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Handwriting

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    Handwriting

    I have gotten the Sprout's new OT test results. He is 7 1/2. For some reason they did not redo the VMI or any test like it. I suppose they only had to show two tests to qualify him. His sensory processing issues are still very significant and interfering with his ability to do his work. He gets very easily overstimulated. Even things like too many words on a page are too distracting at times, even in the Memoria books which are really excellent at not being distracting. Sounds, smells, everything distracts and bothers him. We control the environment pretty well at home, so this is more of a problem at therapy. His manual dexterity tests within a few months of his actual age, so he can do things like moving pennies, placing pegs, sorting cards while timed. But when they put a pencil in his hand, his fine motor precision and fine motor integration both test at an early 4 year old level. Last year when he was tested he had major delays (about 4 years behind his age) in areas of visual motor skills, especially figure-ground discrimination, and I suspect they are still very bad.

    The question is what to do with handwriting. His copywork book looks awful, and often ends with tears. He has some success with me coloring the lines to highlight where the letters are (red for bottom line, blue dashes for middle), but that is hard to balance with the overstimulation factor. He should be starting cursive soon with the first grade work. I know cursive is generally good for kids, but with 4 year old skills is it something that would be developmentally appropriate?


    Unrelated update: He is still doing hippotherapy and it is the greatest! The horse motivates him, and works so well at calming the sensory integration issues. He has made major, major progress in social skills and pragmatics since he started and we tend to have good, calm days the rest of the day after he rides.
    Miah - married to Warcabbage, 3 boys, BS in social work, AS in Electrical Engineering Technology

    Evulcarrot - 18, freshman in college, Medical Technology , mild autism
    Battlebroccoli - 17, lives with grandma, attends a special high school program part time
    Doomsprout - 10, highly verbal moderate autism, anxiety, motor delays, sensory processing issues - SC 4 with R&S 4

    #2
    Re: Handwriting

    Hi Miah,

    I wanted to pop in quickly and say hello. I know firsthand how challenging handwriting can be with a special learner. A few (quick) things, before the Resident Specialist weighs in (I'm up against the clock this morning):

    1) you can do this, don't be discouraged! Do what your Support Team (doctors, specialists, etc) advise, okay? I'm just a mom -- not a specialist. But from what I've encountered...
    2) you might try raised-line paper, which has much more more tactile-feedback than visual. It would keep his visual over-stimulation down a bit
    3) colored paper may also be an option, or tinted glasses in a calming hue (many people have great success with both)
    4) Cheryl has mentioned many times giving highly distractible students a enclosed little cubicle of their own that faces a blank wall. Silencing headphones may (or may not) be helpful as well.
    5) start slowly -- the Level C "Common Stroke Worksheets" are where we began (after "Handwriting Without Tears" was unsuccessful). For the best stand-alone resource (that doesn't need much explanation) the "Simply Classical Copybook I" is an excellent way to slowly master the skills of forming letters and printing beautifully.
    6) Since cursive creates anxiety, I would go back to the beginning and develop confidence with printing before I tried to tackle cursive. Even if his assignments are in cursive, complete them in print until he has gained mastery, confidence and his anxiety has lessened greatly. We want our children to love learning. No need to add pressure to an already "pressurized" situation
    6) when the time comes (and it will!) New American Cursive I has had great success with many students and is part of the Simply Classical Level 2 curriculum which will be released in the Spring.

    Hope that helps! Don't be discouraged, mom. You can do this!

    Anita
    Boy Wonder: 10, MP2/SC4 (Special Needs)
    Joy Bubble: 8, MP2 (Special Needs)
    Snuggly Cowboy: 6, MPK
    Sweet Lightness: 2, Reverse-Engineering Specialist

    “Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”
    ~Pope St John Paul II

    Comment


      #3
      Re: Handwriting

      Originally posted by Miah View Post
      I have gotten the Sprout's new OT test results. He is 7 1/2. For some reason they did not redo the VMI or any test like it. I suppose they only had to show two tests to qualify him. His sensory processing issues are still very significant and interfering with his ability to do his work. He gets very easily overstimulated. Even things like too many words on a page are too distracting at times, even in the Memoria books which are really excellent at not being distracting. Sounds, smells, everything distracts and bothers him. We control the environment pretty well at home, so this is more of a problem at therapy. His manual dexterity tests within a few months of his actual age, so he can do things like moving pennies, placing pegs, sorting cards while timed. But when they put a pencil in his hand, his fine motor precision and fine motor integration both test at an early 4 year old level. Last year when he was tested he had major delays (about 4 years behind his age) in areas of visual motor skills, especially figure-ground discrimination, and I suspect they are still very bad.

      The question is what to do with handwriting. His copywork book looks awful, and often ends with tears. He has some success with me coloring the lines to highlight where the letters are (red for bottom line, blue dashes for middle), but that is hard to balance with the overstimulation factor. He should be starting cursive soon with the first grade work. I know cursive is generally good for kids, but with 4 year old skills is it something that would be developmentally appropriate?


      Unrelated update: He is still doing hippotherapy and it is the greatest! The horse motivates him, and works so well at calming the sensory integration issues. He has made major, major progress in social skills and pragmatics since he started and we tend to have good, calm days the rest of the day after he rides.
      Good to hear from you, Miah!

      [Pardon the delayed response. Yesterday afternoon I was suddenly taking my adult twins to the doctor for simultaneous sinus, respiratory, and throat infections after their stay with grandparents! (All on the mend now, thanks in part to a large pot of chicken noodle soup....)]


      A few questions:
      -Which copybook are you using? As Anita suggested, if you're not already using this, you might consider SC Copybook I for the many pages of strokes and letters, before any words or sentences appear. The cover appears sophisticated, rather than having a primary look, so you can teach this with a child of any age.
      -Does he work well with the OT? If yes, be sure to request that the OT address both fine-motor/handwriting and sensory in his sessions.
      -Are your older boys still in school? If yes, this might give you the needed time to proceed through the suggestions below.

      And congratulations with the hippotherapy success! I hope he can continue with this for a long time.

      Here are a few recommendations related to both accommodation and remediation:

      1. Wait on cursive.
      If he is developmentally "four" in fine-motor, you can wait a little bit on this. Unless the OT is recommending the switch, feel free to defer this. He may need more pencil-and-paper experience, along with other intermediary steps for copywork, such as #7 below.

      2. Create brief horse-related copywork. Example: Teach from Billy and Blaze.
      If he can copy words or sentences, you can pull these from good stories about boys and horses (e.g., C. W. Anderson's Billy and Blaze series). He might enjoy More StoryTime Treasures, if you have not yet done this. You can create your own simplified sentences from the Billy and Blaze books.

      3. Allow oral or scribed responses in his content areas. Create "Sentence Study" mini-seminars in your discussions.
      You already know this, but this is a formal reminder: you have the freedom of discussing history, science, and reading orally. Focus on sentence analysis, so he does not miss the important stages of studying words and sentences, but do this in conversation. "What kind of sentence is this?" (statement, question, exclamation) "Give a sentence to tell what Billy did when he arrived at the barn."

      4. Begin 30- or 40-minutes-a-day independent "Visual-Motor Time." (Don't call it drawing, writing, or coloring.)
      The next 1-2 years will be a critical window for developing his handwriting and helping him benefit from all of the neural connections associated with it. Later, he may need to accommodate with keyboarding, but you still have time to maximize the effects of steady, regular pen-and-paper work. (Search "handwriting" or "cursive" threads here for links to related studies.) Give him a basket or bin filled with items he can select. Set a timer. Dovetail with good classical music to set this time apart from others in the day.

      This should include some pencil-and-paper craft supplies, preferably related to horses:

      -a horse-themed coloring book
      -horse stencils
      -draw-a-horse books from a craft store
      -mazes or dot-to-dots
      -horse puzzles for visual figure-ground discrimination
      -horse crafts for gifts or decorations

      Supply him with new fine-tip colored markers, good colored pencils, drawing paper, and drawing pencils for this special time each day. Even three times a week will help.

      5. Do not attempt to have him write immediately after physical play.
      Plan writing sessions before he plays hard. The immediate transition from gross-motor to fine-motor can be difficult.

      6. Reduce all screens of all form for now.
      Keep him from becoming visually overstimulated and visually distracted. This will help him concentrate with print. Provide audio books for leisure, perhaps some of Marguerite Henry's dozens of engaging books about horses.

      7. Provide a 3-D intermediary step in his copywork.
      Keep modeling clay, magnetic letters, or Wikki Sticks available for copywork. Have him make the letters or sentences in 3-D, before he writes them. This not only helps him "see" the words more clearly, but also helps him understand that he will be making a model of the words to be copied.

      8. Have him watch himself write.
      The explicit instruction to "Watch yourself, as you write" may help him become more visually aware of pencil-and-paper tasks. You can train this with non-academic tasks, such as drawing a person or drawing a house. This can become a pass-the-time activity in waiting rooms or restaurants. Keep a pad of paper with you. You draw a simple cat, ball, or house. He copies it while watching himself write. Attach an incentive, if he responds well to such things, such as "10 drawings = ___."

      9. Consider raised-line paper.
      You mentioned that colored lines may be visually distracting for him. Simple raised lines may help instead.

      10. Ask the OT for alerting cushions, stability balls, or other aids to seatwork, penmanship, sensory- and visual-motor integration.
      Make an appointment your OT to ask questions, obtain tips, and request suggestions based on the latest evaluation.


      This next season of his academic life will be very important. With "Visual-Motor Intensives," you can make a difference. Keep us posted.

      If you begin to see great gains, consider making the switch to cursive. Such a switch might become a helpful transition to his fine-motor independence. It just seems, as you said, that it is not yet developmentally appropriate to do this right now. Instead, you can give him every opportunity to practice pencil-and-paper tasks in easy, regular, and meaningful ways.


      Thanks for updating! So good to hear about the relaxing hippotherapy days. I think it IS related, because this evidences the effects of good therapy! Good work --

      Cheryl

      ClassicalSpecialNeeds.com

      Comment


        #4
        Re: Handwriting

        Thank you for your suggestions. I am sorry to take so long in replying. I wanted to get some of this started, so I could report back on it, and then it took me a week to find things. The selection available locally, is just sad sometimes. I know at one point I could buy raised line paper here, because I used it with my oldest. I have no idea why I never thought of it with the youngest. I did stumble across an old pad of it left over from seven years or so ago when the oldest was using it. Packrat for the win, this time. He still hasn't tried it yet. The school holiday for the big kids has thrown us off this week.

        The visual motor basket has been a huge hit. I bought some of those velvet posters that you can't easily color out of the line on, and he has nearly filled them all entirely in already. Normally getting him to color is an ordeal for both of us. I'm not sure if it is the idea that you can't really mess up on those posters or that the lines being highly tactile are pleasing to him or both. The oldest had more motor planning issues and lower muscle tone so he tended to write and draw with his whole arm, and he easily managed to get out of the lines on those posters, so I don't think it is entirely the borders physically stopping him.

        He has done these mosaic tile crafts before. They come with sheets of sticky-backed foam squares and you stick the squares to a printed sheet. Match the colors and you end up with a slightly 3D good looking picture. He likes those. When I was looking for a new I Spy book (one with picture lists so he can do it on his own) for the basket, I spied an activity book that uses the same concept, but has pages of stickers in the back. The stickers come in 4 shapes, so he has to flip back and forth between pages, find the sticker he needs, get it off the page, line it up on the picture, and press it down. He's really liking that one.

        I've got a puzzle, a game called Spot It that we already had, maze book and dot to dots, and a few other things in there. I still have some things I will have to order in, like stencils. He listened to the whole Nutcracker Suite while playing with the basket the other day. I told him it was therapy work and he took that as a good enough reason. He also likes any excuse to play more classical music.

        I tried having him reproduce the copywork with magnets on the door. I read that getting them vertical is useful sometimes, and he really had to pay attention to the letters in the words. I think he had been looking at it like someone copying hieroglyphics, just look and try to replicate without actually thinking what each symbol meant. I also tried putting some flour in a pan and letting him write the letters in that, but that one ended up being too much fun and with him and the flour outside. I've been looking through my closet this week and found that I had letter buttons, so this week I'm going to try having him string the words together. I want to get play dough involved in it, but he's never really gotten past the squish and smash stage with playdough, so we're going to have to work on making snakes before he can easily make letters. I may try putting him in the tub with swim trunks and spray shaving cream on the wall to write in. I did have scented, colored salt for a salt tray, but looking for it is how I found those other things, so I guess making more of it is on my list of things to do. We have this combo of essential oil scents--grapefruit, mint, and a hint of lavender--that works really well on regulating him. I use it in a lot of his sensory things. I'm interested to see how the scents work with the letter making. I am ordering some wiki sticks to use for letters.



        We've been using Copybook I. Learning to read has been going very slowly, so we still have a ways to go in the Kindergarten work. We had a breakthrough, finally last week. Everyone has been on him about the benefits of learning to read and why he should try even though it is hard. A lot of the struggle has been behaviorally based, I think. Anyway, last week we were in the car and talking about it again. I was extolling the virtues of reading, and how if you know how to read well, you'll never be bored as long you have books. He started asking what can I read about? We've listed things I don't know how many times in recent months already, but I started again. Suddenly he was naming specific things. Can I read about trees? Can I read about food digesting? Can I read about rain? Can I read about blue whales? Everything that came to mind for the next ten minutes, and he can talk fast when he wants to! And then he said, "Okay. I want to read a book about trees. Can we get a book about trees today?" We went to the library and got him a book about trees! Also, picked up some beginning readers. When we got home, he read his first book. Better than he had ever read anything, and is still all excited to learn. It's like the light bulb finally lit up. I could almost see it during that conversation.

        He likes his OT and has been with her for a long time, but communication is not great. The company that does the hippotherapy is a different company, and I am really thinking about moving his OT to them, as well. He's made some progress, but communication is so much better at the other company that it's really making the shortcomings of the one we've been with obvious. I don't think it is the OT's fault, it's more the general atmosphere. They discourage parents from watching sessions (partly because the rooms are like closets and two adults make it very tight), and most discussions happen in the lobby. I know way too much about a lot of other people's kids from sitting in the lobby. He does focus better with one on one and no distractions, so I don't mind sitting out, but I want more than 20 seconds, "He was good today. We worked on cutting skills." One nice thing about the horse place is that you can sit outside the arena and watch and listen or even be one of the side walkers beside the horse. When they are inside, they can close the door, but it is a pretty small room inside the barn where they do the seated work, so he can't see me to be distracted, but I can listen in on what they are doing.
        Miah - married to Warcabbage, 3 boys, BS in social work, AS in Electrical Engineering Technology

        Evulcarrot - 18, freshman in college, Medical Technology , mild autism
        Battlebroccoli - 17, lives with grandma, attends a special high school program part time
        Doomsprout - 10, highly verbal moderate autism, anxiety, motor delays, sensory processing issues - SC 4 with R&S 4

        Comment


          #5
          Re: Handwriting

          Wow, Miah. You have an enviably well-stocked Visual-Motor basket! Excellent choices for your son.

          I love your "light-bulb moment" story about reading a book on trees. (And food digesting??) Clearly, he has an inquisitive mind!

          Very good to make the trip immediately to the library. Non-fiction may be his gateway to good reading.



          It does sound like switching the OT might be worth the effort. This could be good timing. Combined with your home efforts, you might see some strong fine-motor gains.


          Keep us posted, as time permits!

          Cheryl

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