A Second Look at Kinesthetic Learning for Pre-Handwriting Skills

 

Summer Series

 

Purple Flowers Property of Katherine J. CollmerDuring the past two whirlwind years spent dedicated to writing my book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, some of my gifted and experienced peers had graciously stepped in to help me share information and creative ideas with you, my readers, on  the “Handwriting is Fun! Blog.”   Needless to say, I am more than thankful for their dedication to my work.  Their support of me and the profession played a major role in keeping the blog in the news and in your tool kit.   As the project is nearing the final publishing date, I am going to take a writing break and set my sights on a few months of traveling and exploring with my patient and supportive husband. During that time, I am going to select some of the best-loved blogs from the past and roll them into a series designed to share therapy tips and research data with you.  Here is the first in the Summer Series:

 

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

When I came into the profession, I brought with me the knowledge and experience I gained from my background in teaching.  I am an avid follower of blogs and research sites that share information about teaching strategies and learning styles.  I feel that the understanding of learning and teaching principles provides an occupational therapist with an enhanced ability to present an environment that encourages and motivates a person to work toward success.  Kinesthetic learning begins naturally in infancy and, for some, becomes their preferred learning style.  In my blog, Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills, I present information that helps us to understand the importance of including tactile exploration in our therapy sessions and shares activities that can promote kinesthetic learning in the toddler and preschool years.

 

 

Photo credit: renaln
Photo credit: renaln

 

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Hardwriting Skills

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  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.
 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.

Pictures are the property of the author and their use must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Dyspraxia: Is it the hidden handicap?

Dyspraxia:  Is it the hidden handicap?

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

Dyspraxia, most concisely described, is a learning difficulty that “possesses the most interesting ‘melting pot’ mix of physical and mental characteristics.” (Patrick 2015 p. 11)  Once called a “disorder of sensory integration by Jean Ayes in 1972 and then labeled as “Clumsy Child Syndrome” in 1975, dyspraxia continues to be a confusing condition to classify.   The terms “Dyspraxia” and “Developmental Coordination Disorder” are commonly used interchangeably, however, it is felt by some professionals that they are not the same condition.  Dyspraxia is defined by the Dyspraxia Foundation USA as “a neurological disorder throughout the brain” that often comes with a variety of comorbidities, the most common [of these being] Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (also known as DCD). (“1 in 10 Odds”)  The UK branch further explains that “while DCD is often regarded as an umbrella term to cover motor coordination difficulties, dyspraxia refers to those people who have additional problems planning, organising and carrying out movements in the right order in everyday situations” and can also experience difficulties with “articulation and speech, perception and thought.” (“What is Dyspraxia,” Section “What is Dyspraxia?”)   Alison Patrick, in her book “The Dyspraxic Learner,” stresses that “the significant role that the mind plays in this condition cannot be underestimated.” (Patrick 2015 p. 17)

Developmental Dyspraxia, the term more commonly used to describe the developmental problems observed in children who are clumsy, describes the condition as “a failure to learn or perform voluntary motor activities despite adequate strength, sensation, attention, and volition (Missiuna & Polatajko, p. 620)”  It is felt that the term was chosen as a result of the belief that a link existed between apraxia and dyspraxia.  Due to the lack of empirical data that shows a causative link between apraxia – the condition that involves “the loss of ability to perform previously acquired movements” most commonly observed in adults who have experienced a cerebrovascular accident resulting in brain damage – and the problems of children who have the symptoms described above, the condition is often labeled simply as “Dyspraxia.” (Missiuna & Polatajko 1995 p. 620)  The roots of this confusion over labelling stem from two facts:  first, that there is no internationally agreed upon definition for the term “dyspraxia” and second, that the DSM-V does not list it among diagnosable conditions.  Instead, it is felt that dyspraxia would most suitably fall under the new reclassification of “Neurodevelopmental Disorders-Motor,” as some consider it a developmental coordination disorder (“Highlights of Changes”).  Steinman, et. al. make a further distinction that developmental dyspraxia should be considered in terms of praxis “rather than a diagnostic label” and referred to instead as “a specific neurologic sign of impaired execution of skilled learned movements. (p. 5)”  The authors stress that it can exist in children who demonstrate no other signs of neurological impairments, as well as in conjunction with other neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism and language disorders.  After all the discussions have been heard, it is not difficult to imagine a more fitting label than “the hidden handicap.” (Udoh & Okoro 2013, Kirby 1999)

It is difficult to estimate exactly how many children are affected by DCD/Dyspraxia due to the lack of an official diagnosis and consistent use of behavioral information to identify them.   However, 2009 study results out of the UK “suggested that up to one in every 20 children between seven and eight years of age may be affected by the condition to some degree.  It is felt that the disorder occurs three or four times more in boys than girls and that the condition “sometimes runs in families.”  (Developmental Co-ordination, Section “Who is affected).

Despite the confusion, understanding developmental dyspraxia remains an important concern for occupational therapists who are often presented with referrals for children who have handwriting difficulties, problems with self-care management, and social isolation that results from their clumsiness and uncoordinated behaviors (Missiuna & Polatajko 1995).  Without a clear definition for dyspraxia nor a diagnosis that outlines the symptoms associated with it, our assessment will be based upon our knowledge of the condition itself.  Children who present with these school-, home-, and socially based needs will appear physically capable, will not have intellectual needs, and often will not have any identifiable disease or medical condition.  Since dyspraxia is a developmental condition, it can present itself in the early years as children meet the prescribed developmental gross-motor milestones late and experience difficulty with fine-motor activities of daily living, such as tying their shoes or fastening buttons, very much like developmental coordination disorder.  From an occupational therapy standpoint, then, dyspraxia and the behaviors associated with it must be differentiated from those same behaviors that exist with a motor coordination condition.  Dyspraxia, in our practice area, is not viewed as a primary problem in motor coordination and the child must present with difficulties with ideation and planning to be regarded as dyspraxic from our point of view. (9)  Rather than be the result of a problem with motor execution, dyspraxic behaviors are felt to be a difficulty in formulating a plan of action, the problem presenting itself as the inability to efficiently plan and carry out skilled non-habitual motor acts in the correct sequence.   Although children with dyspraxia may have difficulty learning a new task, once they are able to master the skills that it demands, they can use those skills to repeat the task.  (9)  Their ability to use their skill development in the mastery of other similar activities is limited, however, as they are not able to effectively plan and execute new motor actions or generalize motor actions in a new situation.  (9)  From an occupational therapy standpoint, the child with dyspraxia will present with the following behaviors (10) that can be fall into four categories: (7)

Dyspraxic Behaviors Chart
Dyspraxic Behaviors
Categories of Dyspraxia

The appearance of “clumsiness” stems from their difficulty in transitioning from one body position to another, their poor discrimination of tactile input, an overall difficulty in relating their bodies to physical objects and space, and challenges with imitating actions or perceiving the direction of movement.  They are slower to develop both gross- and fine-motor skills and are often referred to occupational therapy for these reasons, particularly handwriting.  They may tend to prefer talking rather than performing and will often avoid new tasks altogether.  Their social behaviors result from their becoming frustrated with new situations because they are unable to approach these activities in an organized manner. The culmination of these symptoms and behaviors can be low self-esteem or self-concept.  (9)

Patten, in her newsletter article, “Dyspraxia from an Occupational Therapy Perspective,” suggests a battery of standardized assessments that will assist in the assessment process.  Goodgold-Edwards and Cermak, (10) stress that we must also have an understanding of the motor, sensory integrative, and cognitive and conceptual components of movement as we observe the children in both standardized testing environments and the performance of everyday activities.  Treatment strategies we select can include sensory integrative, perceptual motor, sensorimotor, cognitive goal-directed, and compensatory skill development approaches. (9)  These will most likely be combined in a remedial plan that addresses each child’s individual needs and will include skill areas such as rule learning as it applies to motor planning and motor learning; planning for managing movements as they occur that include goal-directed activities with performance expectations; the use of tasks that have a clear, functional identification within the practicing environment; the inclusion of cognitive strategies that allow for the child’s learning abilities and styles; and, perhaps most importantly, will be fun as well as challenging.  (10)  Of course, the complex nature of dyspraxia and the multiple needs that a child may experience will necessitate the development of a team approach. (7)

The implications of dyspraxic behaviors for the school-based occupational therapist are that we must consider the “whole child” in our development of a remedial plan or recommendations for adaptations.  Although the child may have been referred to therapy because of handwriting difficulties, it is vital that we look below the surface and develop the overall picture of his behaviors, from home, to school, to the playground, and the community.  With or without an official diagnosis, dyspraxia exists and will continue to present itself in our therapy rooms and clinics.

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

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.
Photos are the property of Handwriting With Katherine and are not to be used in any fashion except as links to the appropriate blog or the Handwriting With Katherine website without the expressed, written permission of Katherine Collmer.  Those photos that include a link to the Pixabay site should be used only if they include the link to the photographer’s page that is provided with them.
 
  1. Patrick, Alison. “Introduction and Chapters 1 and 2.” The Dyspraxic Learner: Strategies for Success. 2015 ed. London: Jessica Kingsley Pub., 2015. 11-54. Print.
  2. “1 in 10 Odds Are That You Know Someone With Dyspraxia.” Dyspraxia Foundation USA. Dyspraxia Foundation USA, n.d. Web. 08 Oct. 2015. <http://www.dyspraxiausa.org/>.
  3. “What is Dyspraxia?” Dyspraxia Foundation.org.uk. Dyspraxia Foundation UK, n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2015. <https://www.dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/about-dyspraxia/>.
  4. Missiuna, C., and H. Polatajko. “Developmental Dyspraxia by Any Other Name: Are They All Just Clumsy Children?” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 49.7 (1995): 619-27. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
  5. “Highlights of Changes From DSM-IV to DSM-5.” Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (2013): n. pag. DSM5.org. American Psychiatric Publishing. Web. 8 Oct. 2015. <http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/changes%20from%20dsm-iv-tr%20to%20dsm-5.pdf>.
  6. Steinman, K. J., S. H. Mostofsky, and M. B. Denckla. “Toward a Narrower, More Pragmatic View of Developmental Dyspraxia.” Journal of Child Neurology 25.1 (2009): 71-81. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
  7. Udoh, Nsisong A., and Cornelius C. Okoro. “Developmental Dyspraxia—Implications for the Child, Family and School.” International Journal of Academic Research in Progressive Education and Development IJARPED 2.4 (2013): 200-14. Web. 9 Oct. 2015.Caroline Lacey. London:
  8. Caroline Lacey, 1997. Ludlowlearning.com. OAASIS, Cambian Education Services. Web. 8 Oct. 2015. <http://www.ludlowlearning.com/downloads-icpa/Oaasis-Dyspraxia.pdf>. OAASIS website: www.oaasis.co.uk Cambian Education Services website: cambianeducation.com
  9. Patten, Natasha, Bcc OT. Dyspraxia from an Occupational Therapy Perspective (n.d.): n. pag. Dyspraxia Foundation.org.uk. Dyspraxia Foundation UK. Web. 8 Oct. 2015. <http://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/dyspraxia_and_Occupational_Therapy.pdf>.
  10. Goodgold-Edwards, S. A., and S. A. Cermak. “Integrating Motor Control and Motor Learning Concepts With Neuropsychological Perspectives on Apraxia and Developmental Dyspraxia.” American Journal of Occupational Therapy 44.5 (1990): 431-39. Web. 8 Oct. 2015.
  11. Kirby, Amanda. Dyspraxia: The Hidden Handicap. 2002 ed. London: Souvenir, 1999. Print.
  12. “Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (dyspraxia) in Children .” NHS Choices. National Health Services UK, n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2015. <http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Dyspraxia-(childhood)/Pages/Introduction.aspx>.
 

Behavior and Transitions in School Settings

For the month of September, the Handwriting is Fun! Blog will be sharing insights about the role of Occupational Therapy in the classroom.  In recent years, the role of OT, in general, has been changing with the waves of healthcare and education reforms.  Despite a certain amount of turmoil and confusion where those changes may have thrown us a curve ball, most often they have provided us with an opportunity to make a difference in an area in which we’ve longed to see an improvement.  Occupational Therapists have recently received an increasing number of referrals to consult with teachers and staff about the behavioral needs exhibited by their clients, as well as those displayed by other students in the school. In that light, this week’s article focuses upon techniques for becoming a “behavior detective” to guide us in uncovering the underlying causes for students’ behaviors in school and to offer tried-and-true strategies for helping them to manage their feelings and stresses.

No child wants to fail!Behavior and Transitions in School Settings

By:  Cara Koscinski MOT, OTR/L 

No child wants to misbehave.  Rules exist in homes, schools, and communities in attempt to maintain a peaceful and calm environment.  It’s important that children with and without special needs learn to follow the rules of the classroom setting.  As students grow into adulthood, their success is dependent on their own ability to adhere to rules while controlling impulsivity and behavior.

Children often exhibit behaviors when they are overwhelmed, confused, or asked to complete a non-preferred task.  The creation of rules is critical to helping students know exactly what to expect.  Therefore, rules should be consistent throughout all settings and consequences delivered.  It’s critical to remember that children with special needs often experience co-morbid conditions.  Examples include:  reflux and other gastro-intestinal disorders, sleep disturbances, and processing delays.  School settings themselves can be quite overwhelming for students with sensory processing disorders.  There’s so much to consider when working with children who exhibit difficult behaviors.

What’s our responsibility in the school setting?  As clinicians, we need to determine the root cause of the behavior. As a veteran clinician and parentOT Behavior Detective to two sons with autism and behavioral challenges, I consider myself to be a ‘behavior detective.’  Let’s look some critical steps therapists can take to help figure out the problem.  In my book, The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide, there is an entire chapter about behavior in school.  It offers a plethora of helpful techniques I’ve figure out over the years.  Here are five of the most important:

1)  Be objective.  Don’t form opinions of a child based on a specific diagnosis or from a written report.  There’s a saying I use often, “If you’ve seen one child with autism, you’ve seen ONE child with autism.”  It’s true for all children with special needs!  They are people first.

2) Consider the skill level of the child.  If a skill has not been learned and rehearsed, then the child will have difficulty generalizing the skill.  Perhaps, bad habits were formed in earlier years or grade levels.  Re-evaluate what’s already been done and rehearse again.  Remember that no child wants to fail.

3) Evaluate for receptive and/or expressive language delays.  Many children simply need more time to process a directive.  This is especially true in a busy classroom setting.  Ensure the instruction giver has the child’s full attention prior to giving a command.

4) Consider time of day. Often, my new OT students forget that everyone has a different time of day in which they function best.  We all experience different body rhythms in sleep/wake cycles, hunger/thirst/digestion, etc.  I’m a late morning person.  I am simply not at my best first thing in the morning.  No one can change that as it’s my body’s physiological condition (interoception).

5) How has the task been presented?  This is the ‘before’ or antecedent.  Antecedent information includes the tone of voice of the direction giver, visual vs. auditory command, child’s sensory arousal/state prior to the command, child’s attention to command and child’s underlying ability to actually follow commands.  Not many people consider the BEFORE…..in fact, it’s more common in the school setting to consider the RESULTING behavior.  It’s a veteran behavior detective who can form non-biased conclusions as to the events that occur prior to the child’s tantrum.

Success

BONUS tip…Does or has the child been given attention for the behavior?  Is he perhaps seeking a reaction from the teacher, clinician, or students?  If this is the case, keep an even tone when giving directions and choose your battles.  For example, I was called in to observe a third grader with lower-functioning autism.  She consistently threw her paper onto the floor when the teacher gave a writing assignment.  Upon observation, the teacher instructed her to ‘pick it up’ each time.  The teacher and other students were consistently distracted and frustrated.  I suggested the teacher simply ignore the behavior.  The student threw everything from her desk onto the floor and no one looked or responded.  After a week without attention, she stopped tossing paper onto the floor.  Yes, this is a simple example, but it’s applicable to many other situations.

I’d like to offer some advice to help children transition smoothly.  Review rules and consequences BEFORE a tantrum and when the child is quietly listening.  Remember that fight or flight reactions are CHEMICALLY driven and once the hormone (adrenaline) is released, it takes time for a child to calm and organize.  Please don’t attempt to teach a child who is in a tantrum.  I’d bet you do not want to learn a new skill or receive a lecture when you are upset and need to re-group.

Finally, utilize visual strategies for transitions.  Adults rely on the use of calendars, timers, and electronic devices for transitions and reminders.  In the school, provide a written or picture schedule of transition times.  Give verbal warnings or countdowns prior to changing activities.  It’s best to provide consistency and use the same strategies consistently throughout the day.  If the student prefers to learn visually, allow the use of a visual timer or schedule for transitions.  For others, provide verbal warnings at various intervals of time beginning at least ten minutes prior to transition time.

The most important takeaway from my post today is to remember that there is ALWAYS a reason for everyone’s behavior and it’s our job to investigate.  Being a behavior detective is not easy, but the rewards are well worth your effort.  Your students will thank you for it!

CaraKoscinskiHeadshot1Cara Koscinski, MOT, OTR/L, is passionate and excited about providing quality treatment to children with special needs.  As a homeschooling mother to her own children born with autism, Cara co-founded Aspire Pediatric Therapy, LLC, to provide quality therapy for autism and Sensory Processing Disorder at schools, in homes, and in centers around the Pittsburg area.  Cara is the author of The Pocket Occupational Therapist, winner of the 2015 Family Choice Award and recommended in the Autism Spectrum Quarterly as a “Great Resource for Families and Professionals.”  In addition, she has authored her latest publication, The Special Needs SCHOOL Survival Guide, and The Weighted Blanket Sensation (coming in Winter 2015).  Cara has served as an adjunct clinical instructor for the Duquesne University Occupational Therapy program and was the recipient of the Duquesne University’s Innovative Practice Entrepreneur Award.  For more information about Cara, or to contact her directly, please visit her website, The Pocket OT.

Photos are the property of Cara Koscinski and are not to be used in any fashion except as links to this blog post or the Pocket OT website without the expressed, written permission of the author.

 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.
 
 

Competition and Children: A learning experience

 

Competition and Children:  A learning experience

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

learn-geralt- pixabay -586409_1280

The month of August brings thoughts of the new school year and a fresh look at how children learn and grow.  With that focus in mind, the Handwriting is Fun! blog is proud to bring you a series of posts that will share insights from Occupational Therapists that reflect their views on and visions for our students’ learning experiences.  In our last article of the series, we will discuss the role that competition can play in a child’s learning, considering the positive and negative aspects, as well as our role as OT’s, teachers, parents, and coaches in turning the negatives into positives.  I hope you will enjoy it and I look forward to your feedback.

 

Competition and Children:  A learning experience

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

This month I turned my attention toward the concepts of learning that have played a major role in providing effective handwriting development services to the children and families in my practice.  Learning, by definition, is simply “the act or process of acquiring knowledge or a skill.”  But learning in itself is not a simple process.  We may all go through the same steps in learning – reading, listening, watching, imitating, and practicing – but we all complete those steps in our own individual and unique way.  In this article, I hope to share with you some of the positive measures we can take, as therapists, parents, and teachers, to address our children’s learning styles and emotional needs as we guide them toward mastery in a competitive environment.

 

Competition, Play, and Education

 

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” (Michael Jordan)

 

When I was a teacher, I shared this quote with my students many, many times as they struggled with their academics.  I have found it to be just as helpful as a guiding light in my occupational therapy practice.  I often share my own feelings about disappointments, explaining that there are days when I feel that I’ve let the team down and that the world is going to stop spinning and everyone is going to point their finger at me and say, “You lost!”  It helps them to understand that everyone misses the mark sometimes and that more often than not the loss turns into a gain.   It helps to open the discussion about the ways that we re-strategize and re-organize everything we’ve learned in that experience into an even better plan.  There are times, however, when a child views losing as a powerful force that either pushes him into a fiercely public domain pictures pixabay sad-217252_1280competitive stance or forces him to back away from the challenge.  Playing, in its role as both a fun activity and a child’s learning ground, can become a place where children are labeled as “winners and losers.”  As children begin to engage in interactive play, the games become competitive as well as a fun learning experience.  School is another opportunity for children to engage in competition as skill mastery, homework, tests, and report cards take center stage as a measurement of learning.   So, how do we keep the fun in games and enjoyment in education while nurturing the competitiveness that helps them to learn and grow?

 

What role does competition have in a child’s learning?

 

You may be asking, “Do we really need competitiveness in children’s games and in education?”  Yes, to a certain extent, we do.  As children go through their life’s journey, they will be faced with both intrapersonal and interpersonal competition.  Games and sports should be enjoyable opportunities for children to experience competition while learning the value of hard work, teamwork, and a competitive drive.  The development of these skills can enhance their success with educational skills as they become more confident in their ability to pick themselves up and continue to learn.  We all want to win; it’s validation that what we are doing is paying off.  But the joy of winning should be more about getting better at the game versus beating the other players.  I recently read the perfect quote that speaks to that notion:

 

“When playing a game, the goal is to win, but it is the goal that’s important, not winning.”  (Reiner Knizia)

 

Learning to lose graciously is a skill, just as much as learning to win with honor.  In my practice as an occupational therapist, I use games to develop the underlying handwriting development skills my students need for mastery.  While they may be having fun in therapy, they are also experiencing winning and losing as they challenge themselves to learn or enhance a skill.  So, how can I help children to develop the art of gracious losing and honorable winning when they are playing games with me, as well as when they are playing with others?

 

Four Guides for Challenging Learners 

 

1.  Know when to win and when to lose!

random house kids talkings_kids_playing_games.png__631x0_q85
Give them an opportunity to challenge themselves!

During my work with children, I walk a fine line when I’m playing games with them. The mere fact that they are working with me indicates that there are some visual-perceptual, visual-motor, and visual-spatial issues involved.  For the younger ones, chances are I am going to be more skilled at the game. (Chances are!!)  Sometimes they know that I am holding back. When they ask me why, I tell them that these are practice sessions, like in sports, and as they get better, watch out!  I’ll be putting them to the test. That seems to encourage them to compete with themselves to learn as quickly as they can and reminds them that there will be some competition with me later.  As they progress with their skills, I “high five” their success and then ask them to remember when they didn’t succeed.  We talk about how they felt about the challenge then and how they viewed that same challenge now.  And then I remind them that I am going to be asking them to push themselves beyond that success until they can teach me how to play the game better!

For the older students, most of the time I will be learning with them!  I tell them that we are working as a team and that encourages them to challenge themselves to perfect their skills so that they can teach me.  Teaching has always been the best way to learn and a most satisfying way to experience success.  As we progress through the learning stages of a new skill, I ask them to talk me through it while they teach me a step, giving them an opportunity to be in control of the session, so to speak, and to recognize the areas in which they continue to need assistance.   With each success, I congratulate them, ask them to reflect upon the struggles they’ve overcome, and remind them that we will be pushing ourselves even further the next time to increase our skill level.

 

love-683404_1280 geralt pixabay
Energize their spirit and Emphasize their successes!

2.  Energize and Emphasize!

It’s important to remember, and to emphasize, that it is only a game.  Of course, in order to not speak out of both sides of our mouths, we need to practice what we preach.  Children will learn whether or not winning is the most important part of the game as they observe our actions and reactions in our conversations with them and other adults.  I’ve found that the most revealing truths about winning and losing can be witnessed while watching or talking about national sports!    Children will also form their perception of losing when they hear us talk about our own losses.  Actions, as they say, speak louder than words.  As I pull out the board games, I begin the discussion about the fun we will have as each of us works toward his or her own personal best.  Chatter about past successes can encourage a child to embrace the challenge ahead of him.  “Remember when you got 14 points last time?  That was awesome.  Let’s both see if we can each raise our own scores just a little bit!”  There will still be a winner and a loser.  But, the emphasis is on self-improvement.  Satisfaction with personal achievement helps to take the punch out of the winning-or-losing conundrum.

 

3.  Encourage and Empathize!

The Cursive Club worked together to build a village - and then to write a fun story about it!
The Cursive Club worked together to build a village – and then to write a fun story about it!

Games that encourage a combination of competition and cooperation have been shown to provide players with the greatest satisfaction and to produce the highest results.  And this goes for table-top games as well as active sports.  Michael Jordan didn’t win or lose games all on his own.  Team players work together to construct and carry out a plan.  Of course, winning is the goal.  But helping each other to attain it is the path toward completing it.  And that’s the place to encourage children to empathize with and to encourage each other.  The emphasis should be on solving problems and not the competition.  As they work together, they will discover that winning depends upon how well they have solved the problems.

During the Manuscript and Cursive Clubs I’ve offered, the sessions focused around group tasks that fostered opportunities to share, encourage, and empathize with team members.  The activities ranged from designing and building a Lego city, to writing a play, and to following each other’s directions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  As the groups matured, I often placed one member in the leadership role to guide the team as a “fellow student,” modeling the behaviors that bring forth success.  Each time, the members would bring their own personal failures and successes to the table to encourage a struggler or to empathize with his challenges.  Who needed me?

 

4.  Laughter and Lots of Chances!

Share some laughs and lots of chances for success!
Share some laughs and lots of chances for success!

Learning a game or sport, and perfecting those skills, can get tough.  The same goes for addressing the underlying skills that build learning successes.  In my work, I don’t open the door to giving-up or throwing in the towel.  I monitor the child’s behaviors during a game or task, balancing his challenges between testing and frustrating.  Just before he has arrived at the point of frustration, I know it’s time to laugh, talk, and try again.  Learning to laugh at themselves can go a long way in taking losses less seriously.  “Isn’t it silly how you’ve missed that three times already?”  Opening the door to discussion gives a child the opportunity to analyze his actions and to ask for help.  And, always, having another chance to do work at it again lets him know that he’s a winner for trying!  I feel that this strategy is the foundation for learning, for everyone.

 

 

The adage, “Sometimes you win; sometimes you lose,” is true in the game of life.    The sooner children recognize it, the easier it will be for them to play the game and the sooner they will feel comfortable about striving for “personal excellence.”

 

 

Competition, as a tool, is a healthy way to learn.

 

 

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. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

http://www.handwritingwithkatherine.com/handwriting-development-assessment-and-remediation-book.html

 

 

 

 

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

Pictures that are the property of other sites should provide a link back to that site.

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.

 

 

The past articles in this month’s series:

Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Learning and Retaining through Technology, by Eleanor Cawley, M.S., OTR/L, on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on he Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Handwriting and Learning: A Vital Link to Skilled Writing, by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L on he Handwriting is Fun! Blog
Help With Handwriting: A Screening Activity
Help With Handwriting: A Screening Activity

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.

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

Photo credit: renaln
Photo credit: renaln

Kinesthetic Learning and Pre-Handwriting Skills

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

 

 

 

Jean Piaget introduced the world to the learning brain of the child.  Through his systematic study of cognitive development, he discovered that children simply do not learn in the same way as adults.  According to his theory of cognitive child development, “children are born with a very basic mental structure … on which all subsequent learning and knowledge is based.”   Piaget felt that children learn through a reorganizing process comprised of three basic components.   First, as they are introduced to new information, the children begin to construct an understanding of the world around them and work to sort their knowledge into “schemas” or groups of information that match.  As they encounter additional new information, they will either “assimilate” it into their existing schemas or make “accommodations” for it by revising those schemas or developing new ones within which to store this unique information.  Saul McLeod, in his biography of Jean Piaget in Simply Psychology, provides an animated illustration that demonstrates how a child develops a schema for a dog and accommodates that schema when he meets a cat.  Piaget’s theory outlines this process of childhood learning as taking place over the span of four developmental stages (sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational and formal operational), three of which are kinesthetic.  Piaget describes the concrete operational stage (2-7 years) as one that requires a hands-on environment.  He believed that by holding and manipulating materials, “the actions of the body will improve the mind.”

Holding, manipulating and investigating materials engages children in a physical activity – movement – that uses their eyes, hands and sometimes their legs.  Sensory cues guide them as they begin to develop a perception of the task, an understanding of its basic components and how they need to be manipulated in order to complete the activity successfully.  Imitation, trial-and-error and adaptation takes place as the children experiment with the parts and steps of the task.  New movement patterns are created and revised perceptions are formed as they store information for use in the future.

Kinesthetic learning was defined in a 1992 publication titled, Not Another Inventory, Rather a Catalyst for Reflection, as one of four styles (joining visual, auditory and reading/writing) that we utilize in our quest for knowledge.  Typically, adults will learn best through a mix of these styles, preferring one or two above the rest.  Children, however, tend to learn most efficiently through their tactual and kinesthetic systems.

A child who struggles with handwriting skills could benefit from a vision assessment!
A child who struggles with handwriting skills could benefit from a vision assessment!

Studies have “indicated that many students do not become strongly visual before third grade (and) that auditory acuity first develops in many students after the sixth grade.”  In addition, it appears that “boys often are neither strongly visual nor auditory even during high school.” ** This information reinforces the research that shows that many children who are struggling with educational success are hampered in their attempts by instruction that is primarily auditory and/or visual.  Young children, kindergarten through second grade, who are experiencing reading and handwriting challenges may indeed be attempting to learn their fine motor skills without the benefit of the motor movement needed to develop the schemas for recognizing letters, reproducing them into words and producing independent writing specimens.

Children who have been labeled as behavioral, high-energy or unmotivated could be demonstrating the basic characteristics of kinesthetic learners.   They are anxious to get moving and exploring their environment, using their hands to find new information and gather unique experiences.  Kinesthetic learners may become bored easily and appear to be ignoring the speaker as they seek out movement and interactive work.  They are sometimes able to disguise this as obedient, sitting in circle and “behaving,” when indeed they may be daydreaming about what they would rather be doing.  Whichever the case, kinesthetic learners who are struggling with their education can be helped over this hurdle with planning and resources designed to meet their “hands-on” needs.

Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on and visually stimulating activities!
Kinesthetic learners benefit from hands-on and visually stimulating activities!

One of the basic steps in learning to read and write is the acquisition of an efficient recognition of the letters of the alphabet.  Automatic recall of the sounds, shapes and sizes of the letters is crucial in the development of speed and comprehension in reading, as well as speed and legibility in handwriting.  It makes sense, then, to introduce the alphabet with learning strategies that most fit the needs of their predominant learning style – kinesthetic.  Pre-writing development begins early as children begin to use their hands and eyes to explore everything that they can reach and touch.  They are beginning to understand shapes and sizes as they manipulate a rattle or hold their bottle.  Balls, spoons, their hands and feet provide a means by which they discover space, texture and movement.  As soon as they begin to smash and rub their food on their tray (or face), they are starting the process of communicating with us.  As they pick up their first writing utensil and make a mark on a surface, they are discovering that their movements connect them with the outside world and allow them to create something unique.  And this is the very stage in which they will start to expand their search for more ways to communicate through the movement of their hands.  Movement – kinesthetic learning – through play is natural for children.  Opportunities to explore movement and new experiences in their environment will enhance their learning by providing challenges for assimilation and adaptation.

It is easy to incorporate kinesthetic learning into the lives of babies and toddlers because they are kinesthetic learners at heart.  Place a lighted toy or colorful ball within their reach, and they will begin to explore it without your assistance.  As they become preschoolers, their curiosity and interests begin to take shape and they will seek out activities with movement and tactile input.  The introduction of pre-writing skills into the preschoolers’ day does require adult assistance, however, in order to provide opportunities to develop the appropriate fine motor/cognitive skills for letter recognition.  Kinesthetic pre-writing skill development engages children in fine-motor movement by utilizing textures, creativity and Building Blocksexploration.  Gel bags for tracing the letters, finger paint trays and sensory bins offer them the visual and tactile input while they scribble with their hands in paint or shaving cream or search for hidden letters in a bin of beans.   Color and texture work well together for outlining  and forming the letters of the alphabet.   Textured paper, fabric, play dough and wood pieces become exciting shapes and letters.  Guided play, where an adult interacts and helps to create a structure for learning, enhances a child’s development of concepts such as “over” and “under” – basic skills for handwriting.

 

**The link to this study has been removed from the site where it was originally loacated and an internet search was unable to locate the original article.

 

 

 

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 when shared back to this article or her website.

Pictures that are the property of an outside site should include when shared the link provided with the photo to give proper credit to their owners.

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.

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; the Wellness For Life:  Cape Cod blog; 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.
Pictures are the property of the owner of the link and the link should be used whenever the photo is shared.
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