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DS1 needs a lot of help with handwriting. How can I get the school to work with me.

(9 Posts)
lisbey Sat 29-Aug-09 16:20:13

DS1 is bright. I'm not going to claim any gifted status for him, but he reads top of his class and ahead of the govt targets in maths and science. He goes into year 4 next week with a new teacher.

He has though always struggled to write or draw and therefore, doesn't enjoy it and doesn't want to do it.

The school has unfortunately always taken the view that he doesn't try, which is true at least in part.

However, I've always felt there was more to it than that and finally after 2 years of trying to get him referred he saw an occupational therapist yesterday who was brilliant. He was also shocked that he has been left to suffer for so long and horrified that a bright child (by the school's admission) could be left to flounder because he can't get his thoughts on paper.

Ds1 has hypermobile fingers and no strength in his index finger particularly. Whilst there is no cure, exercises can be done to strengthen them. he now has appropriate pencil grips and practise exercises to do.

However, progress is going to be slow and the quality of his writing is likely to go backwards at first. I need to make sure this doesn't destroy what little confidence he has where writing is concerned.

I don't want to march into school giving orders, but I'm not prepared to let it carry on like it was. Any suggestions for how best to handle the school? I know I'm going to be upset, because I do feel they (and I) have let him down on this up to now.

perdu Sat 29-Aug-09 16:29:12

Oh, always can be a little sensitive can't it but if school are letting you down then you have to say something and go along the line of "lets work together from now on" I suppose?

I am interested in what you say though as my DS is about to go in to Yr 5 and his handwriting (but also spelling) is smiliar to that of a year 1 or 2 child....

I think it is a problem therefore it IS a problem but school try and make me feel otherwise which I occasionally fall for then later think that their "good enough" doesn't match my "good enough" IYKWIM.

Good for you. What made you go to an occupational therapist?

mrz Sat 29-Aug-09 16:34:03

I'm a SENCO and shocked that the school hasn't offered support. Is there any possibility that he could use ICT at school in addition to support to improve handwriting?

WorkInProgress Sat 29-Aug-09 16:42:30

You need a meeting with the schools Special needs teacher and the head if possible. My son was in a similar position and although it was really hard to push for a meeting, once I got one it was fine and they got him lots of extra help - a laptop to write on, extra help with a teaching assistant a couple of times a week. Improvement does take time but it does help. You do need to speak up for him and push for any extra help he needs. It took me a while to see that you need to do this, the school don't automatically help those who need it, and sometimes you need to be a pushy mum. Good luck !

thecloudhopper Sat 29-Aug-09 16:47:57

I am someone who has very messy handwriting and always have done! Although I have no physical condition. I just feel that neat and good handwriting is not the be all and end all!!

I would try not to make a huge issue of it in school and ask him to tell me what he has written in his book and where BEST work is required I would try to get him to use the computer.

If thsi is any help on you can download and print off sky grass and ground writing sheets which are found in the literacy section might help him with letter formation and for practice and correct size.

On the plus side my brother is a solicitor and he has elegible ahndwriting even worse than mine.

mckenzie Sat 29-Aug-09 18:49:44

Lisbey - you could be talking about our DS in every single way, except we haven't had him referred to an occupational therapist - how did you do that?
DS doesn't use his index fingers for anything, not writing, eating, tying shoelaces (or trying to tie shoelaces I should say smile).
Might it be possible to know what exercises your DS has been given?
Our DS finds writing so hard and you can see why when you watch him - it must make his hands and arms ache no end. We've tried the different grips but have found them no help (hope they work for you DS though).

lisbey Sat 29-Aug-09 19:20:33

Thank you for all your comments. The school has "supported" him in a "you must try harder" kind of way. They think it's more that he doesn't concentrate (which it is to some degree) but that's because he finds it so difficult. He concentrates find when reading etc. I'm inclined to give up things I find hard/don't enjoy too, aren't we all?

mckenzie - after being told too many times by the school that there was nothing to worry about, he just needed to concentrate and try harder, I wrote to my GP setting out my concerns. I wrote because I didn't want to take DS1 to the surgery to sit there while we discussed his "failings"

I very rarely take my DSs to Drs, which might have helped I suppose, as I am not generally a "fussing mother". GP telephoned to discuss my letter agreed that if I was concerned he ought to be checked out and referred us to a paediatrician. Took almost a year for the appointment to come through, but she referred us to the OT, which took another 4 months.

The exercises are a mixed of drawing/writing i.e copying circles of different sizes and loopy flowing patterns, and hand strengthening exercises like making scissor action with fingers and scrunching up tissue paper. He has to do 20 mins every day which is going to be a challenge once we get back to spellings etc again.

We have also tried lots of pencil grips in the past, but OT has made him a customised one which comprises a small grip with holes for his fingers, a larger one further up the pencil to keep his fingers open and a hairband type contraption which goes around his wrist and the end of the pencil and has a small bead dangling, which DS1 has to hold with his 4th and little finger, thus keeping them out of the way (he normally holds the pencil with his 3rd & 4th finger. Once all the gadgets are in place, he does look surprisingly comfortable, although is writein is worse than ever while he gets used to it.

tch - I understand what you say, but this is more than being untidy - he can't/doesn't write which means that when he is judged on his written work, there is nothing (very little) to mark. As the OT said to him there's no point being the best scientist in the world if you can't report your experiments. Because of his lack of control in his fingers he also finds using a keyboard, knife and fork, buttons etc very difficult.

mrz Sat 29-Aug-09 19:26:34

These are for younger children but would be helpful

Fine Motor Skills
Things to remember:

Upright working surfaces promote fine motor skills. Examples of these are: vertical chalkboards; easels for painting; flannel boards; lite bright; magnet boards (or fridge); windows and mirrors; white boards, etc. Children can also make sticker pictures; do rubber ink-stamping; use reuseable stickers to make pictures; complete puzzles with thick knobs; use magna-doodle and etch-a-sketch as well. The benefits for these include: having the child's wrist positioned to develop good thumb movements; they help develop good fine motor muscles; the child is using the arm and shoulder muscles.
Fine Motor Activities
Moulding and rolling play dough into balls - using the palms of the hands facing each other and with fingers curled slightly towards the palm.
Rolling play dough into tiny balls (peas) using only the finger tips.
Using pegs or toothpicks to make designs in play dough.
Cutting play dough with a plastic knife or with a pizza wheel by holding the implement in a diagonal volar grasp.
Tearing newspaper into strips and then crumpling them into balls. Use to stuff scarecrow or other art creation.
Scrunching up 1 sheet of newspaper in one hand. This is a super strength builder.
Using a plant sprayer to spray plants, (indoors, outdoors) to spray snow (mix food colouring with water so that the snow can be painted), or melt "monsters". (Draw monster pictures with markers and the colours will run when sprayed.)
Picking up objects using large tweezers such as those found in the "Bedbugs" game. This can be adapted by picking up Cheerios, small cubes, small marshmallows, pennies, etc., in counting games.
Shaking dice by cupping the hands together, forming an empty air space between the palms.
Using small-sized screwdrivers like those found in an erector set.
Lacing and sewing activities such as stringing beads, Cheerios, macaroni, etc.
Using eye droppers to "pick up" coloured water for colour mixing or to make artistic designs on paper.
Rolling small balls out of tissue paper, then gluing the balls onto construction paper to form pictures or designs.
Turning over cards, coins, checkers, or buttons, without bringing them to the edge of the table.
Making pictures using stickers or self-sticking paper reinforcements.
Playing games with the "puppet fingers" -the thumb, index, and middle fingers. At circle time have each child's puppet fingers tell about what happened over the weekend, or use them in songs and finger plays.

Place a variety of forms (eg. blocks, felt, paper, string, yarn, cereal, cotton) on outlines
Match shapes, colour, or pictures to a page and paste them within the outlines

Self-Care Skills
Fastening Snaps
Using a screwdriver
Locking and unlocking a door
Winding a clock
Opening and closing jars
Rolling out dough or other simple cooking activities
Washing plastic dishes
Sweeping the floor
Scissor Activities
When scissors are held correctly, and when they fit a child's hand well, cutting activities will exercise the very same muscles which are needed to manipulate a pencil in a mature tripod grasp. The correct scissor position is with the thumb and middle finger in the handles of the scissors, the index finger on the outside of the handle to stabilize, with fingers four and five curled into the palm.
Cutting junk mail, particularly the kind of paper used in magazine subscription cards.
Making fringe on the edge of a piece of construction paper.
Cutting play dough or clay with scissors.
Cutting straws or shredded paper.
Use a thick black line to guide cutting the following:
A fringe from a piece of paper
Cut off corners of a piece of paper
Cut along curved lines
Cut lines with a variety of angles
Cut figures with curves and angles

Sensory Activities
The following activities ought to be done frequently to increase postural muscle strength and endurance. These activities also strengthen the child's awareness of his/her hands.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking
Clapping games (loud/quiet, on knees together, etc.)
Catching (clapping) bubbles between hands
Pulling off pieces of thera-putty with individual fingers and thumb
Drawing in a tactile medium such as wet sand, salt, rice, or "goop". Make "goop" by adding water to cornstarch until you have a mixture similar in consistency to toothpaste. The "drag" of this mixture provides feedback to the muscle and joint receptors, thus facilitating visual motor control.
Picking out small objects like pegs, beads, coins, etc., from a tray of salt, sand, rice, or putty. Try it with eyes closed too. This helps develop sensory awareness in the hands.

Midline Crossing
Establishment of hand dominance is still developing at this point. The following activities will facilitate midline crossing:
Encourage reaching across the body for materials with each hand. It may be necessary to engage the other hand in an activity to prevent switching hands at midline.
Refrain specifically from discouraging a child from using the left hand for any activity. Allow for the natural development of hand dominance by presenting activities at midline, and allowing the child to choose freely.
Start making the child aware of the left and right sides of his body through spontaneous comments like, "kick the ball with your right leg." Play imitation posture games like "Simon Says" with across the body movements.
When painting at easel, encourage the child to paint a continuous line across the entire paper- also from diagonal to diagonal.

Activities To Develop Handwriting Skills
There are significant prerequisites for printing skills that begin in infancy and continue to emerge through the preschool years. The following activities support and promote fine motor and visual motor development:
Body Stability
The joints of the body need to be stable before the hands can be free to focus on specific skilled fine motor tasks.
Wheelbarrow walking, crab walking, and wall push-ups.
Toys: Orbiter, silly putty, and monkey bars on the playground.

Fine Motor Skills
When a certain amount of body stability has developed, the hands and fingers begin to work on movements of dexterity and isolation as well as different kinds of grasps. Children will develop fine motor skills best when they work on a VERTICAL or near vertical surface as much as possible. In particular, the wrist must be in extension. (Bent back in the direction of the hand)
Attach a large piece of drawing paper to the wall. Have the child use a large marker and try the following exercises to develop visual motor skills:Make an outline of a one at a time. Have the child trace over your line from left to right, or from top to bottom. Trace each figure at least 10 times . Then have the child draw the figure next to your model several times.
Play connect the dots. Again make sure the child's strokes connect dots fromleft to right, and from top to bottom.
Trace around stencils - the non-dominant hand should hold the stencil flat and stable against the paper, while the dominant hand pushes the pencil firmly against the edge of the stencil. The stencil must be held firmly.
Attach a large piece of felt to the wall, or use a felt board. The child can use felt shapes to make pictures. Magnetic boards can be used the same way.
Have the child work on a chalkboard, using chalk instead of a marker. Do the same kinds of tracing and modeling activities as suggested above.
Paint at an easel. Some of the modeling activities as suggested above can be done at the easel.
Magna Doodle- turn it upside down so that the erasing lever is on the . Experiment making vertical, horizontal, and parallel lines.

Ocular Motor Control
This refers to the ability of the eyes to work together to follow and hold an object in the line of vision as needed.
Use a flashlight against the ceiling. Have the child lie on his/her back or tummy and visually follow the moving light from left to right, to bottom, and diagonally.
Find hidden pictures in books. (There are special books for this.)
Maze activities.

Eye-hand Coordination
This involves accuracy in placement, direction, and spatial awareness.
Throw bean bags/kooshi balls into a hula hoop placed flat on the floor. Gradually increase the distance.
Play throw and catch with a ball . Start with a large ball and work toward a smaller ball. (Kooshi balls are easier to catch than a tennis ball.)
Practice hitting bowling pins with a ball. (You can purchase these games or make your own with pop bottles and a small ball.)
Play "Hit the Balloon" with a medium-sized balloon.

mckenzie Sat 29-Aug-09 22:10:56

thanks for explaining all that Lisbey. Our DS also finds cutlery, buttons etc difficult. I'm going to make an appointment on tuesday with our GP and see if I can get the same route for DS. Thank you for explaining the exercises. And your last comment particularly hit home - this is DS exactly. He will verbally tell you all you need to know about Japan, the Romans, how to solve that math puzzle, he just freezes when it comes to writing it down because he finds it too hard.

Thanks MRZ for your reply. A lot of what you have posted is information we were given back in reception when it was identified that DS had a problem with his gross and fine motor skills (it was suggested that he was an early walker as crawling enables children to build up their shoulder muscles which help with writing but in fact, DS was a late walker). DS is an expert wheelbarrow man but thank you for reminding me of the other suggestions - I think we have got lazy recently in following the suggestions.

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