My Handy Handwriting Tool Box

My Handy Handwriting Tool Box:  A q-tip, cotton ball, and some sandpaper!

 

During my first year as a pediatric, school-based occupational therapist, I became a hoarder.  Yes, I can openly admit it.  A bone fide hoarder of gadgets, gizmos, whirligigs, and thingies.  If something even hinted at me that it could be used toward the development of any imaginable skill, I stuffed it into my car trunk.  Soon, the trunk became a California Closet, with bins and buckets and baskets.  At this point, of course, I needed a “more efficient” mode of transportation between car and school.  And out came the roller boards and sail bags!  Soon, I stopped going to the gym because my day job became my daily workout!  Yep.  I had lots of stuff.  But in the end, the economy of energy and time demanded that I spend a weekend sifting through my collection to determine what I actually did use (kind of like Pinterest!).  My OT Tool Box is quite small now and actually lots more fun.  Today, let’s chat about three simple Handwriting Helper Tools that are small, inexpensive, and very functional!

 

Handwriting development and remediation should encourage students to develop tactile, fine motor, and postural skills.   These will build a solid foundation for a fluid, legible handwriting style.  I keep three tools handy that can address these skills during fun, “I don’t even know I’m practicing my handwriting,” activities!

 

My Small Handwriting Tool Box

 

A q-tip helps develop the fine motor muscles of the hand for handwriting.
A q-tip helps develop the fine motor muscles of the hand for handwriting.

1.  A q-tip:  The length and circumference of a q-tip is just perfect for developing the tripod grasp.  It does not leave much room for any additional fingers!  The goal is to work on the tactile and fine motor development of the thumb, index, and long fingers on the “barrel” versus placement in the webspace of the hand.    It is light and encourages the students to put pressure on their fingers to control and manipulate it.  At the same time, its weight allows students with weaker hands to participate in the activity more easily.  They are inexpensive and can be purchased at any discount dollar store.

Uses

painting, dipped in water, and dry tracing

Activities:

Prone to be Good Practice:  Toddlers and preschoolers will enjoy lying on their tummies and propped up on their elbows while they paint with their q-tips on a large piece of paper taped to the floor.  This builds postural strength while they develop their age-appropriate grasping skills.

Wall Workout:  Shoulder, arm, and trunk muscles get a nice workout with activities that are taped to the wall or completed on a chalkboard.*  Pre-schoolers, kindergarteners, and elementary students can practice tracing over lines, shapes, letter formations, and words with their dry q-tips on paper taped to the wall. They can “erase” those that have been written in chalk on construction paper or on a chalk board using their q-tip dipped in water.  Be sure they are following the appropriate directional concepts.

I Can See You:  Students can build their tripod grasp, as well as shoulder strength and visualization skills, by writing with their q-tip in the air.  This is a simple warm-up activity to introduce a new letter formation.  Provide a visual demonstration of the letter on the board, with auditory directions as you write it.  With your back to the class, draw it in the air with your q-tip using the same auditory directions.  Then have the students mimic you as they draw them in the air as well.

 

2.  A cotton ball:  A cotton ball comes in handy for the development of pencil grasp and letter formations.  It is light and compact and allows students to work on tactile and visual skills any time, any place!  A bag of cotton balls is inexpensive and easy to carry in your tool box.

Uses

hold it, blow on it

Activities:

Inconspicuous but effective!
Inconspicuous but effective!

Got You In The Palm of My Hand:  Students who struggle with keeping their ring and little fingers in the resting position and off the pencil barrel will find a cotton ball to be their friend!  They can tuck it into the palm of their hand and use those two fingers to keep it in place as they practice their handwriting.  This will build the motor memory for a tripod grasping pattern. 

 

They can use it during art work, too!  It’s a hidden tool that, even if it falls on the floor, it’s a silent partner!

The Cotton Ball Game helps build efficient visual skills.
The Cotton Ball Game helps build efficient visual skills.

 

Cotton Ball Races:  Students of every age enjoy this game!  It can be done with or without a straw, on a table or on the floor.  Very versatile!  Blowing at the cotton ball encourages the development of eye convergence – bringing the eyes together to view close work.  If you add a target to aim at, the game also works on accommodation skills – switching between close and far work with ease and efficiency (like copying from the board).

 

3.  Some Sandpaper:   Sandpaper writing or drawing encourages the development of tactile awareness and enhances a student’s ability to determine how much pressure he is exerting on his fingers and on the pencil.  A too light or too heavy pressure can slow down a writer and lead to hand fatigue and illegible handwriting.  Sandpaper can be purchased inexpensively and is reusable!

Uses

handwriting practice, art activities

Activities:

Rub It Off:  Place a drawing or handwriting worksheet that’s been completed in pencil on top of a piece of sandpaper that been cut to the same size.  Have the students erase the pencil marks with a pencil top eraser to “make it new again.”  The sandpaper provides tactile input for pressure control.   They will have to exert the “just right” amount of pressure to be sure they don’t tear the paper.  If they are working on letter formations, be sure that they erase in the appropriate directions to encourage motor memory development.  You can add shoulder and trunk skills if you tape this activity to the wall or perform it on the floor!

Step-by-Step Drawing:  Have your students use a pencil** to complete a step-by-step drawing activity or to copy a picture on paper over sandpaper.  The sandpaper will provide tactile awareness for the controlled fine-motor movements necessary for duplicating specific lines and shapes – just like letter formations.  And again, the students will be practicing their pencil pressure skills to be sure that their drawing is visible and that they don’t tear the paper.  You can substitute the bond paper with heavy-duty tissue paper to increase the challenge for those students in the final stages of mastering pencil pressure.  You can add postural strengthening by taping the activity to the wall or on the floor.

 

I’d love to hear about three of your “tool box must have’s!”

 

As always, thanks for reading!  See you next time!

Katherine

 

*A chalkboard provides more tactile input than a dry-erase board and develops pencil control skills.
**A pencil (or chalk) provides more tactile input than a marker and encourages the development of pencil pressure and control skills.

 

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.  You can contact her and purchase her book, “Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation:  A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists,” through 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 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.

Modern Handwriting or Hieroglyphics? Are they simply DRAWING? (Part 1)

Is the hand ready for handwriting?
Is the hand ready for handwriting?

 

“Is writing really for the eye, at the expense of the hands?”

 

 

 

 

 

If you find that question intriguing, you must pick up Dr. Mark Changizi’s, equally intriguing book, The Vision Revolution.

As an evolutionary neurobiologist, he sparks this thought and

reveals that it is fortunate for the eye that

“writing has been culturally selected to look like nature….”

with its tendency “… to use the fundamental structural shapes in nature.”

That is good because the eye has evolved to see nature….”

It is unfortunate for “the hand, however, (which) has not evolved to draw nature.”  (1. p. 170)

 The Eye Versus The Hand

"Human sight is a complex sense composed of many complementary elements that work together.  The miraculous human eye, elegant in its detail and design, represents a gateway to vision."
“Human sight is a complex sense composed of many complementary elements that work together. The miraculous human eye, elegant in its detail and design, represents a gateway to vision.”

Our Eyes:

  • Our eyes have developed to recognize and interpret the foundational shapes and contours of nature – gradual and smooth deviations much like gentle movements with few angles to mark boundaries or beginnings and endings.
  • Our writing processes have changed over time, using nature as its guide, to meet the needs of our eyes.
  • Our ability to “see the natural shapes around us and…put those shapes to paper” to produce “thousands of tiny shapes” we call letters, and THEN to be able to use our rapid visual processing skills to interpret them is what Dr. Changizi calls “our greatest superpower of all!
  • This power provides us with literacy…which IS power in itself.  And he credits this superpower to the evolution of our eyes to record and analyze information for writing. (1. p. 167)

 

Our Hands:

Our hands did not evolve to reproduce nature's shapes naturally.
Our hands did not evolve to reproduce nature’s shapes naturally.
  • The hand, however, did not evolve to reproduce nature’s shapes naturally.  It was required to adapt to a handwriting process that was developed to use the fundamental shapes and contours of nature – lines and curves – to accommodate our visual system. 
  • Fine motor skill development is focused upon the need to use our hands in all of the required tasks of life – including handwriting. 
  • And the development of handwriting skills begins as soon as a child uses his visual system for the first time – at birth – before he ever puts a writing instrument to paper (or the wall) and makes a mark.
  • As soon as he does “make his mark,” he begins to understand the connection between the use of his hand and his ability to communicate with others.**

 

Scribbling, as pointless as it may appear, is the foundation for handwriting skills.

Scribbling is the foundation for handwriting skills.
Scribbling is the foundation for handwriting skills.
  • Scribbling is a natural developmental process that children worldwide develop following a similar process while using similar shapes.

 

  • Dr. Changizi urges us to look at children’s scribblings and understand that they are “objects – not necessarily realistic ones – (used) to convey a message…each culture using its own conventions to depict different objects.” (1. p. 177)  He suggests that if we “read” children’s drawings from a country that does not represent animals or people in art in the same manner as we do, their “objects” would most likely be difficult for us to interpret, as they are using their experiences to define them.  They are not pieces of lines and circles that have been placed next to each other to copy the object; but a visual image of what the object “looks” like to them in their “mind’s eye.”  Much like hieroglyphics, wouldn’t you say?

 

Hieroglyphics Fun Facts

  • Each character represented a common object in Egypt and could represent the sound of the object or simply an idea associated with it.
  • Of course, Egyptian hieroglyphics were based upon the conventions of the time and would be difficult for us to read anywhere outside of ancient Egypt without an interpreter.

 

My point here is that the pictures told the story – pictures of objects drawn from the “mind’s eye” – using mostly lines and strokes.   The readers “spoke” the same written language and understood the meaning of the representations.    The need for a written language that could be produced fluidly by hand and understood by those outside of one’s culture, however, demanded the need for structured handwriting instruction – one that would meet the demands of both the eyes and the hand.   This is where handwriting strokes came in.

 

Harnessing Scribbling to Mimic Nature

It appears that strokes are “fairly easy to see by the visual system, and are much easier for the hand to produce” than the shapes and contours in nature. (p. 171) 

Basic Strokes - Universal Handwriting Program
Basic Strokes – Universal Handwriting Program

Without the hand adapting to the needs of the eye, “the visual system couldn’t be harnessed for reading.”  Our “Literacy Superpower” would not be available to us.  Natural handwriting strokes, the precursors to handwriting skills, are all created through the scribbling of squiggles and doodles.  A crayon in a child’s fist is the first step in producing a message for the reader.  As children begin to gain muscular control over that crayon, they begin to realize that they can control which direction those scribbles take and the number of ways they can use them to create repeated patterns.  The first time they draw a dog that someone actually recognizes without translation, they collect that motor pattern and store it for future use, refining and modifying it until it is the best dog they’ve ever drawn.

 

Modern handwriting instruction is (and should be) taught in much the same way. 

  • First we harness those squiggles and scribbles as children learn to draw some vertical and horizontal lines, then some circles. 
  • As they gain control over the motor movements, we move them on to crossed lines and a square, finally going beyond and producing triangles and diamonds. 
  • As a more mature grasping pattern develops, as well as their visual perceptual skills, we provide practice designed to refine their burgeoning handwriting style.  
  • When they begin to master the chosen handwriting program,  they are in fact developing their own personal style.  In the end, they will produce a fluid, smooth, and legible handwriting that reflects their own perspective – how they see the words in their “mind’s eye.” 

 

This harnessing of scribbling forces us to follow convention and learn the strokes and forms that society can read and interpret.  But the seed for our personal handwriting style… our creative interpretations for the message that we want to convey…remains in our scribbling memories.  Hence, if a child is struggling with the mastery of the strokes that his hands have been adapted to produce, wouldn’t a bit of drawing practice help him to find his way naturally toward handwriting success?

"Open the doors to learning for children through the visual arts." (Art In The School.Org)
“Open the doors to learning for children through the visual arts.” (Art In The School.Org)

 

In Part 2 in our “Modern Handwriting or Hieroglyphics” series, I will “draw” upon the elements of art that suggest that drawing would be the perfect medium for handwriting instruction and remediation.  I certainly hope that you will join me – and share your thoughts!

 

 

 

 

(1)  The Vision Revolution:  Dr. Mark Changizi
**Interesting Note:  Dr. Changizi reveals on page 170 of his book, The Vision Revolution, that data he has collected from children’s scribbles (has) shown that “the fundamental structures occurring in scribbles are unlike those found in writing and in nature.”

 
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 owns and operates a clinic that specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills.  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; the Wellness For Life:  Cape Cod blog; 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 Tips: Getting It Right The First Time (using the lessons in life)

Handwriting Tips:  Getting It Right The First Time (using the lessons in life)

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

I have always been one to say, “Well, that was nice but next time….!”  I am never quite satisfied with the status quo.  If something didn’t happen quite the way I’d expected, I went on the hunt for a different way to approach it.  That’s not to say that I always found a better way – simply a different one.  Today I’d like to take some of those lessons learned and turn them into Handwriting Tips for Getting It Right the first Time!  Let’s go, shall we?

 

 

Tip 1: Never buy a house with a wet basement.
Tip 1: Never buy a house with a wet basement.

Tip #1:  Never buy a house with a wet basement.

Wet basements are the ultimate turn-off for me when I’m looking for a new home.  A soggy bottom means a weak foundation.  This hold true for handwriting skills, as well.  The early learning stages MUST be built soundly in order for a young writer to develop the appropriate skills for pencil grasp, letter formation and recognition, and fluid handwriting.  A weak foundation will result in lots of expensive “remodeling” later on!

 

 

Tip #2:  Birds do not nest in painted birdhouses.

Tip 2: Birds do not nest in painted birdhouses.
Tip 2: Birds do not nest in painted birdhouses.

Yes, that’s true!  When we purchased our nifty birdhouse a few years back, I asked the builder why he didn’t paint them?  He told me they were “put off” by the paint.  Voila!  A new fun fact is learned!  The same truth can be applied to handwriting practice.  If students who are struggling with handwriting skills are discouraged and put off by desk work and pencil-and-paper activities, then it is certainly counterproductive to ask them to spend time on them.  Handwriting practice and remediation can be accomplished with plenty of activities that get them up and moving, that provide them with opportunities for art work, or simply look like child’s play!  Painted birdhouses mean they will be empty.  No sense in that, eh?

 

 

Tip 3: Less is more!
Tip 3: Less is more!

Tip #3:  Less is more.

As my hubby and I are downsizing and getting ready to move to Arizona, we have come to realize that this saying has enormous value!  Phew!  Who knew that two people could accumulate so many useless things?  They must have been useless because some of them I haven’t even touched in the past 10 years!  Having “more” certainly didn’t make our life any better.  This same truth is a vital link for handwriting mastery.  Practicing letters or words over and over, whether they be on a chalkboard, paper, or in sand, can become tedious and boring.  Again, working on the fine and visual motor skills that lay the foundation is more fun and will enhance handwriting skills without your child even knowing he is practicing handwriting!  Less boring = more learning!

 

 

Tip  #4:  Don’t believe in coincidences.

Tip 4: Don't believe in coincidences.
Tip 4: Don’t believe in coincidences.

The old saying “It was meant to happen” is one that allows us to believe in coincidences.  If an event occurs, we can accept it without complaint and step away from the challenge of changing it.  Coincidences in handwriting are events that make it easy to accept sloppy and illegible skills.  They are the times when we say, “Well, we won’t need handwriting soon because technology will replace it.”  Or, “Why would I waste time on handwriting skills when he only needs to learn keyboarding?”  The increased use of technology and its capabilities is only a coincidence.  Handwriting skills have been and continue to be an important facet of learning – ones that continue to need instruction and remediation when they fall short.  Believing in coincidences can stand in the way of a child’s educational success.  Now was THAT meant to be?

 

 

Tip 5: Money doesn't grow on trees.
Tip 5: Money doesn’t grow on trees.

Tip #5:  Money doesn’t grow on trees.

It doesn’t?  Man, don’t dash my dreams just yet!  Funny, but I think I’ve heard just about every parent I’ve met say that to their child at least once in my presence!  Having money is a good thing, of course; but, as we’ve all learned in the end, it needs to be earned and saved.  Handwriting mastery works the same way.   The skills a child needs for fluid and legible handwriting must be taught using a STRUCTURED PROGRAM, with CONSISTENT PRACTICE, and with GUIDANCE.   They don’t simply grow on trees naturally where they can be plucked off when we need them.  They grow with practice and remediation.

 

 

 

 

 
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 and link to an attachment page must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Pictures that are the property of an outside site should include 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.

 

 

Failed at Handwriting: Collateral Damage From Poor Vision Skills

Education News
Education News
Collateral damage is the damage caused to people as a result of incidents occurring around them in which they are not necessarily involved.  Despite their lack of participation, the injuries or harm that are inflicted on them are real, nonetheless.  At times, people can be aware of the impending danger; but the occurrence can also come at them from out of the blue.  The danger was there all of the time but their awareness of it comes only after it has made itself visible.

 

Visible…that’s the key word in the discussion about collateral damage and handwriting skills. 

 

The impending danger – the underlying cause that can result in handwriting struggles – will sometimes only show itself when a child begins to USE his vision-related skills in kindergarten.

The signs may be there prior to kindergarten and first grade; but they are subtle and lurk behind our reluctance to push children past their developmental skill level.

If a preschooler is having some difficulties with pre-handwriting skills, it is natural and correct for us to consider that he may be developing at his own rate and that he will catch up with experience.

Only when he fails to do that do we begin to suspect that there may be another cause for his struggles.

By the time we sidle up to the problem, our little kindergarten student is struggling with reading, writing, and arithmetic expectations.

 

How do we prevent our children from collateral damage resulting from poor vision skills? Prevention is best achieved by “getting smart” on vision wellness strategies and the outward symptoms of visual skill impairments.  Let’s

A child's vision is the gateway to her world.
A child’s vision is the gateway to her world.

review those here.

 

  • Vision Assessments

1.  Over 60% of what a child learns, from the day he is born, is learned through his vision.  Fifty percent of what he needs to know will be obtained in his first year of life.

2.  The most critical stages of vision development occur during that first year.  Hence, undetected vision problems can lead to permanent vision impairment.

3.  Babies can develop amblyopia, strabismus, eye diseases, and refractive error without detection.

4.  It is recommended that babies receive their first vision assessment by a developmental optometrist

between the ages of 6-12 months,

at the age of 3,

as they enter kindergarten, and

every year thereafter, unless otherwise specified by their developmental optometrist.

5.  InfantSEE provides free vision assessments for babies between the ages of 6-12 months, regardless of their access to insurance benefits or their parents’ financial status.

Outward Symptoms

1.  Visual Red Flags* are behaviors that may indicate possible difficulties in visual functions.

2.  They can be observed during a child’s every day activities, such as dressing, playground exploration, and fine-motor arts and crafts.

Eyes that drift inward or outward, consistently or inconsistently, warrant assessment by a developmental optometrist.
Eyes that drift inward or outward, consistently or inconsistently, warrant assessment by a developmental optometrist.

3.  Some symptoms are quite visible, such as stumbling or walking into walls, awkward movements with running and climbing, difficulty with movement sequences (Simon Says), or rubbing the eyes or squinting.

4.  Other symptoms include inappropriate social behaviors such as grabbing at items presented to him, giving the appearance of staring at or ignoring someone speaking to him, too much/too little pressure on his pencil.

5.  Eyes that drift in or out, consistently or inconsistently, can indicate a visual impairment and should be brought to the attention of a pediatrician and developmental optometrist.

 

In order for a child to master the skills necessary for kindergarten readiness…and ultimately reading, handwriting, and math success…he needs to be able to see clearly.

Sometimes, all a child needs for success, are a pair of glasses!
Sometimes, all a child needs for success, are a pair of glasses!

Seeing clearly means that his eyes are working together to form one image, an accurate perception of himself and his world, for an adequate length of time.

He needs to be able to manipulate letters and numbers on a page, locate and identify errors, understand the boundaries of his working space, and write for comprehension – both his and his reader’s.

He must be able to “learn to read and read to learn.”

These skills are built upon strong and solid vision skills.  And vision skills are built from birth.

 

As always, thanks for reading!  “See” you next time!
 
Katherine
 
 
 
 *A Vision Red Flags Checklist can be obtained on Handwriting With Katherine’s Resources Page.
 
 
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.

All other pictures should provide a link back to their source.

 

 

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.

 


 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.
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