in their classrooms continue to be investigated.  (1) (Part 3: pages 23-27)

The fact does remain, however, that the Internet and all of the technological byproducts that we have realized from it, are here to stay.  Just as the Gutenberg Press revolutionized the way that we obtained knowledge, changing us from an oral-based society where people gathered together to “receive information” to a reader-based one where learning became a solitary event, the Internet has catapulted us into a personalized state of learning that has us tapping, clicking, dragging, and linking – just us and the computer screen.  In addition, the Internet provides the “learner” with strong “sensory and cognitive stimuli – repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive – that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions.”  (3)  The Internet and its byproducts are not controlled by us, instead they tend to be in control, as they do indeed have an influence on the way we learn, communicate, and make decisions.  Nicholas Carr, in his book, The Shallows, pulls this transformation together in one potent statement about the Net:  “At the very least, it’s the most powerful (technology) that has come along since the book.”  (3)

There seems to be no area of learning that will be unaffected by this powerful tool; and, as a handwriting specialist, I understand that boy and chalkboard akshayapatra pixabaytechnology will change the way that my young handwriters will want to learn.  Their brains, eyes, ears, and hands will demand the “positive reinforcements” of sound, touch, and speed as they gather volumes of experiences from their preferred mobile learning device.  But, also as a specialist in my area of practice, I remain skeptical that the quality of this rapid-fire feedback-feed forward method of learning will provide them with the sufficient tactile, visual, proprioceptive, and cognitive developmental base for mastering handwriting skills.  Handwriting is a complex skill, one that demands the achievement of cognitive, visual/sensory, and physical components.   It is a task which utilizes information from our eyes; our mind; and our auditory, tactile, and proprioceptive systems.  It is a language that uses movement (fine motor), thinking, visual processing, and attention. And it is this last facet of handwriting’s language that begs investigation when we consider diverting our instruction and remediation of handwriting development skills to the mobile world.

Nicholas Carr speaks to this silent facet of the Internet’s control over learning as he describes our behaviors as we click, link, and tap:  We work in a state where we are “often oblivious to everything else going on around us.”  As we seek information, follow a new trail to gather more, and find ourselves amongst all the bells and whistles of positive reinforcement, we become, what he calls, “a mind consumed with a medium.”  Although the book as a medium provides us with a gentler, calmer sense of “losing oneself” inside its text, interactive games, mobile applications, and even social media grab us by the eyes and ears and force us to attend.  And, unlike the book, they do this only to distract us simultaneously with the “rapid-fire delivering of competing messages and stimuli.”  Handwriting applications offer young learners the opportunity to delve into this world of sensory feedback, where colors, sounds, flashes, and pictures have replaced the concentration and attention paid to the tactile, visual perceptual, and proprioceptive facets of learning the skill.   The “haptic” of handwriting has been ignored as we limit the use of the hands to provide our brain with feedback from motor actions, substituting a fingertip or the smooth movement of a stylus for “the sensation of touching a pencil and paper.” Associate professor Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger’s Reading Centre and neurophysiologist Jean-Luc Velay at the University of Marseille published an article in the Advances in Haptics periodical (4) in which they examined the question of whether “something is lost in switching from book to computer screen, and from pen to keyboard.”  Anne Mangen reports that “the sensorimotor component (of writing by hand) forms an integral part of training for beginners, and in special education for people with learning difficulties. But there is little awareness and understanding of the importance of handwriting to the learning process, beyond that of writing itself.”  She adds, seemingly disappointed, that “in educational science, there is scant interest in the ergonomics of reading and writing, and its potential significance in the learning process.”

Despite the lack of interest in the putting-pencil-to-paper aspects of handwriting mastery and the obsessive attention paid to the touch-and-learn angles of mobile media, the initial instruction and remediation of handwriting development skills continues to lie within the realm of the very real developmental stages of learning – Cognitive, Visual/Sensory, and Physical. The learning, development, and mastery of handwriting skills demand that we move within, touch, visualize, repeat, and self-correct our physical work.  We must review the product, uncover our successes and needs, and compare the samples in order to develop an awareness of mastery.  We must attend to it. There is absolutely no substitute for hands-on instruction that is structured, consistent, and guided – and social.  The benefits that the interaction within a classroom filled with students listening to the teacher, raising their hands, asking questions, and helping one another provides will never find its substitute within a computerized screen.  And while mobile learning can indeed offer a supplemental benefit to a 1:1 skill remediation session, the personal connection between the child and his pencil and paper allows the occupational therapist to facilitate the cognitive, visual, sensory, and physical input without the distractions of the bells and whistles. It’s important to remember that, as occupational therapists, teachers, and parents, we ARE the positive reinforcements.  Until research evidence proves otherwise, handwriting development remains a function of the hand.

Katherine

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

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 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.

(1) Shuler, Carly, and Cynthia Chiong & Carly Shul. “Learning Is There an App for That?” Learning: Is There an App for That? (2010): n. pag. PBS Kids. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Web. 27 May 2015. <http://www-tc.pbskids.org>.  http://www-tc.pbskids.org/read/files/cooney_learning_apps.pdf

(2)  Richards, Reshan. “Theory of Mobile Learning.” Constructivist Toolkit. The Constructivist Toolkit, 24 June 2013. Web. 27 May 2015.

(3) Carr, Nicholas G. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. New York: W.W. Norton, 2010. Print.

(4) The University of Stavanger. “Better learning through handwriting.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2011.

5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers Revisited

5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers Revisited

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

On June 16, 2015, I posted the original version of this blog, titled “Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers.”  (Don’t click yet, but you can find it here.)  Today, I am reposting it in a different format in an attempt to gather information about your reading preferences and learning styles.  The “Handwriting is Fun! Blog” runs for one purpose:  to share information.  If the information we share, however, does not meet your learning and reading needs, then we haven’t achieved our goal to provide our readers with pertinent and helpful information about handwriting development skills.

So, in the interest of bettering our blog and achieving our highest goals, I am asking you to read the first version (not yet!) and then to read this revised format.  After you have done that, I would be honored and thankful if you would share two pieces of information with me in the comment section of THIS BLOG VERSION:

  1. Which version did you prefer?
  2. Why did that version appeal to you?

Thank you in advance for participating in this informal research study!  I look forward to your feedback!  NOW YOU CAN CLICK ON THE FIRST VERSION!  (Don’t forget to return here to read the revised version!)

 

Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers

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

This month, I am sharing a “Summer Handwriting Fun” series chock-full of articles written by myself and other therapy bloggers who have so graciously offered to share their work on my site.  This is the third in our series.  I hope you will find it useful and return to read some more next week!

 

What do we need before we get “good” at handwriting?

Alphabet Written on NotepadHandwriting mastery is actually based upon 5 basic handwriting helper skills.  They are:

  1. Body Awareness;
  2. Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength;
  3. Vision and Sensory Skills;
  4. Posture; and
  5. Practice.

 

 

Although these five helpers are very important skills in handwriting development, they are not too be taken too seriously.  They can be developed during most play experiences all along a child’s developmental stages.  Today, we are going to take a look at the ways that we can engage our elementary school-aged “handwriters” in some “Summer Fun” that works on these skills!

 

The Five Nifty Handwriting Helpers!

  1. Body Awareness

This helper is

  • our “internal map” that lets us know where all of our body parts are – without our having to look at them to find out!
  • how we understand directional concepts, like up and down, left and right.
  • what gives us a perspective about navigating our environment.
  • the foundation that provides a child with the basic skills for learning letter formations, spacing, and fitting words and sentences on a line and a page.

 

Body Awareness can be developed through activities such as:

Yoga helps us with our body awareness!
Yoga helps us with our body awareness!

 

+  balance and coordination,

+  concentration, and

+  visual attention skills.

 

 

 

+  make left and right turns,

+  look up,

+  check on top or behind, and

+  look under.

 

Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!
Watch a cool movement video from The PE Update Blog!
  • Relay races, tug-of-war, musical chairs, or simply rolling down a hill provides children with opportunities to

+  use the left and right sides of their bodies,

+  manage their weight against gravity, and

+  determine the distance between themselves and other people or objects.

Skateboarding and roller skating will definitely do the trick!

 

 

 2.  Finger, Hand, and Wrist Strength

This helper provides the foundation for

  • efficient pencil control skills, and
  • the ability to write for sustained periods of time with legibility and speed.

 

Fine-motor strengthening can be developed through activities such as:

 

  • Spending time on the playground.   Playground equipment offers children opportunities to use their fingers, hands, and wrists to

 

Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!
Playgrounds build both gross- and fine-motor skills!

+  push,

+  pull,

+  grab ahold, and

+  hold on.

And, as an added bonus, playgrounds also help to build gross motor strength for posture!

 

 

 

+  use their two hands together for precision work;

+  manipulate different tools and textures; and

+  use their fingers, hands, and wrists for sustained periods of fine motor activity;

Art also allows older children to enhance their fine-motor strength as they develop their creativity and visual perceptual skills.

 

 

  • Gardening projects such as potted or plotted gardens for herbs, vegetables, or flowers, allow children to use their hands to

 

+  dig in the soil,vegetables-condesign-pixabay

+  plant seeds, and

+  pull weeds,

while they experience a sense of joy and accomplishment and build self-esteem.

Sewing, woodworking, and building model airplanes also work well for that!

 

 

3.  Vision and Sensory Skills

These helpers are those that allow children

 

They also provide children with an understanding of their environment through their senses of

  • sight,
  • hearing,
  • touch,
  • taste, and
  • smell.

 

Vision and Sensory Skills can be developed through activities such as:

  • board game dantetg pixabayBoard Games.  They offer opportunities for children of all ages to

+  maintain eye contact,

+  focus with near vision, and

+  use eye movements to follow the game.

If you add a bit of mystery, let’s say by hiding the pieces of a word game in a plastic bin filled with sand, then you are working on the sense of touch at the same time!

 

 

  • Music and dancing activities that ask children to learn new motor planning sequences, or practice previously learned routines, provide sight, hearing, and tactile experiences through dance-alexas fotos pixabay

+  movement and

+  imitation.

 

 

 

 

  • magic-cube-domenicblair pixabayPuzzles, both of the magic cube and interlocking type, provide visual skill enhancement as they demand

        +  visual attention,

        +  efficient scanning techniques, and

        +  visual perceptual skills to complete them.

 

 

4.  Posture

This helper allows children to learn using efficient

 

Postural skills can be developed through activities such as:

  • Walking, climbing, hiking, and biking, as well as exercises such wheelbarrow walks and races.  These activities enhance a child’shiking family-pezibear pixabay

+  Core Body Muscles

+  balance, and

+  coordination.

 

 

 

  • Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!
    Sports enhance both vision and postural muscles!

    Sports that include visual attention skills, such as ball challenges for the younger children, or bike riding or skateboarding through an obstacle course for the older ones, provide opportunities for

 

        +  building core body muscles and

         +  vision skills.

 

Vision and Posture are developmental partners:  Vision skills enhance the development of the core body muscles – and the core body muscles enhance the development of vision skills.

 

 

+  understand what “posture” is,

+  develop good postural habits, and

+  appreciate the importance of having good posture.

 

 

5. Practice

This helper allows children to

  • master their handwriting skills and
  • understand and appreciate their functional use.

 

Functional Practice of handwriting skills can be accomplished through activities such as:

 

 

 

 

 

To-Do-List_PrintableMaking lists for groceries, to-do’s, and people to invite to their birthday party.

 

 

 

 

trip maps

Recording their creative thoughts or journey experiences using writing prompts or travel journals.

 

 

 

 

 

I hope I’ve shared some different and exciting ideas for including the 5 Nifty Handwriting Helpers in your child’s Summer Fun!

As always, thanks for reading!  And I look forward to your comments and feedback.

 

Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine 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; 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.
 
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