Conor has always struggled with using his hands, hand writing and fine motor activities have always been a massive challenge for him. He has a diagnosis of multiple Special Needs conditions including Hypotonia. Hypotonia is one of the main reasons he struggles daily to write.
As Conor’s mom I really want him to be able to write independently. I recently found an informative website that helped me to understand Hypotonia. It defined Hypotonia as” de-creased muscle tone or tension in the muscle”. “Hypotonia does not mean that a child cannot learn a new physical skill, however, it may mean that a child will require more time and extra practice to gain the strength required for the activity. It’s easy for a child to become frustrated and want to give up on activities that are hard. This is where creativity is the best ingredient to infuse into a child’s activities.” You can find that website here.
Conor becomes so frustrated when we try to push him to use his hands during fine motor activities, but we persist for as long as he can. I have been looking through his files recently and came across his OT Reports & Recommendations, I came across some excellent advice from his OT focusing on his hands and fine motor abilities & Hypotonia.
I will share some of the OT Recommendations here for information purposes, these are activities that have been specifically recommended for Conor to help him to improve his low muscle tone, and fine motor skills, ultimately helping him to learn to write.
These are activities we do regularly. From time to time we do may not have the time to them and I have to say I always notice the difference after a few days in his ability to use his hands more effectively.
OT Recommended Activities
Handwriting on a Whiteboard/Chalkboard
Conor’s OT recommended he start writing everyday on a Vertical surface and recommended using a chalk board or white board that is hanging on a wall. Encourage him to write/draw colour like this every day. The purpose of this is to help build his muscle tone and his co-ordination. We are building up the time he spends doing this every day as I know it can be painful for him and tiring.
He advised that Conor use Theraputty every day to help strengthen his hands. I was going to go into great detail trying to explain exactly how he is supposed to use his Theraputty but this article explains hand strengthening activities much easier than I ever could and it comes with some very helpful Instructional handouts.
Squishies/Squeezimal Toys/Stress Balls
Toys that require Conor to squeeze his hands were an ideal way to get him using his hands and inadvertently helping to build muscle strength and tone in his fingers.
Find the toys:
Place various small toys through out playdoh and Conor has to pick, pinch and pull the playdoh to find them. He then has to put the small toys he finds into the small box.
Roll the playdoh into a thick sausage then have Conor use a scissor to chop it into pieces.
Roll and Squeeze:
Conor has to roll the Playdoh into a ball, then squeeze the ball of Playdoh. He can pinch and pull it too and roll it back into a ball. He finds this very difficult, so we do it in short bursts. (You can also do this activity using TheraPutty.)
Print out/Draw alphabet upper case letters on sheets of paper, then encourage Conor to roll out play dough and mould it into the shapes of the printed letters, placing the playdoh over the Letters.
You can pick up books of stickers in most Grocery Stores, Dollar/Euro/Pound Shops. I get them from Euro Giant or Dealz and sometimes Tesco if I see ones Conor might like. I get him to peel off the stickers and then place them on to a sheet of paper. I make sure he rubs the stickers down; so that they don’t peel off. It really focuses work on in his thumb and fore-finger.
He uses tongs or play tweezers to pick up small items and place them in a bowl or small tub. Sometimes I create sensory tubs filled with rainbow rice and he must use the tongs or tweezers to pick up the small items I hide through out the rice.
This is definitely one of the activities Conor likes the least, but we persist. He seems to find it so uncomfortable. I get him to do this activity at least twice a week.
I feel like this probably doesn’t need to be said but just in case I will include it here. I make Conor write every single day. Even if it is just practicing writing his name on his tracing sheets, he has to complete writing tasks everyday. I really feel it is helping his hand writing over all as he is building up tolerance to doing the actual activity of writing. I am not expecting letter perfect penmanship. I just want my son to be able to write for now so I praise him for his efforts no matter how illegible his writing may be! We all started somewhere! So I encourage him with lots of praise! I am so proud of him for trying his best.
These are just a few examples of the Recommendations from our OT to help Conor with his hand writing. He also recommended some APPS and you can find that POST HERE.
I would love to hear your recommendations on helping your child learn to write!