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What are Fine Motor Skills and how do they affect my child?

Fine motor deficits are probably the easiest to notice through a parents perspective when their child is having a hard time. Parents often notice their child’s grasp when eating, writing or picking up an object seems a bit off.

Are they using a full fist when holding a marker with their pinky up? Is their elbow floating above the table when writing? Are they lacking the strength to push and pull the toilet handle or even just to close a snap button on their jacket or pants?

This is where Occupational therapy comes in to assist in strengthening those tiny muscle movements so they can be more independent. Wouldn’t it be nice for your child to finish putting on that jacket or buttoning pants after going to the bathroom by themselves!? It is very common and therapy can help.

Just like at home, children also can have a hard time at school with fine motor skills during writing tasks. Often times, they don’t put enough pressure on the paper or they are using their entire arm to write and fatigue early so their handwriting progressively gets worse as they finish writing that story for English class. We know our kids have an amazing, creative mind and we want them to be able to get all the credit when it comes to handing in that assignment. However, what if the teacher is unable to read it due to his or her handwriting? OT is here to help.

Sometimes it's as easy as using a pencil grip, adaptive writing tool or graph paper to help organize their letters and grasp. But most often, it requires some practice in a supervised environment to create new habits with the correct grasp, strength and posture with appropriate biomechanics.

Parents might be wondering.. “well writing is my child’s LEAST favorite activity, I can’t even get them to write anything with me, how are you going to get them to be motivated to pick up a pencil let alone write a story??”

Great question. First and foremost making writing FUN is essential. Regardless of a client’s grasp, handwriting neatness, etc, we begin with a short activity that builds confidence. We start with something they can be successful in and give lots of praise for their effort. We strive to create a space where the child feels there is no judgment and that they are fully supported. We do this by starting small without overwhelming them and building to more challenging tasks. During that growing period of building confidence, we are working on their deeper skills such as strength using putty, tongs, magnets, theraband and more without them even realizing that these tasks will carry over to their fine motor deficients. Once rapport is built, moving on to specific concerns such as developing an appropriate grasp with the necessary adaptive materials will make writing that story a lot easier for them to write and for their teacher to read!

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