Last week, out of curiosity, I asked members in my Helping Kids Write FB group if their child is a rightie, leftie, or both-ie?
Want to know the results?
First to put things in perspective…..
On average, 10% of people are lefties.
However, in my Helping Kids Write FB group for children who struggle with writing, the results out of 79 people were:
42 / 79 – Rigthies – 53%
25/ 79 – Lefties – 32%
12 / 79 – Both-ies (I think I made this word up but it means they use either hand and don’t yet have a firm hand dominance) – 15%
Isn’t that so interesting that much more than 32% in the poll are lefties when in the outside world, the norm is 10%?
I’m a total brain geek! I just find this stuff so amazing.
I’d love to share some facts about hand dominance:
1) Did you know you can be left-handed to write but may use your right hand for other tasks such as cutting or playing sports.
2) We have other dominances. We often think of being right or left handed, however, you can also have an ear, eye, or foot dominance.
So you could be left handed but right footed to kick a ball.
3) Usually, kids first develop a hand preference around 2-3 years old. Then they have a hand dominance around 4-5 years and a strong hand dominance by 5-7 years old.
Kids who are left-handed can sometimes take extra time to develop their hand dominance.
And oftentimes, if your child uses both hands, they’re most likely to be swapping hands due to tiredness or difficulty with midline crossing versus being ambidextrous. Being ambidextrous means you use both hands equally well which is very rare.
It’s important kids can use both hands together so that their dominant hand is for moving and controlling the pencil and their opposite or non-dominant helping hand is for holding the paper.
5 Tips for Lefties:
It’s so tricky living in a world where everything is made for righties. Even the most simplest of tasks such as shaking hands can feel awkward for a leftie. Here are some tips to get going:
1) Grasp and logistics –
Lefties are known for having a hooked wrist grasp because this helps them see what they are writing versus smudging their writing as their hand pushes along the paper.
Try the following:
-hold the pencil half an inch higher
-use a non-smudgy ink pen
-angle the paper to the right so that the top of the paper is going downhill
-try using an easel as this helps the wrist be in an extended (lifted) versus hooked position
2) Seating –
Make sure the teacher knows your child is a leftie.
Have your leftie sitting or positioned on the left edge of the room or table so that they can turn and look at you as turning into the writing hand is awkward.
If you are sitting beside or approaching them, do so on their right.
3) Cutting –
If they are left handed to cut, find left-handed scissors and other utensils.
There’s a left handed association here in the UK for easy access.
And remember when cutting out shapes, lefties go clockwise.
4) Writing –
When drawing horizontal lines, lefties usually go right to left.
So when crossing t, f, A, E, F, H, J, they’ll go from right to left.
When using workbooks or copying, make sure the letter image is on their right side so they can reference or copy it more easily.
5) Foundational Skills –
I’m a massive believer in working on foundational sensory and motor skills for writing so I can’t go without saying something about this.
If your child hasn’t developed a strong hand dominance or is swapping between hands, please make sure to first address the foundational skills of body and spatial awareness, core strength and endurance, balance and midline crossing, and then follow this up by building fine motor and two-handed skills. All of this will help develop a strong hand dominance.
If you want to learn more on the foundational skills, check out my Helping Kids Write mini-workshop.
Was your child offered a pencil grip to help their writing at school?
Usually, parents tell me that school already tried a pencil grip to help with writing?
When I ask if it helped, most say their child finds them uncomfortable or won’t use it.
So, should or shouldn’t we use a pencil grip?
I find pencil grips to rarely be helpful from the get-go. And it’s not just because the child has to get used to the grip.
Using a pencil grasp requires strength and coordination on the child’s part and is ultimately, an exercise in itself.
Kids first need to develop sensory processing, core strength and fine motor skills for pencil control or to more comfortably use the grip.
Once kids have had some OT support, some OT’s may then use a pencil grip as a way to further strengthen or support the fingers. It all depends on the child.
However, I have found most kids don’t find them to be comfortable and so we work on the skills they need for better fine motor skills and pencil control.
There’s my two cents on pencil grips. Hmmm…… how does that translate to London English? There’s my two pennies? Doesn’t sound the same, and I may be humouring myself now. 🙂
P.S. I am a fan of shorter, thicker, or triangular shaped pencils, Stabilos, or smoother gliding lead pencils. And if kids are ready, I love Crayon Rocks.
Usually, when people think about paediatric Occupational Therapy, the first thing that comes to mind is dropping your child off to see an OT who will do 1:1 treatment with them. Sometimes parents aren’t present which means that they may not fully understand what the OT is working on with their child, and more importantly, don’t know how to support their child in their daily lives.
How do OT’s help parents support their kids?
At ot4kids, we have always valued working closely with parents in these ways:
- Parents or caregivers are present throughout our sessions
- We have regular parent-ONLY coaching sessions (similar to a teacher-parent conference but not rushed and more often) to review how things are going at home, identify areas of continued concern, understand rationale behind certain ‘behaviours’ and why certain sensory tools are effective and how to use them.
- Some parents do only parent consultations where they learn about sensory processing and motor skills, learn simple strategies to do with their child, and review in their OT consultations
- Sometimes even grandparents and nannies have joined coaching and / or treatment sessions which has been so fantastic
What do parents think of 1:1 coaching sessions with their OT?
Parents often find these consultation meetings to be the most helpful to them in understanding their child’s needs, and parenting their kids in a way that supports them developmentally and emotionally versus using traditional parenting techniques.
How do parent coaching sessions / consultations help us (OT’s) help you?
As an OT, I find the parent consultations really effective as:
1) parents know their child best so their input and feedback are great clues into figuring out effective ways to help their child
2) it’s important to know how the child fares in their daily lives as we want them to develop skills beyond the clinic and into their ‘real’ environments for the best impact
The aim of parent consultations / coaching
Our aim is to help reduce the overwhelm that parents can feel, and to help you find simple and effective ways in helping nurture your kids.
My message to parents is that you know your child best, follow your gut instinct, and know that we can help you to be confident in helping your child to be coordinated, calm, and connected.
Sign up here to learn more about parent coaching / consultation sessions. http://www.ot4kids.co.uk/occupational-therapy/parent-group-coaching-sessions
Can you believe we have been doing Teletherapy and parent consultations for three months now?
Oftentimes, people think that OT has to be done 1:1 with an OT to help their child (and don’t get me wrong, direct treatment is really important and helpful). Thanks to COVID-19, it has been absolutely amazing to see both parents and kids thriving. Kids are calmer and building relationships, developing their motor skills, and problem-solving during play. Parents are understanding their child’s ‘signs’ and needs, and as a result, figuring out what to do coming up with great strategies to support their kids.
It has been a highlight building relationships, joining forces with parents, and having an impact in the kids’ natural environments.
How do Occupational Therapists do Teletherapy?
Teletherapy sessions have taken a combination of two forms:
- Directly working with the child via the parent
- Indirectly by meeting only the parent and reviewing videos of child between sessions
What lessons have we learned (i.e. benefits gained) from teletherapy during COVID-19?
Less is more
Kids have made great progress with what they have at home.
Parents have been nicely surprised how much we are able to do with what they have at home, and as a result, they are more able to incorporate sensory strategies or motor activities into their days. In many ways, I have found that children have made even more progress during their intensive blocks as we are so much more focused on certain areas and we use what they have.
For me, I have loved building relationships with the parents, and tag teaming with them to support their families and kids. I feel that this has also been key to the progress we have made in sessions, and the support the parents feel that they are receiving. Parents are empowered knowing that they can help their kids using their own hands and ideas.
Learn by doing
I learn by doing things myself.
These parent consultations and virtual sessions have enabled parents to ‘do’ with their kids themselves, and become confident in their own abilities to support their child. Being mum to my 8-year old, I know how important this is.
New future plans? YES!
So far, many families want to continue in this way to some capacity, and I’m fore-seeing positive changes going forwards in how we provide OT via supporting parents, whether it be directly, indirectly, through trainings and coaching, or a combination.
Get in touch to discuss how tele-therapy can help your child.
Lockdown has finally given us the impetus to create some Chalk Walk Obstacle Courses for our neighbourhood. (See video examples below.) I’ve always wanted to make these, and now that we have started, my son loves making them too.
People often think these chalk walks are difficult to make, however they’re so fun and you can involve your kids in making them too. We have now made a bunch of these during the past couple of months, including for younger and older children.
We have done very simple ones by going down our street drawing designated areas for ‘dancing,’ being ‘goofy,’ doing ‘silly walks,’ and drawing Hop Scotch grids which even the older people on our street have loved doing.
How chalk obstacle courses develop sensory processing and motor skills:
- FUN while social distancing!
- gross motor skills
- body and spatial awareness
- balance and coordination
- motor planning skills to create, plan and execute
- fine and visual motor control
- organisational skills
- emotional regulation
TOP TIP: Check the weather before you draw out your chalk course. We learned the hard way as it sadly rained the day after we made ours a couple of times.
How to create and arrange a chalk walk obstacle course, keeping your child in mind:
- Start with a more intense, heavy work component such as jumping or doing press-ups
- Next, do a balance and / or challenge task such as walking along a wavy line or jumping and turning
- Have a high energy component (running on the spot for a minute, running for the home stretch)
- a mindful calming section (e.g. blow out the candles, sniff the flowers, sing a song, or unscramble letters to words, or say affirmations).
Although do just have fun, follow your child’s lead and get them involved in creating these.
Chalk Walk Obstacle Course Examples:
Here are several examples that my son and I have done for our neighbourhood. Do share your ideas. We’d love to see them.
In my practice I work with many children with sensory processing difficulties that are identified during their school years. These children may struggle with concentrating in class, coping with transitions or changes, or playing with peers. They can be clumsy, have difficulty holding a pencil or writing, awkward with their movements, or be either withdrawn or aggressive. Oftentimes, they are very bright and as a result, their sensory processing difficulties are misunderstood. Usually, warning signs were present as babies however parents were told to ‘wait and see,’ ‘your child will grow out of it’ or that their child is misbehaving.
Early signs of sensory processing difficulties I have seen amongst babies include:
- Hates tummy time, prefers to sit or stand
- Plays while sitting still versus moving around and exploring their environment
- Tend to get ‘stuck’ with their movements, delayed milestones (e.g. rolling, crawling, clapping hands, waving)
- Cautious with movement, dislike being laid down or moved
- Fussy or irritable babies, cry easily sometimes for no known reason
- Not a ‘cuddly’ baby, resists being held
- Struggle to settle down or going to sleep
- Difficulty with nursing, transitioning to other textures
- Startles easily to loud sounds, distracted, avoids eye contact
- Very easy going, described as a ‘lazy baby’, don’t know they’re in the room
These difficulties indicate that a child’s central nervous system is struggling to process sensory information. It is a neurological problem that can impact on their movements and development, learning, and social-emotional skills.
Here’s a nice article that discusses the early warning signs of Sensory Processing Disorder amongst infants.
Due to the plasticity of a young child’s brain, there is hope and good potential for progress and improvement with Early Intervention. If you are concerned about these early warning signs, seek advice from an Occupational Therapist who specializes in working with infants and younger children, particularly those with sensory processing difficulties. It is never too early or never too late to get help.
ot4kids is live! Well, sort of….. 😆