scissor skills and learning to write 11 Apr 2019

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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Scissor skills and learning to write

Did you know that practising the movement involved in scissor skills can help children write. Learning to use scissors develops the skills required to control a pencil. Both motions need the muscles that oppose the index and middle finger with the thumb working together.

learning new skills can sometimes feel monotonous to children. However it doesn’t have to be this way.

Helpful Scissor Activities

The following activities are designed to develop the muscles and movements required to manipulate scissors. In time, the ‘open close’ squeeze action of the arch between thumb and fingers will become stronger.  You may need to help your child make the movements with some hand over hand guiding to get started.

1) Tongs

Use tongs to pick up large pom poms, aluminium foil balls, lightweight plastic toy items, blocks, lumps of play-dough. You can also incorporate food play e.g. picking up cooked spaghetti.

Once skills with the activity improve, you can use smaller items,  cotton balls, small pompoms. Food items can be used such as marshmallows, small fruits, large nuts, pieces of bread, using the tongs to dip into sauce or icing sugar onto a plate or ice cube tray. It is important to always place items working from left to right, top to bottom, because later when a child learns to read, scanning left to right is required.

2) Water pistol play

These can be used to shoot balloons, or paint with water on the concrete. If you are game, supervised painting activities are fun on an outside easel with different colours for little water pistols. It is very good for index finger strength. Make sure your child is using their dominant hand.

3) Ripping activities

Cut strips of coloured paper to rip into small pieces. Some types of paper for example crepe or tissue paper, have a grain and are easier to rip in one direction. Grasping the top of the paper strip with both hands and moving the hands in opposite directions to rip it. Small pieces can be used for collage, the long pieces can be ripped to make jelly fish tentacles, cloud with rain, pretty bird with a long tail, or long hair, grass and so on.

4) Hole punching

A single hole punch is good to improve palm strength. Holes can be punched in a line on card, or make patterns. Lace the card with shoe lace or string, or connect the holes with crayon lines.

5) Bubble wrap

Small size bubbles, these are perfect for pinching with the index finger and thumb, this strengthens the muscles within the finger and thumb, which will help scissor skill development as well as controlling a pencil.

6) Monster ball 

You can use a cheap tennis ball and cut a slit for a mouth and stick on eyes. Squeeze the tennis ball thumb and fingers,  using the dominant hand. With the other hand ‘feed the ball’ with small pom poms, dice, .  The resistance of the tennis ball will be determined by the length of the slit; the longer the slit the easier to open the ‘mouth.’

7) Hand puppets

Making hand puppets talk encourages practice opening and closing the fingers and thumb in time with speech. You can make one using a single spare sock, buttons for eyes and wool for hair. Make it eat and grab, bite and tug.

8) Playdough

Play dough, especially extra firm dough is excellent for improving fine motor strength. Use a garlic press to squeeze playdough through and make spaghetti hair, squeeze the handles using both hands together.

For the Beginner starting with Scissors

Keep in mind, “both thumbs up”, the dominant hand does the squeezing action “open-shut” steady at the midline of the body, the other “helping” hand manipulates the item to be cut.

1) Snipping

Practice cutting action using small sized scissors, cutting strips of playdough, cutting a circle of playdough into ‘pizza’, snipping pieces of straw, coloured wool, spaghetti!

2) Snipping short lines

Make strips of light coloured card narrow enough so that one snip is successful. Draw horizontal lines. These can be snipped off and artwork can be created with the geometric pieces cut.

Collect paint sample cards from your hardware shop for cutting practice, snip between the colours.

3) ‘Stop point’. Put a sticker or draw a face at the destination point for the end of one snip, with no line as a guide.

Early scissor skills involves ‘snipping’, first things like playdough, spaghetti, wool, straws…then develops to just one short line. More information on the next stages of scissor skills is to come in a later post.

And of course if you are worried about any aspect of your child’s fine motor skills you are welcome to contact Reception for more information about our occupational therapy services on 9274 7062.

Madeline Minehan

Occupational Therapist

https://www.childwellbeingcentre.net.au/services/occupational-therapy/

14 Mar 2019

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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Handwriting-When are children ready?

Many skills have to be developed before children are ready to learn to write.

Learning to write is not just about fine motor manipulation. A child is absorbing language from everyone around them at a very young age.  Much later they reach the stage of babbling and  imitating those around them. This is the beginning of expressing themselves through language.  Children have to practice expressing themselves through speech for many years before they are ready to translate those sounds and abstract symbols of speech into letters. During those early years, through crawling, climbing and progression through physical milestones, they are learning with their whole body.

How whole body development helps handwriting

Once children become confident with their body and their language understanding, they can learn 3 dimensional concepts such as ‘up’ and ‘down’, ‘top and bottom’ ‘over’ and ‘under’, ‘left’ and ‘right’. It is only when a child has become fully aware of their body and how it moves through space, can they begin to grasp drawing symbols that represent these directional concepts.

Children need to be drawing for several years before they are ready to learn to write, drawing at a vertical surface is particularly helpful to develop sufficient shoulder stability to help control the pencil. Working at a vertical surface is also much better for visual attention and eye tracking skill development. To be able to learn to write, a child has to have matured in their eye movements. Along with this, they need to build a ‘stable base’ or strong core, which develops through plenty of physical play every day.

Preparing for writing

With sufficient drawing practice behind them, a child is far more confident attempting to learn to write letters. There are 9 developmental forms that a child needs to be able to draw independently and spontaneously by the time they are around 5 and a half years old.  By the time a child is 4, they need to be able to cross their midline. They will then be able to draw a cross and then they can draw a square. By the time they are 5 they are attempting the more complex triangular shape.

The best preparation for handwriting in young children is many hours of physical play, balancing, climbing, spinning, swinging and ‘heavy work’ every day. Drawing skills are best learnt using whole arm movements at a vertical surface. Blackboard, whiteboard, paper attached to an easel or wall is the way to go. Shaving cream on a glass sliding door is really fun and provides a lot of tactile feedback. Activities such as sandpit play, making roads and tracks, drawing on a concrete path with stubby chalk is excellent practice for developing shoulder strength. These activities, along with plenty of one on one time being read to,  are the best basis for learning handwriting.

Needing help with handwriting?

Occupational Therapists can help assess a child’s handwriting skills and provide therapy to correct any difficulties. For more information about our services at the Centre, please call Reception on 9274 7062.

 

Madeline Minehan

Occupational Therapist

06 Mar 2019

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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Hand dominance & crossing the midline

As a baby develops they reach a stage where they realise their hands belong to them and they can use them to reach, grasp, manipulate and investigate. Efficient vision provides the basis of motivation to reach out, touch and explore a familiar face and new things. During the first 6 months, hand movements progress, consisting of voluntary grasp and release, objects are exchanged between both hands. Typically babies will explore objects with their mouths as well as their eyes.

Coordinating two hands

To use both hands together is particularly complex. Both hands need to carry out a different movement task at the same time. One hand develops as the dominant hand, superior at manipulation skills, while the other becomes the helper, or supporting hand. This occurs between the age of 4 and 6 years. How does this work?

The ability to use both sides of the body together is part of general coordination development, it is known as bilateral coordination. Both sides of the brain work together, the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, while the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. As babies develop, they move through predictable movement patterns that integrate as they refine a skill. This includes 3 stages of bilateral coordination development.

1) Symmetrical bilateral coordination, or moving one side of the body in ‘mirror image’ to the other. By 3 months old, babies have more symmetry in their posture and movements, for example when babies first discover their hands, they bring them both to their midline and kick their legs together in a similar way.

2) Reciprocal bilateral coordination is when the right and left side move in opposite rhythmic motion, such as crawling, then later to walk.  As a child refines this skill they can learn to climb steps, to run then to pedal a trike.  A leading hand or foot may become apparent at this stage.

3) Asymmetrical bilateral coordination, this is when both sides of the body are doing something different but working together to achieve a complex task. For example, pouring water into a cup, or holding a jar and unscrewing the lid. Between age 4 and 6 children can manage these tasks efficiently and continue to improve once they have established a dominant hand and helper hand.

What’s crossing the midline about?

You may have heard about ‘crossing the midline’. What is this? There is an imaginary line dividing the left and right sides of the body. An exaggerated example of crossing midline is drawing a very large rainbow on a blackboard with one hand, in one movement.  If efficient bilateral integration has not fully developed, a child may start to draw the rainbow with their left hand, then stop at midline and swap to draw the other side with their right hand.

To be able to carry out self-care, get dressed, and learn to read and write without difficulty, a child needs to have an established dominant hand and be able to cross their midline. For a child to spontaneously and comfortably cross their midline, they require sufficient core stability and balance. Having a consistent dominant hand and a helping, or supportive hand is very important, that way each hand becomes specialised in the skill required. From this basis more complex fine motor skills can develop.

Help with hand dominance is a common referral reason for Occupational Therapists. For more information about our services, please contact reception on 9274 7062.

Madeline Minehan

Occupational Therapist

28 Feb 2019

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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Depth perception in early childhood

As part of an occupational therapy assessment, basic visual skills such as depth perception are assessed along with coordination of the body.

One of the most significant senses your child uses to learn about the world around them is their vision. Depth perception is one visual skill allowing us to see our world in three dimensions. Up until 6 months of age, everything appears flat, your child’s eyes are not yet efficiently working together.

By about age 6 months, ‘binocular’ vision starts to develop, both eyes start working together more efficiently to help children to see the world in 3 dimensions. Babies are learning all about this when they drop something from their high chair on purpose and watch it fall onto the floor. Development of depth perception, or binocular vision, helps your child learn to gain confidence in their body. We want children to learn to crawl then walk, climb up and down stairs, throw and catch a ball.

Signs of depth perception difficulties

Difficulties with depth perception can easily be missed at a young age.  Some typical signs that children may appear to be delayed include the following:

– Low confidence in gross motor development;

-A late crawler and walker;

-Hesitancy or fear with uneven surfaces, curbs, or slopes; and

-Resistance, or fear going up or down stairs.

Depth perception difficulties can influence a child’s confidence interacting with other children too.  For example they may have difficulty climbing play ground equipment, navigating an obstacle course, riding a trike. Problems may be very subtle and not picked up until a child is expected to learn letters and write their name.

What to do if you think your child needs help?

Some children may be slower to develop efficient depth perception, it may be part of a bigger picture as they may also have gross motor challenges as well. Occupational therapy looks at improving coordination of the whole body, including basic motor skills of the eyes. If there is further assessment and intervention needed for vision, an OT may refer to a Behavioural Optometrist.

Please call reception on 9274 7062  for further information about our services.

Madeline Minehan

Occupational Therapist

14 Feb 2019

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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What do Occupational Therapists do?

This year we are starting a series of posts around the occupational therapy services in our Centre. While Occupational Therapists work with adults, they also work with children and adolescents too.

What do Occupational Therapists do?

Occupational therapy helps a person become more independent carrying out every day activities. These activities include self care, work and leisure. For children, school is their “work” activity, but so is play! Play is an opportunity to practise the activities of life, including social interaction and problem solving.

How can Occupational Therapy help my child?

Occupational therapy can help children in a number of ways:

– It can help children to achieve developmental milestones involving coordination and fine motor skills.

– Give children strategies to improve skills such as getting dressed, eating, using a pencil, scissors and cutlery.

– Help parents and assist children to understand their body and sensory system and how it influences everything they do.

Occupational therapy very much works from a partnership model. That is, the OT, family and child working together to identify goals and learn new ways of doing things. Occupational therapists are also able to work with school based staff to develop strategies to support school aged children in the classroom.

At the Child Wellbeing Centre our Occupational Therapists work with young children, primary and secondary students.

Currently OT is available one Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the Centre. Please call reception for more information about our services on 9274 7062.

 

Madeline Minehan

Occupational Therapist

 

22 Oct 2018

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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Today is the start of National Occupational Therapy (OT) Week

Everyone has daily ‘occupation’, eg, work, play, eat, sleep, dress. Occupational therapy promotes normal development and stimulates learning in children with specific learning difficulties, physical disabilities, delayed development or those recovering from illness or injury.

Working with children, their families and teachers, occupational therapists aim to improve the child’s quality of life by helping them  to participate in play, preschool, school and home activities.

An occupational therapist may work with children in any of the following areas:

Prerequisite activities – the child’s physical abilities, such as motor control, hand-to-eye coordination, body awareness and sensation.

Functional skills – the child’s day-to-day living skills, such as eating, writing, going to the toilet, interacting with other children and playground skills.

The environment – such as classroom furniture, classroom and schoolyard access, and equipment for woodwork, art and physical education.

Information sourced from OT Australia:
https://www.otaus.com.au/promotions-media/ot-week

Please call Reception to find out more about our OT services on 9274 7062

Happy OT week!

14 May 2018

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team / Psychology Team

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11 Tips for Helping Fussy Eaters

Children’s eating (or not eating) can cause parents lots of worry and stress. Good nutrition in childhood is important for so many reasons. It supports children growth, overall health and learning. Yet some children are very fussy about what they eat. This may look like only choosing some foods, refusing to try new foods and skipping some food groups all together! I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve come across children and the only thing they will eat reliably is chicken nuggets.

Why are children so fussy?

Children become fussy eaters for a range of reasons. Sometimes it’s due to habits, strong wills and/or sensory difficulties. On this last point, some food textures and tastes can cause distress. While most children grow out of their fussy ways, some will need some help along the way.

What can you do to improve eating?

The following are eleven tips to help improve your child’s eating:

  1. Model good eating: Children learn so much about the world from their caregivers and modelling eating the type of food you would like them to eat is an excellent start. It is also great if they are surrounded by other children eating different food types.
  2. Make eating fun: Why not create a fruit face or cut vegetables into cool shapes? By making eating healthy food fun, children are going to be more motivated to try some. There are lots of great websites that you can try for recipes for children. For example: https://www.parents.com/recipes/familyrecipes/
  3. Have realistic expectations: Don’t expect your child to finish the plate or try new food everyday. Set small but achievable goals such as trying 1 bite of everything on the plate. Also keep meals friendly. It is better to put a small bit of new food alongside a larger amount of food that your child likes.
  4. Make mealtimes happy & social: Try and make mealtimes an important time for the family to sit down together. Avoid distractions such as having the TV on. Try not to worry about anything that goes wrong during dinner (such as spilled drinks or food). Meal times as positive as possible.
  5. Praise your child for trying: Its very important to praise and give attention to your child when they try new foods. For some children, a reward chart may be appropriate. However, do not make the reward a different food. This will teach your child that one food is more desirable than another.
  6. Do not give attention when your child is refusing: It is similarly important not to give too much attention to your child when they are refusing to eat. This can act as a motivator for children to refuse more. Try and ignore the behaviour as best as you can.
  7. Do not make special meals for your child: Tying in with the previous tip, by making a special meal for your child you are giving them special attention when refusing. This can encourage them to refuse more as they know they will get food they prefer.
  8. Give your child some say: Refusing food is often a response to wanting greater independence. You can give your child that independence in allowing them to choose their food from a range of healthy options. This way children still feel in control and are more likely to try the healthy option that they choose.
  9. Choosing new foods with a similar texture: If your child has a sensory aversion to a particular type of food due to it’s texture, try and think of some healthy options which have a different texture. This is particularly relevant if your child has ASD or another developmental disability.
  10. Offer the new food repeatedly: Your child will most likely have to see the food quite a few times before they will try it. You can also set smaller goals such as touch, smell or lick the food before trying it.
  11. Involve your child in cooking: You can also involve children in the preparation of a meal (e.g. chopping vegetables) which increases their engagement as well as giving them a chance to feel the food out before eating it.

Still need help? Then feel free to call the Centre on 9274 7062 for more information about how we can help. Our occupational therapy and psychology team can parents with fussy eaters.

Written with help from Ruby Simms-Cumbers (Behaviour Therapist).

Naomi Ward

Clinical Director

15 Mar 2018

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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Whole body movement is essential for your child.

Babies need to spend plenty of tummy time on the floor to play. From this they will then develop the muscles to enable them to roll, then crawl (commando) then creep up on all fours. Don’t prop your child to sit! They need to spend several months crawling then creeping as this ensures all of their muscle groups will be ready for them to learn to sit, pull up to stand and eventually walk. Any time between 12 to 17 months is a normal time to start walking. It is more important a child develops foundational skills during crawling and creeping than be helped to walk early!

All children should engage in free gross motor play at least 3 hours per day. Opportunities to run, jump, climb, swing and spin are essential to develop sufficient core strength and to fine tune body spatial awareness and balance. Once a child has developed postural strength and shoulder stability through gross motor play, they will be ready to sit still, listen and carry out fine motor skills required in the early school years.

A child’s occupation is to play and carry out daily living and self care skills. For example, learning to ride a bike, tying shoelaces, drawing, using cutlery and scissors. These all require essential foundational skills of postural strength and balance of the whole body.

If your child has difficulty with fine motor skills, gross motor development, balance and attention, Occupational Therapy (OT) can help. We can work with you and your child using tailor made fun activities to achieve daily living and play skill goals.

Please call Tracey at Reception on 9274 7062 for more information about the OT services at the Centre.

Madeline Minehan
Occupational Therapist

11 Mar 2018

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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The forgotten senses

The forgotten senses

Children need to move in order to learn about their body. This begins very early in utero, the most important senses at this stage are the tactile system and three forgotten senses.

Everyone knows about vision, hearing, smell taste and touch. These provide us information about what is going on outside our body.
But did you know there are other senses?

These are foundational to our sensory system. They are:  proprioception, the vestibular sense and interoception. These forgotten senses provide information about what is going on inside the body; its position, balance and status of internal organs.

Your child might be super wiggly and find it very difficult to keep still and listen. Being able to sit motionless while watching and listening is achieved only once the vestibular and proprioceptive system have matured.

To help these systems mature a child needs to carry out heaps of ‘heavy work’, running, jumping, spinning, tumbling and build adequate core strength for hours every day. Then they can sit still, listen and hold a pencil to learn to write.

OT can provide strategies to help your child improve their sensory awareness, posture and coordination in daily living and school skills.

For more information about our OT services in the Centre please call Tracey on 9274 7062.

Madeline Minehan
Occupational Therapist

04 Feb 2018

BY: admin

Occupational Therapist Team

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Fine motor skills and children

Ever wondered about fine motor skills and when children should be able to do things? The following is a guide to the fine motor skill of cutting and what children should be able to do at different times:

At two and a half years – children should be able to use scissors to snip paper (one snip only)
At age 3 years: Children should be able to cut a 10 cm piece of paper in two (no lines) & be able to cut along a 10 cm straight line and staying within 1.7 cm of the line.
At age 4 years: Children can cut a 15 cm along straight line, curve & 15 cm diameter circle staying within 1/2 cm of the line.
At age 5 years: Children can cut out a medium size square and triangle in 15 cm square piece of paper.
At age 6 years: Children can cut cloth with supervision and start to cut more complex shapes.

Children have difficulty cutting for a range of reasons. Our Occupational Therapists in the Centre (Madeline and Narelle) are available for assessment and therapy if needed.

Please feel free to contact Tracey on reception for further information on 9274 7062.

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