National Handwriting Week! How Does Vision Fit In?

IMG_5430National Handwriting Day is celebrated each year on January 23, John Hancock’s birthday (according to the Gregorian calendar), an American Revolutionary leader and first signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association started this holiday in 1977 to acknowledge the history and influence of penmanship.  And we carry on this tradition today to increase awareness of the literacy benefits of mastering handwriting skills.

 

One of the most overlooked skills in the assessment of handwriting problems is the visual component.  Vision (which is comprised of 17 skills, only one of which is eyesight) can hinder a child’s educational progress by robbing him or her of the opportunity to form accurate perceptions of himself, the environment around him, and letter and numbers.  These misperceptions can lead to reading and writing challenges as well as problems with sports and activities of daily living.

With vision in mind, I am re-sharing this post that explains the vital need for having a child’s vision assessed and the important role vision has in learning.  And that includes handwriting.

 

Anatomy of the Eye Hot Air BalooningIn”sight” Into Handwriting Struggles

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.  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.

Crossing the Midline – an important handwriting skill

Crossing the Midline

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

on The Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

baseball ruthclark pixabayChildren who experience difficulty with the mastery of handwriting skills are often struggling with crossing their body midline.   During the performance of handwriting tasks, the arm, hand, and eyes travel from the writer’s left side to his right, crossing the body’s center many times.  Letter formations also rely upon the writer’s ability to cross from left to right to cross a “t” or produce an “x.”  A developmental skill need that limits the fluid movement across midline prevents a child from mastering the basic facets of handwriting mastery.

 

What is Crossing the Midline?

Crossing the midline is a bilateral skill demonstrated by the ability to spontaneously move one hand, foot, or eye into the space of the other hand, foot, or eye.  This happens when we sit cross-legged on the floor, scratch our elbow, read or write from left to right, draw a horizontal line from one side of the paper to the other, or connect intersecting lines to draw a cross without switching hands.  Crossing the midline is a coordinated movement that is developed as a child experiences activities that include cross-lateral motions, such as reaching across the body to retrieve a toy.  These movements help to build pathways in the brain that facilitate the development of various motor and cognitive skills involved in completing self-care tasks, participating in sports, reading, and writing.

Crossing the midline is an integral skill related to bilateral coordination.  Bilateral coordination is defined as the ability to use both sides of the body together in a coordinated, controlled, and organized manner during tasks that require the use of one hand to stabilize and the other to perform simultaneously.   These activities include crawling or climbing stairs, catching or throwing a ball, manipulating clothing fasteners, tying shoes, stringing beads, cutting, and handwriting.  In addition to the foundational skills of eye-hand coordination and muscular strength, the development of bilateral coordination is dependent upon an accurate body awareness.  This perceptual skill represents the ability to know where the body and its parts are positioned in space without using vision allowing for the spontaneous and efficient completion of tasks.  The development of bilateral coordination indicates that both sides of the brain are communicating effectively in the sharing of information.  The development of a “helper” and a “worker” hand to facilitate bilateral movements is a sign that the brain is maturating and that brain lateralization is occurring.  The lateralization process is strongly correlated with the ability to cross midline.

Brain lateralization is defined by the ongoing process that is thought to begin in the prenatal period and continue throughout early childhood. The brain OpenClipartVectors pixabaycerebrum consists of two hemispheres (or halves) that specialize in different functions which control different areas of the body.  The left hemisphere controls the right side of the body and contains the centers for the understanding and use of language (listening, reading, speaking, and writing), memory for spoken and written language, analysis of information in detail, and motor control of the right side of the body.  The right hemisphere controls the motor movements of the left side of the body and contains the centers for processing visual-spatial information, comprehending and remembering things you see and do, and using pieces of information to form a complete picture.  The two halves are connected by a band of fibers called the corpus callosum which plays an important role in integrating their respective functions.  Lateralization becomes specialized to serve particular functions and involves a preference for using one hand or side of the body more than another.  Hand dominance is a result of brain lateralization.  (1, p. 176-7)

 

What are the behaviors that indicate difficulty with Bilateral Coordination and Crossing the Midline Skills?

Children who have difficulty with these skills may display decreased coordination and motor control, tend to avoid crossing their midline by using alternate hands for performing tasks on each side of their body, and have difficulty establishing hand dominance.  These children may appear to be ambidextrous because they use both hands alternately during and among tasks.  However, they may actually be doing that because they have two unskilled hands.  In addition, children who experience problems with crossing the midline can have difficulty with higher level skills such as reading and writing as they both involve left-to-right eye and hand movements.   This may be observed as stopping in the middle of the page to blink or rub their eyes, losing their place frequently during close work tasks, being unable to master letter formations that include diagonal lines, or stopping in the middle of the page to switch hands during handwriting assignments.  For children who have an inaccurate sense of body awareness, they may appear clumsy and cautious with movement especially when it involves having their feet of the ground.  They may seek or avoid deep sensory input or have difficulty coordinating both sides of their body to complete bilateral activities of daily living.  These behaviors also can result from inefficient eye-hand coordination and muscular strength.

 

What are some activities to promote the development of Crossing the Midline Skills?

The activities listed below are some examples of easy-to-implement tasks or games that will enhance the underlying skills that promote the development of crossing the midline skills.

 

obstacle course Hezsa pixabayFor younger children:

  • Obstacle course activities performed inside or outside that encourage crawling and climbing using verbal commands for directional concepts such as over and under, back and front, and up and down promote gross- and fine-motor muscle strengthening, the understanding of directional concepts, body awareness, and bilateral coordination skills.
  • Floor games such as bean bag toss or ball rolling can be designed to encourage crossing the midline by having children catch or stop the bean bag or ball on the sides of their body versus the middle (e.g., using the right hand to perform the task on the left and vice versa).   Have the child call out the side of his body where he has caught or stopped the object.  These activities encourage body awareness, balance skill development, and midline crossing as the child reaches with one or both hands across the body to perform the task and identifies the sides of his body.
  • Sitting or standing games such as bean bag toss can encourage the child to reach for and pick up an object on the opposite side of the body and throw it at a target on the reverse side (e.g., picking up a bean bag located on the left side with the right hand and then throwing it at a target on the right side and vice versa.)  Provide verbal directions to direct which hand the child will use or have him call out which hand he intends to use before he begins each toss.  This activity encourages balance, midline crossing, and visual attention skills.
  • Push and pull toys or activities that are performed at midline such as pop beads, connecting blocks, lacing, hand exercises (pushing palms together at chest level), or rolling putty into a long snake encourage bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, and upper extremity muscle strengthening skills.
  • Pretending to drive a car using a ball promotes midline crossing as the child holds the ball in both hands and turns it like a steering wheel by crossing his arms over each other as he drives. This can be adapted for children who have sufficient upper extremity strength by having them perform the activity without the ball.  This activity promotes upper extremity muscle strengthening, bilateral coordination, and crossing the midline skills.
  • Clapping and popping bubbles performed in either sitting or standing can encourage engagement in the left, center, and right space in front of the popping bubbles seomyungjuk pixabay-766535_1920child.  This activity promotes visual attention, bilateral coordination, midline crossing, and upper extremity muscle strengthening skills.
  • Keeping time to music by clapping hands, alternating clapping hands and patting knees, tapping sticks together, or marching in place promote crossing the midline skills.  These activities as well as playing games that include following directions such as Simons Says or Hokey Pokey promote balance, body awareness, bilateral coordination, and visual attention skills.
  • Batting a balloon back and forth in sitting or standing promotes balance, visual attention, and crossing the midline skills.
  • Upper extremity exercises performed in either sitting or standing can promote midline crossing skill development.  Exercises can include touching toes with the opposite hand, performing windmills above the head or windshield washers in front of the body (crossing arms back and forth over each other), tapping opposite shoulders with the hands, hugging the body, or swinging lowered arms back and forth slowly across and behind the body.  Provide verbal directions or have the child call out the directions for each hand or side being addressed.  These activities promote balance, body awareness, bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, visual attention, and upper extremity muscle strengthening skills.
  • Large arm movement activities in the air that cross from the child’s left side to his right side and reverse, such as drawing large crosses or figure 8’s (an 8 turned on its side or the infinity symbol) promote midline crossing development.   Activities that include practice for letter formation strokes (circle, up/down, or left/right strokes) can be adapted to address midline skills by first producing the letter on the left side, then in the middle, and finally on the right side using the child’s preferred hand.  Large arm movements in the air promote balance, upper extremity muscle strengthening, bilateral coordination, and midline crossing skills as well as visualization skills for automatic motor memory patterns.
  • Lazy 8s 1296Large movement activities performed on the floor on a large piece of paper or on a sidewalk can encourage crossing the midline.  Have the child trace large crosses or figure 8’s (drawn on their side) using different colors of chalk to create rainbow tracings, drive a toy car through a figure eight driveway, or complete a large simple maze with chalk or colored pencils.  These activities promote visual attention, bilateral coordination, and crossing the midline skills as well as upper extremity muscle strengthening with crawling and movement on all four’s.  The use of chalk provides tactile input to promote handedness and writing/drawing tool control.
  • Tracing activities on a vertical surface that use large arm movements that cross from the child’s left side to his right side and reverse, such as drawing large crosses or figure 8’s (drawn on their side), driving a small car through a roadway system, completing a simple maze, or drawing lines on which to practice letter strokes. These activities promote bilateral coordination and crossing the midline skills.  In addition, activities that are performed on a vertical surface promote upper extremity muscle strengthening and visual attention skills.

 

For older children:  While some of the activities listed below were also listed for younger children, they can be enhanced for the older ones by increasing the challenges with time or speed elements or the inclusion of academic tasks.

  • Large arm movement activities in the air that cross from the child’s left side to his right side and reverse, such as drawing large crosses or figure 8’s (an 8 turned on its side or the infinity symbol) promote midline crossing skills.  This activity can include practicing letter formations or spelling words in the air using his preferred hand, first on the left side, then in the middle, and finally on the right side.  Large arm movements in the air promote upper extremity muscle strengthening, bilateral coordination, midline crossing skill as well as visualization skills for automatic motor memory patterns.
  • Large movement activities that combine arm and leg movements such as drawing or writing on a large piece of paper or a sidewalk promote crossing the body midline.  Have the child trace large crosses or figure 8’s using different colors of chalk to create rainbow tracings, use a pencil to “drive” through a figure 8 pathway, copy a drawing, or complete a large maze with chalk or colored pencils.  These activities promote visual attention, bilateral coordination, and crossing the midline skills as well as upper extremity muscle strength with crawling and movement on all four’s.  The use of chalk provides tactile input to promote handedness and writing/drawing tool control.
  • Tracing activities on a vertical surface that provide large arm movements that cross from the child’s left side to his right side promotes midline crossing.  These activities can include copying a drawing, completing an age-appropriate maze or word search, or drawing lines on which to practice spelling words.  These activities promote bilateral coordination as well.  In addition, activities that are performed on a vertical surface promote upper extremity muscle strengthening and visual attention skills.
  • Keeping time to music by clapping hands, alternating clapping hands and patting knees, tapping sticks together, or marching in place promote playing ball clip art clkerFreeVectorImages Pixabaybalance, body awareness, bilateral coordination, and visual attention skills.
  • Batting a balloon back and forth in sitting or standing promotes balance, visual attention, and crossing the midline skills.  Using a balloon instead of a ball increases the challenge and enhances the development of these skills.  Adding a verbal task such as reciting the alphabet or answering questions further increases the activity’s challenge.
  • Upper extremity exercises performed in sitting or standing can include touching toes with the opposite hand, crossing the right hand to touch the raised left knee and alternating sides in a rhythmic fashion, jumping jacks, or running in place with exaggerated arm movements.   These activities promote balance, body awareness, bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, visual attention, and upper extremity muscle strengthening skills.  Adding small, light weights or a verbal task, such as reciting the directions aloud during the task will further enhance development of visual attention, crossing the midline, and bilateral coordination skills.
  • Ball toss, catch, or kick games in standing or sitting promote visual attention, body awareness, balance, midline crossing, and upper extremity strengthening skills.
  • Construction toys and crafts that encourage the use of two hands to construct a product promote bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, fine motor strengthening, and visual attention skills.
  • Board or card games such as strategy games or solitaire can encourage visual scanning from left-to-right. These activities, as well as most board or card games, promote visual attention, bilateral coordination, and crossing the midline skills.
  • Mazes, word search, hidden picture, and tangrams performed on a vertical or horizontal surface promote visual attention and crossing the midline skills.  Activities performed on a vertical surface promote upper extremity strengthening skills.
  • Yoga postures. These activities promote body awareness, balance, bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, visual attention, and muscle strengthening skills.
  • Playing sports or tug-of-war.  These activities promote balance, visual attention, bilateral coordination, crossing the midline, and muscle strengthening skills.

 

Crossing the midline skills are developmental and should appear by the age of 3-4 years.  This article is meant to provide information about its development and the symptoms that indicate a need in this area.  If you find that your child has not achieved this milestone by the age of 4, it would be wise to consult with his or her pediatrician to determine if there is an actual need that would benefit from intervention.

 

(Blog edited May 2018.)

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

 

Photos are the property of the  photographers at Pixabay where indicated.    Their use should include the link provided with the pictures.  All other photographs are property of the author and are not to be used without her written permission.

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.

 

 

References:
  1. Shaffer, David R., and Katherine Kipp. Developmental Psychology: Childhood and Adolescence. 9th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2013. Print.
  2. Edwards, Marissa, M.S., OTR/L. “Help Your Child Develop the “Crossing the Midline” Skill.” Nspt4kids.com. North Shore Pediatric Therapy, 18 Apr. 2011. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. <http://nspt4kids.com/parenting/help-your-child-develop-the-crossing-the-midline-skill/>.
  3. “What Is Brain Lateralization?” Nspt4kids.com. North Shore Pediatric Therapy, n.d. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. <http://nspt4kids.com/healthtopics-and-conditions-database/brain-lateralization/>.

 

Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing – Handwriting Tip From Miss Jaime OT

The “Summer Handwriting Fun” series proudly presents a Guest Post from the amazing Miss Jaime OT!  We are pleased that she has joined us in sharing fun and motivating activities that help children master their handwriting development skills.  Handwriting is a complex activity and involves many visual perceptual skills, one of which is spatial awareness.  Miss Jaime is here to highlight one of her special strategies for enhancing spatial awareness with handwriting.  I know you will enjoy her work!  Be sure to visit her site and comment on this article so that she knows how much you appreciate her!  Miss Jaime, you’re on!

 

Spaghetti 1Introducing “Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing

One of my favorite Handwriting lessons to teach to my kids is “Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing.” In order to write neatly, your letters and words need to be spaced properly. Children learn the concept of spacing as soon as they start learning to write. It can be easy for some children but hard for others. Some teachers teach finger spacing, but finger spacing only applies to spaces between words.   Children need help to understand the concept of spacing their letters within a word, too. I love to teach this with “Spaghetti and Meatball spacing.”

 

You may be thinking, “What on earth is Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing?” I don’t blame you! Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing is a lesson that I teach to help children learn how to space properly when writing. Teachers often ask me, “Why doesn’t Johnny remember to space his letters?” The truth is that children need to learn how to space their letters and words. They don’t just automatically “get it.”  Using the concept of “Spaghetti and Meatballs” can help a child to remember to space properly in between the letters and words.  It is a fun way to provide visual cues for proper spacing.

 

Spaghetti Spaces

 

The letters in a word need to be placed next to each other. They can’t be too far apart and they shouldn’t be touching. Children know that spaghetti is thin and meatballs are round. Using the concept of a stick of spaghetti is a great way to get kids to leave the correct amount of space between letters in their words. I like to use a real piece of spaghetti the first time I teach this concept to my students. It makes the kids laugh, which makes them excited to get started. Motivation is key for good handwriting! After I teach the kids the concept, I use Wiki Stix to reinforce “Spaghetti Spacing.” (Wiki Stix are wax covered pieces of yarn.)  I give each child two wikis (one for the meatball and one for the spaghetti). They can keep them in their supply box and take them out when they grab their pencil before a writing activity. I show the children to put their line of “spaghetti” down after each letter in a word.   After the children get more comfortable with it, they can write the word and then use the wiki to “check” to see if they have left the right amount of space.  Here are some examples:

"I can  use spaghetti after each letter as I write it. Now I can be sure I leave enough space!"
“I can use spaghetti after each letter as I write it. Now I can be sure I leave enough space!”
“Whoops! I think some of our letters are too close! We’d better use the spaghetti to check!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 " I wrote my name and then checked it with spaghetti.  The spaghetti was covering some of my y.  I forgot to leave enough space."
” I wrote my name and then checked it with spaghetti. The spaghetti was covering some of my ‘y.’ I forgot to leave enough space.”

 

 

Meatball Spaces

 

The words in a sentence need to have “Meatball Spaces” in between them.  I use a balled up wiki to be my Meatball when I teach about Meatball Spaces. The kids can place the Meatball after each word to make sure they leave enough space before they write the next word. Again, once they get more comfortable, they can use their Meatball to “check” that their spaces between the words are big enough. Here are some examples.

 

Meatballs 1
“I used meatballs in between my words to make sure I left enough space”
Spaghetti 5
“I can check my spacing with Spaghetti and Meatballs!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tying it all together

Children need to practice spacing their letters and words all through Kindergarten. Most children are able to grasp the concept of proper spacing after some practice, but children who have difficulty with spatial awareness need more help to really master spacing when writing. Teaching “Spaghetti and Meatball Spacing” is the perfect way to teach both spacing in between letters  AND spacing between words. Using the wiki stix helps to create a multi-sensory lesson that children remember and enjoy.  Try it – Everybody loves “Spaghetti and Meatballs!”

 

Happy spacing!

Miss Jaime OT

 

 

~Miss Jaime, O.T.

 

 

Biography

Jaime Spencer is a pediatric Occupational Therapist with fifteen years experience in Long Island, New York. She currently works in a public school with students Kindergarten to 5th grade. She also has ten years experience working in a sensory gym with preschool age children.  
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Utica College of Syracuse University and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from Adelphi University. She was recently certified in Assistive Technology from California State University Northridge.
Jaime Spencer is the author of the Occupational Therapy blog www.MissJaimeOT.com

 

Summer Handwriting Fun Series #1

10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun
10 Tips for Summer Handwriting Fun

10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness

cartoon girl public domain pictures pixabay

10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness

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

on the Handwriting is Fun! Blog

 

Kindergarten has become the new first grade.  Yes, I am from the “old school” where free play, guided activities, and milk and cookies gave Kindergarten it’s role and purpose.  I know they included nap time in there, as well, but I was never a napper.  So, I spent that quiet time day dreaming and cooking up story ideas in my head!  Kindergarten was a place to dream, grow, and get to know all about yourself.  But all that has been designated as preschool activities and Kindergarteners are expected to have certain skills at the “ready” when they come to school.  So, let’s take a look at some Kindergarten Readiness Skills, shall we?

 

 

First Some Research

  • A 2004 study conducted by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, (2) looked at the factors and components that account for differences in children’s skills and performance in Kindergarten.  They found that “the cognitive and social skills with which young children enter kindergarten make a difference in their achievement in kindergarten.”  Findings indicated that a child’s family experiences and interactions “strongly correlated with their relative skills and abilities upon entry to kindergarten.”
  • The authors of a 2002 National Center for Early Learning and Development study (1) found that “school readiness is not defined as a trait of a child but rather as a product of interactions in terms of the settings in which the child participates.”  Family, social, and educational environments prior to Kindergarten provide youngsters with opportunities to learn behaviors, language and communication skills, and problem solving strategies.
  • A 2000 longitudinal study conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, (3) determined that “the foundation of cognitive skills and knowledge that children build in kindergarten will influence children’s experience in school and their cognitive growth in later school years.”

 

I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve selected 3 studies that are not current.  I’ve done that to emphasize that Kindergarten readiness has been known to be an important factor in a child’s educational success for some time.  Even us stick-in-the-muds have to admit that!  There is a great deal of effort in the communities to get children, their parents, and the schools together early to foster the development of children’s skills during the critical first 5 years.  Knowledge is the most important tool we can give parents in their quest for educational success for their children.  And it all needs to start before they enter the door to their Kindergarten classroom.puzzle family cartoon geralt pixabay-210786_1280

 

What are Kindergarten Readiness Skills?

Children who come to Kindergarten are expected to have a wide range of skills that will help them to learn and grown in school.

  • Enthusiasm toward learning.   A child should be excited about exploring new activities, comfortable with asking questions, and diligent enough to persevere with challenging tasks.
  • Language skills.  He should be able to communicate his needs and express his feelings in an appropriate manner.  He should have an accurate sense of body awareness with an understanding of directional terms such as around, under, over, and through.
  • Ability to listen.  A child should be able to follow simple instructions and listen to an entire story without interrupting.
  • Desire to be independent.  She should be able to separate from her parents for the length of the school day, be able to use the bathroom by herself, and be starting to take responsibility for her personal belongings.
  • Ability to interact with children and adults.  A child should be able to follow a simple two-step task and independently problem solve.  He should be willing to share, compromise, and take turns with his classmates and teachers.  It helps if he remembers to say “please, thank you, and excuse me,” as well!
  • Strong fine-motor skills.  A child should be able to hold and use a pencil, cut with scissors, and be learning to write her name.  It is important that she be able to carefully turn the pages of a book, pack and unpack her backpack, and fasten snaps and buttons on her clothing.  (Zippers are nice but not an essential just yet!)
  • Basic letter and number awareness.  A child should be able to sing and recite the alphabet and to recognize some letters   He should be able to count to 10 and identify numbers one to five.  Teachers would also like him to be able to recognize his name printed in in upper and lower case letters (James).  It is also helpful if he knows the basic colors and shapes.

 

Despite my stick-in-the-mud viewpoint, I have come up with 10 Handy Helpers for Kindergarten Readiness!  These are the very skills that eventually, when the time is right, will help children to master their handwriting skills!  So, let’s go and discover just what they are, shall we?

 

10 Handy Helpers That You Can Do At Home!

Have fun with learning by having your children include these activities in your daily routines:

1.  Count the number of steps from the bedroom to the bathroom, to the bath to the kitchen, and from the door to the mailbox. (visual-motor and visual perceptual skills)

2.  Shout out directional terms as he sets the table (left for the fork, right for the knife and spoon) or when you go for a walk (up for the sky, down for the sidewalk, and over for the bridge).  (body and spatial awareness)

3.  Find book titles in the library that begin with each letter of the alphabet in order.  (sequencing, visual memory, letter recognition)

4.  Sort and match the laundry when it’s dry and deliver it to the owners.  (visual discrimination)  Use clothespins to dry them outside on the line! (fine-motor)

peas and carrots condesign pixabay5.  Cut out pictures of grocery items from the newspaper and locate them in the store.  (visual discrimination, visual scanning, visual recognition)

6.  Draw a picture of something he did that day and verbally describe it.  (language, fine motor, visualization)

7.  Count out small snacks as she puts them into a bowl.  (fine motor, sequencing, visual-motor)

8.  Prepare a simple recipe by measuring, pouring, mixing, and stirring the ingredients.  (fine motor, visual-motor, sequencing, following directions)

9.  Dictate a letter for you to write for him to grandmother, sister, or friend.  (visualization, language)

10. Unpack the groceries and help to put them away.  (visual scanning, fine- and gross-motor, visual discrimination)

 

Of course, there’s always puzzles, board games, books, and crafts to help your child get ready for school!  So much fun, so little time!

 

As always, thanks for reading!  I hope you will honor me with your comments, feedback, and suggestions for more ways to include Kindergarten readiness in a child’s daily routine!

Katherine

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 the photographers at Pixabay and their use 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.

 

 

(1) Pianta, R. C., & Cox, M. (2002).  Early Childhood Research and Policy Briefs; Transition to Kindergarten.  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:  National Center for Early Development & Learning.

(2)  Boethel, M. (2004).  Readiness: School, Family, and Community.  Southwest Educational Development Laboratory
(3)  U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics.  America’s Kindergarteners, NCES 2000-070, by Kristin Denton, Elvira Germino-Hausken. Project Officer, Jerry West, Washington, DC: 2000.

Handwriting Tips for Older Students – Posters!

Handwriting Tips for Older Students – Posters!

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

This birdhouse became the centerpiece of visual book report!
This birdhouse became the centerpiece of visual book report!

 

 

One summer, I came across a remarkable fourth-grade student who desperately wanted to increase her speed with cursive.  We’ll call her Mary.  When I assessed her handwriting skills, I discovered that her letter formations were superb, but she certainly attained that perfection at the expense of speed.  We spent the summer building that skill and we were both thrilled with her progress.

 

But, the next summer, her parents came to me with their concern that, although she could produce legible and speedy handwriting, she was unable to construct a book report independently.  It was evident to me that my work had not ended with handwriting skills.  Functionality depended upon her ability to convey her knowledge through a handwritten product.  After years of struggling with speed, my little gal had not achieved the requisite skills for creating content with her brain while she was using her hands to write.  That summer turned my business focus from practice to function!

 

A strategy to move from practice to function

Book reports have been a part of students’ education since the beginning of time!  Well, it seems that way, doesn’t it?  Mary shied away from them not because they required handwriting but because they demanded her to use her handwriting and creativity together to develop a story of her own.   As I reviewed her needs, I focused upon the fact that handwriting and writing are both complex skills that rely heavily upon gross-motor, fine-motor, visual perceptual, and cognitive skills.  It was important to understand that older students who are continuing to master their use of handwriting to create written work do not benefit from simply having to write more book reports!  So, I decided to address her parents’ concerns, while adding a little zing to her sessions, with a mix of creativity that included movement, fine motor, and visual perceptual skills!

 

As Mary and I chatted over the past summer about her joy of outdoor activities, I discovered that she had not developed a fine-motor hobby.  I introduced her to my cross stitch and she was excited about trying it.  Bingo!  Right there I got the creative bug and began to develop our summer sessions!  Here’s what I came up with:

 

A Visual Book Report Plan

1.  First, I asked Mary to select and read a short-story from a list I provided.  The story she chose was about a boy who helps his granddad build birdhouses.

2.  Then, I collected my supplies:

(a) a beginner’s cross stitch pattern of a bird and a birdhouse to tie a fine-motor craft with our handwriting/writing project (above).  My goal was to encourage critical thinking that linked the use of her hands

A graphic organizer links visual and fine-motor skills!
A graphic organizer links visual and fine-motor skills!

to the book report ideas that she was developing in her thoughts.  (linking fine-motor and visual perceptual skills)

(b) a graphic organizer with the “bubbles” labeled as:  main idea, characters, struggles, lessons learned, and impressions.

(c) a 3-fold poster board and art supplies for the completion of a visual book report.

3.  As I suspected, Mary found the graphic organizer difficult to complete independently.  So, we used her cross stitch learning experience as an opportunity to fill in a graphic organizer to outline the process.   This exercise provided her with a way to refresh her memory as she worked on the project at home, while it mimicked the process we would use next time to complete her book report graphic organizer task. (linking fine-motor to both handwriting and creativity)

4.  I took our next attempt at the book report graphic organizer to the chalkboard.  I found that the move from chair to standing did wonders for her thought process, as well as the tactile experience she received from writing on the board.  I introduced Mary to visualization, asking her to think of the story in her “mind’s eye,” visualizing what she had read and how the story flowed.

Visualization skills can help to "see" what's behind without having to look!
Visualization skills can help to “see” what’s behind without having to look!

We practiced this skill with her cross stitch, transferring the skill to “see” the hole behind the fabric with her eye and her touch, without turning the fabric over. Then we brainstormed the “character bubble” as she wrote on the board, subsequently transferring the information to her graphic organizer.  (linking fine-motor with visual perception; transferring visual perceptual skills)

5.  Mary began to transfer her visualization skills independently at the board and with her cross stitch.  At her seventh session she announced that while she was working on her cross stitch at home, she began to think about her story and remembered something that she’d left out of the “lessons learned bubble!”  (Remember:  The cross stitch was a bird and birdhouse!)

communication poster board 2 calvary science6.  When the graphic organizer was nearly complete, we turned our attentions to the creation of a visual book report.  The poster board caused a panic, as Mary stated that she was “not good at those” and found herself back at the beginning of the summer without tools to help her to succeed.  I used the last “bubble – impressions” to regain her confidence and to encourage her to transfer her visualization and organizational skills to the design of the board.  She suggested we use another graphic organizer to plan her design.  Great thinking!

7.  We got very creative with brainstorming about the poster, including her cross stitch, her written book report, and pictures of birds and birdhouses in the layout.    The purpose of the craft activity was to encourage creativity and visual perception and to link what she had read to a visual presentation of the book.  Mary’s choices for the poster layout indicated that she understood the part that each played in her book report.

And how did we do?

(1)  Mary’s final handwritten book report at the end of the summer was an improvement over her initial work.  She continued to require quite a bit of encouragement and brainstorming to turn her poster profesales pixabayobservations on the graphic organizer into an age-appropriate handwritten book report.  It was apparent that she would continue to need practice on the processes we had utilized in our sessions.

(2)  Mary advanced her skill for thinking creatively with the use of a graphic organizer during the design of her poster.   She needed a bit of help with the physical presentation in order to display a pleasant and organized visual representation of her book.  Again, her confidence and creative ability were improvements from the beginning of the summer; but she would continue to need guidance and encouragement to continue to explore her creative and informative writing skills.

And what did we gain?

After 12 weeks (2 sessions per week), Mary was exposed to a set of skills that she would be able to transfer to her classroom assignments:

(1)  visualization

(2)  graphic organization

(3)  use of handwriting for creative expression.

 

And the best part?  Mary helped my occupational therapy practice turn the corner from practice to functional!  And, that is the level of competence that older students need to achieve as well!

 

 

As always, thank you for reading!  I would love to hear your impressions about our poster board book report idea, as well as any ideas you have used to turn practice into functional!

 

Katherine

 

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

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

                             Andy Warhol

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

1.  Focus on handwriting foundational skills.

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

2.  Create a space for independence and experimentation.

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

3.  Provide the opportunity to share and feel pride.

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

4.  Connect the dots that link handwriting with art.

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

 5.  Listen to the feedback.

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning – Part 1

Vision skills allow us to make sense of our bodies – how they work alone and how they work within the world around us.

Vision takes the lead in action-pro-action-and-reaction and is a cognitive skill developed in the brain.  In fact, our eyes are actually extensions of our brain.  Dr. David Hubel, and his collaborator, Dr. Torsten Wiesel, dedicated their research to discovering the ways that the brain processes information.  This journey lead to Hubel’s writing that Anatomy of the Eye Hot Air BalooningThe retina is part of the brain, having been sequestered from it early in development but having kept its connections with the brain proper through a bundle of fibers – the optic nerve.”   He hails the retina’s role in Visual Information Processing as one that “by translating light into nerve signals, it begins the job of extracting from the environment what is useful and ignoring what is redundant.  No human inventions, including computer-assisted cameras, can begin to rival the eye.”   And so, as we begin our discussion on visual information processing, we will soon discover for ourselves the profound effect that the work and writings of Dr. David Hubel and his coworkers had on our realization and understanding of the key role that vision plays in learning.

The skills we use to process visual information are often labeled as “Visual Perceptual Skills.”  This complex set of cognitive skills allows us to gather information and integrate it with our other senses.  This set includes:

·      Visual Attention
·      Visual Discrimination
·      Position in Space
·      Visual Spatial Relations
·      Visual Memory
·      Visual Sequential Memory
·      Visual Form Constancy
·      Visual Closure
·      Figure Ground

Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning Part 1 Handwriting With Katherine

Learning takes place when an experience is registered as

(1) a new one or one that has been dealt with previously,

(2) a positive or negative interaction,

(3) one that is desirable to repeat,

(4) one that needs adaptation in order to be effective or pleasurable, and/or

(5) one that can be recalled, reproduced, or adapted for use again in the future.

Learning requires the ability to gather information, manipulate it, store it, and recall it automatically.  The process of visual perception, when it is efficient, provides us with the platform for doing just that.  As we discuss each of the 9 Visual Perceptual Skills, we will begin to develop our understanding of the significance of vision’s role in learning.

In this article, we will begin our journey of discovery with the first two skills:  

visual attention and visual discrimination.

1.  Visual Attention is “important for selecting and inhibiting visual information over space and over time.   It is a diverse et of operations that interact with other perceptual, motor, and cognitive systems.  As our eyes perceive the endless stream of information coming from our bodies and the environment, the brain operates a filter that helps us to focus on what is immediately important.  Visual attention is necessary for handwriting and the development of other higher-level visual perceptual skills and it needs to begin its development early in a child’s visual processing journey.

a.  Children who have difficulty with visual attention will often exhibit these signs:

(1)  Frequent fidgeting and/or cannot remain seated.
(2)  Often runs or climbs excessively or appears restless.
(3)  Appears not to be listening or fails to follow through with instructions.
(4)  Is easily distracted by external stimuli such as other children talking in the back of the room.
(5)  Avoids, dislikes, or is reluctant to engage in tasks that require sustained mental effort, such as handwriting or reading.

b.  Activities that enhance visual attention include:

(1)  Blowing through a straw encourages the eyes to pull together and work more effectively at close range.  The Cotton Ball Game is one that has the child blow through a straw to move a cotton ball toward

Visual Perceptual Skills: The Keys to Learning, Part 1 Handwriting With Katherine
The Cotton Ball Game is an excellent “attention-getter!”

a target, with or without visual guidance, such as masking tape from start to finish lines.  Whistles and blowing bubbles have the same effect and can include gross motor movement in their use, such as running to pop the bubble or marching to the whistle’s tune.

(2)  Balloon toss or tennis are excellent games to train the eyes to focus on a moving target.  Be sure to remind the child to try and maintain eye contact with the balloon as it travels away from and back toward him.

(3)  “I Spy,” hidden pictures, and memory games encourage the use of scanning and sustained focusing skills in close work tasks.  It is important to allow a struggling child to use his finger to search for hidden objects or to use his verbal skills to remember what he has seen in memory games.  As he becomes more proficient at the task, have him ease away from the “helping strategies.”

2.  Visual Discrimination is our ability to recognize the subtle differences and similarities between two visually represented forms in order to determine if they match or belong to a different group of forms.  This skill provides us with the perception of shape, size, and form for learning subjects such as handwriting and reading.

a.   Children who have difficulty with visual discrimination will often exhibit these signs:

(1)  Difficulty matching items of clothing such as socks or shoes.
(2)  Determining the difference between sizes of objects during sorting activities or the sizes of letters and numbers during handwriting tasks.
(3)  Difficulty detecting errors in handwritten work, such as letter reversals.
(4)  Difficulty matching pictures to verbal instructions, during yoga practice for example.
(5)  Frequently placing objects in the inappropriate place, such as the wrong cubby in school even though each is clearly marked with a name.

c.  Activities that enhance visual discrimination include:

(1)  Sorting games that involve activities of daily living, such as laundry or silverware from the dishwasher, will add a touch of “reality” to the game and enhance the likelihood for building memory and carryover to other educational activities, such as handwriting.

Sorting laundry is a “fun-ctional” visual discrimination activity!

(2)  Puzzles provide an excellent opportunity for a child to recognize differences (size, flat sides) and to use his visual skills as he manipulates them to match the correct “holes and spaces.”

(3)  Legos, Lincoln Logs, or tangrams provide visual and tactile activities using a picture to copy and shapes to manipulate in order to reproduce the picture into a 2- or 3-D object.

As you can “see” from this introduction to the visual perceptual skill set, it covers quite a bit of how we learn, as it starts right out with our ability to pay attention to the task and to details.  The eye is amazing, with the retina actually being a part of the brain.

In the words of Dr. Hubel, “The retina is part of the brain, having been sequestered from it early in development but having kept its connections with the brain proper through a bundle of fibers – the optic nerve

Please join us next week as we continue to explore the “rest of the visual perceptual skills story” with Position in Space and Visual Spatial Relations.

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.

Pictures that provide a link to the originating source 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.

Body and Head Positioning Play a Key Role in Learning

Body and Head Positioning Play a Key Role in Learning

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, on The Handwriting if Fun! Blog

 

Elementary school children spend 30-60% of their classroom time working at their desks on fine motor skills, predominantly on tasks involving handwriting.   A visual sweep of the classroom scene will uncover as

Poor posture is never acceptable for learning!
Poor posture is never acceptable for learning!

many seated body postures as there are students.  For the most part, an upright position will not be the one most utilized.  Slouching, leaning forward; resting heads on the desk, arm or hand; and legs curled up on the chair seat will most likely be the writing positions that would be observed.

Unfortunately, these positions are not beneficial for the brain, back, neck or fine motor skills.  These are not the children’s preferred seated positions, however.  They are simply the ones that work best for them in order to save all of their energy for their school tasks.  They may not be aware of it but they have chosen these seating positions because they find it difficult to maintain an upright body position.  This could be the result of weak muscles and/or diminished visual skills.  Or it could be the product of an inadequate seating arrangement.  Muscle strength and vision skills should be evaluated and can be remediated to determine their role in poor postural development.  However, regardless of the reason, seating  always requires assessment and adjustment in order to provide students with the best opportunity to maintain their bodies in a healthy position that will assist in their learning.  Posture affects the way that they learn and can enhance their educational experience.  Their brains and their eyes demand better posture.

The brain comprises only 3 percent of the body’s weight.  However, it uses more than 20 percent of the body’s energy.  It requires a steady blood flow to sustain its supply of glucose and oxygen.   These are the elements that prevent the brain from becoming “foggy” and robbing us of the level of attention needed to complete our cognitive tasks.  That’s why a walk in the fresh air can raise alertness and even assist in creative thinking.  The exchange of “old” air for fresh air recharges the brain for mental tasks.  It has been reported that dolphins exchange nearly 90 percent of their lung capacity each time they surface, letting go of the majority of their “stale air” to make room for fresh oxygen.  In comparison, humans are able to exchange only about 25 percent of their lung’s capacity even while standing up straight and taking a deep breath.  The ability to exchange air is severely diminished when we are seated in a slouching position, allowing us only a 5 percent exchange with each breath.  Sitting up straight can increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain by up to 40 percent.

Appropriate chair and desk heights are a must for good posture.
Appropriate chair and desk heights are a must for good posture.

Learning requires the ability to concentrate and to store new and adapted information into memory.  Diminished oxygen to the brain decreases a student’s ability to concentrate – settling him into a state of “fogginess.”  Equally as important for learning is the positioning of our eyes.  Seeing is our dominant sense and our primary source for gathering information in learning.   Between 75 and 80 percent of what we learn is accomplished through the use of our eyes.   Learning and memory skills can only be as efficient as vision skills.  They depend upon the two eyes working together efficiently:  the accurate fusion of the information from each eye, smooth eye movements in every direction, the ability to focus both near and far, and the ease of scanning and fixating on objects of interest.  Students from the age of 5 place continual demands on their eyes to gather information and learn.  Virtually every moment of their day is devoted to this task – at their desk, in the lunchroom and on the playground.  Close eye work, such as reading and writing, pose increased visual demands on the 17 essential skills required for efficient vision.  Postural imbalance, such as slouching or resting our head on the desk, increase those demands and can result in distress to our vision and body.

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

Myopia, or nearsightedness, could be developed as a result of how a person uses his eyes.  Although the tendency for myopia is based upon heredity, visual stress has been determined to be a cause as well.   Visual perceptual processing, the skills we use to determine spatial relationships, to recognize likenesses and differences and to derive meaning from what we see, are also developed through the use of our eyes.  The information we “learn” is only as accurate, however, as the information we gather.  Poor posture, whether in a standing or sitting position, affects the accuracy of that gathering process.  A student who reads and writes with his head resting on his left arm causes a shift in his eye alignment (fusion), diminishes the eyes’ ability to move smoothly across the page (scanning and fixation) and places an increased strain on the eyes for near vision (focusing).  Slouching stresses the eyes by positioning them in an downward direction; crouching in the seat moves them into an upward position.  Only an upright position can provide the eyes with the best possible advantage for learning.

Posture is an important player in a child’s educational success.  It deserves attention.

 

 

 

(edited May 2018)

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

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.

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

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