It’s about the time of year when teachers are really starting to know the students, picking up on the ones that seem to be struggling in one area or another and frantically seeking us out in the hallways!
“HELP! Johnny’s writing is horrible! Come look, do you have a minute?”
We of course do not have a minute since we are booked back to back and lucky if we can squeeze in a 15 minute lunch break and a trip to the bathroom as we drop off one student and are already late to the next! But we say yes anyways, or stop by first thing the next morning. I always tell teachers that I’m a resource for the building and I truly mean it!
Johnny may or may not be in learning support and unfortunately most school districts do not allow for stand alone occupational therapy services so chances are good that even if Johnny does have horrible handwriting – we may be stuck. But we have so many tools, tricks, and strategies to help teachers and staff. It always amazes me when I suggest a quick strategy and I hear “I would have never thought of that!” This is why we went to school and even what seems common sense to us isn’t to all teachers. I personally wouldn’t have the first clue on how to teach fractions, or social studies, or music! Why would we expect them to know our secrets??
But as we get busy, teachers get busy, parents send emails with nervous undertones because Johnny seems to be struggling as home – sometimes the quick tricks really do help!
Here’s a list of 10 things already in every class, or school, that can be used to assist with handwriting including grasp, visual motor skills, visual perceptual skills!
- Mechanical pencils – they help to decrease pencil pressure which leads to hand fatigue and decreased written output
- Broken crayons – DON’T throw them away, they are a quick was to help young students learn how to how a pencil correctly
- Rubberbands – wrapped around the shaft of a pencil and then around a students wrist can facilitate a correct pencil grasp with the pencil resting in the webbed space between the index and thumb
- Small binder clip – placed near the tip of a pencil becomes a grip to promote a tripod grasp
- Highlighters – can be used to draw target lines to words, highlight the left margin to draw a students’ eye and pencil back when moving to the next line, or to a target line for cutting bolder to increase accuracy
- Popsicle sticks – to be used as a spacer between words
- Large 3-4″ binder – to create a slantboard to prevent students from having to move their eyes up and down as much when copying
- Extra folders – cut in 1/2 or 1/3 to eliminate visual stimuli on long worksheets or to write on to again help decrease pencil pressure
- Mazes/hidden pictures/word searches/coloring pages – promote visual motor & perceptual skills
- Clipboards – help stabilize paper for students who don’t use their non-dominant hand to do so or may have decreased bilateral hand skills
So remember next time you have a student who is struggling in the classroom – sometimes you already have everything you need to help already right there! Or better yet – keep a list to share with your staff! Knowledge is power!
Colleen Good MS, OTR/L