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Primary School TA - Looking for advice

(20 Posts)
JackieLanaTurn Thu 25-Oct-12 13:43:52

I work with children with SEN and have just started working with a child who has cerebral palsy. He is Y1, has no pen grip and doesn't write at all.

As a TA I have the luxury and privilege of spending 3 hours a day with the child. I will be doing a bit of physio with him, as advised by the specialists. I will be doing some reading with him, as that's my area of expertise. I will also be helping him to develop his pen grip. I have some exercises I've found trawling the net already, but wondered, if any parents out there have any experiences they've loved or hated, would you like to share? Any tools they found useful in this process? Any apps they found (preferrably Android based, as I only have my Galaxy Note to play with, no Apple goodies...unless I can talk my old man into it this Christmas smile)

I want to make sure I do my very best for this child and I know that some mums will have been through this process and will have found some fantastic, creative ways of helping their child to write. Also, if there's anything you can think generally that you'd like to see happening for your child in school, I'd like to take that on board too.

I have a new name as I don't want the child identified through me, if you know what I mean. Confidentiality and all that. Thanks for any tips/helpful hints smile Got a whole week off coming up, so plenty of time to get some sessions sorted in my head to suggest to his teacher!

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 25-Oct-12 14:38:20

Blimey. I wish you were MY child's TA.

I'm afraid I don't really have much idea about how to help but I suspect there are loads who do who will be along shortly.

I would have thought starting with general mark making, using big gestures, drawing in the air, drawing in sand, drawing large shapes on a large board, forgetting pen grip for the time being!?

lionheart Thu 25-Oct-12 14:49:20

There was a brilliant thread on here recently and someone posted a great long list of activities -- I'll see if I can find it, unless someone else remembers first. smile

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Thu 25-Oct-12 14:51:54

Again, no CP experience, but I would agree with Star. Start off with big chunky felt tip pens, and write on a nearly vertical board rather than a horizontal one. Sand writing is great as well, but obviously will be horizontal, just a little sand in a tray. Writing on other DCs backs and getting them to guess the letter can make it fun.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Thu 25-Oct-12 14:52:45

Ah, that will be mrz's list. I think I have it on my phone. I'll post it in a bit.

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 25-Oct-12 14:53:12

lol at the idea of vertical sand-writing!!!

Good idea about writing on backs. DS and DD will love that.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Thu 25-Oct-12 14:55:59

grin Star! Found the list!

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
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.

I also have a busy finger box basically one of those plastic fold out workboxes for craft with lots of compartments

1. Pegs –
You need pegs of different sizes, clothes pegs, small bulldog clips, stationery clips etc. Get the children to use one hand only at a time. I usually get them to peg about 10 pegs of different sizes onto the sides of a gift bag. They might put them on with their left hand and take them off with their right.
They can also try squeezing the pegs between the first finger and thumb (on each hand) then the middle finger and thumb and so on.

2. Elastic bands –
Elastic gymnastics! – Start by putting 2 elastic bands (the same size) around the thumb, first and middle fingers, ask the child to open and close the fingers. Then add another 2 elastic bands and so on. The more you have on, the harder it is to move your fingers. These exercises help to develop the muscles which make the web space when writing.

3. Beads –
Get beads of different sizes and thread. Ask the children to thread some beads onto their string. The smaller the hole obviously the harder it is to thread. Develops hand/eye coordination.

4. Ball bearings and tweezers –
Put the ball bearings in one little box and ask the child to try and pick one ball bearing up at a time with the tweezers and place in a second small box. If this is too tricky try using Hama beads and tweezers.

5. Floam / Playdough –
These products are great for squeezing and rolling which provides necessary sensory feedback and helps to develop hand strength. Ask the children to squeeze the dough and roll it with the palm of their hand.

6. Doodle board –
The Doodleboard is just a way of children practising handwriting patterns or letters without having to commit them to paper. Provide some patterns and shapes to copy.

7. Gummed Shapes –
Give the children a sheet of plain paper and ask them to make patterns or pictures with the gummed shapes. Just picking up on shape at a time, licking it and then sticking it down all help to develop hand/eye coordination and the pincer grip.

8. Hama Beads –
Hama beads are good for pincer grip and hand/eye coordination. The children have patterned sheets to copy and peg boards to put them on.

9. Lacing cards –
Also good for hand/eye coordination. Just give each child one card to lace.

10. Bean bags –
Give a child 4-5 bean bags and place a container about 3 feet infront of them. Ask the child to try and get as many beanbags in the container as possible. (Hand/eye coordination)

11. Chalk and blackboard –
If you can, try and wedge the blackboard between two tables and provide the child with a piece of chalk in each hand. Ask them to draw the same pattern with both hands at the same time on both sides of the board. This helps develop bilateral movement.
Allow the children to draw patterns, shapes and letter shapes on the blackboard. The chalk gives sensory feedback and sound simultaneously.

12. Stencils –
Children can use the stencils to make a picture. Helps develop pencil control and special awareness among other things.

13. Feathers –
Ask the children to try and balance a feather on different parts of their body. This helps to develop balance and coordination.

14. Handhugger pens –
Hand hugger pens are the triangular shaped pens. These help the children to establish a better pencil grip.

15. Tissue paper strips –
Place the child’s palm (at the wrist) on the end of a strip of tissue paper. Ask them to only use their middle finger to get the paper to scrunch up under their hand.
Repeat, but this time place the side of the child’s hand on one end of the tissue strip and ask them to only use their thumb to scrunch up the paper and bring it under their hand.
These activities really help to develop the hand arch, web space and muscle tone of the hand.

16. Stickers –
Children love stickers. Just peeling them off provides an opportunity to develop fine motor skills and hand/eye coordination.

17. Peg boards –
These can be peg boards where the child has to place pegs in the holes, maybe copying patterns.
They can be the boards with plastic pegs already on where they have to stretch elastic bands between them to make patterns.

lionheart Thu 25-Oct-12 15:01:36

That's it! Brilliant list.

OP, so many more TAs like you needed.

tabulahrasa Thu 25-Oct-12 15:02:10

I'm not knocking you at all, it's great that you're being proactive, but please tell me that you're looking for things to do in addition to what you've been given and not because there's nothing in place.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Thu 25-Oct-12 15:05:43

Yes, the above list is from Madelaine Portwood, a very experienced and respected occupational therapist, but your charge should really have an individual programme designed for him by his OT. I hope he has been referred to one.

JackieLanaTurn Thu 25-Oct-12 15:46:19

Oh yes....things to do in addition, not because nothing has been provided tabulahrasa. The child does have some things in place already, but I wanted to find out as much as I could from parents as well as the experts.

I've got the physio program in place and a handwriting course/colouring sheets to follow. There were steps in place to do scissor activities and multi-sensory methods of writing, ie chalks, squeezy bottles, sand, etc.

Just from googling I know that playing with playdough can help to strengthen grip so I figured I'd build that into the process. The making of the dough will also help with maths skills and creativity, lots of sparkly bits added. I am just looking for things to build up his skills and mine with!

Also, parents might have come back and said, this is supposed to work but it's rubbish or that's a great thing to do on a repeated basis, which would help me to build it into the timetable more effectively, if you know what I mean. I know every child is different, but if a few parents came back with anectodal information that something was really effective, I'd know to prioritise that.

I'm going to have a lot of input into his timetable, so I figured I ought to go with some really clear ideas on how to support him effectively. The list you gave above EllenJaneisstillnotmyname has just been cut and pasted into a word document and will become my new guide for activities to do...

I can also start sourcing things from the cheap shops, like the hama beads, while I'm on hols (thank gawd for Home Bargains and B&M Bargains for resources).

JackieLanaTurn Thu 25-Oct-12 15:48:28

I will check full details when I get back after the half term hols regarding OT and if it hasn't happened yet (which I can't imagine will be the case) I will chase it up. If it has happened, I'll ensure their recommendations are followed to the letter. These can be extra activities to do.

This is a new area for me and I'm just fishing for advice...what's the point of trying to do this kind of job if you don't try to do the best job you can????

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 25-Oct-12 15:52:03

This little boy is very lucky. Without scaring you, you do realise that you are currently in a position to make a huge difference to his prognosis? - and I am glad for him.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Thu 25-Oct-12 15:52:29

You can get OT putty in different strengths, but I wouldn't know which to recommend, (probably the softest) so maybe playdough would be a good start. You could try 'hiding' small plastic toys in the playdough for the child to 'find' and remove.

JackieLanaTurn Thu 25-Oct-12 16:15:49

Thanks for all the positive comments about my job. I'm just thankful to be able to do something useful for a change. After years of doing thankless management jobs, full of red tape and very little actual output, I'm in the fortunate position of being able to give something back.

I came from a poor background too, so I'm conscious that I've done really well for myself. Seems a bit mean to not give something back in some way.

starlightMcKenzie that just makes me excited...not scared. If I can help him develop to the best of his abilities, I'll be doing cartwheels by the end of the school year (and I haven't done a cartwheel for about 35 years!). I may follow him through school for a couple of years, which would be great, but schools change so frequently, you often don't know what they've got coming for you.

I'm also lucky enough to work with some kids who are struggling to read in the afternoons but I've done that for a few years, so I've got lots of resources I've bought/prepped and I work to a tailored intervention programme. I just make it more kinaesthetic for the learners who don't engage with the audio/visual style of delivery so easily.

Will look for the OT putty. the hiding toys thing. Got lots of squinkies and toy soldiers and such.. Off to buy some puppies in my pocket as I believe he likes his dogs smile

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 25-Oct-12 16:17:37

Don't imagine for a minute that you have escaped the red tape though - sadly.

JackieLanaTurn Thu 25-Oct-12 16:29:34

I know what you mean's just different. I find the environment slightly less political at my level. I'm a part time TA. I'm not important enough to get involved in the nuts and bolts politics and red tape grin

I have to document everything, and provide evidence of working towards targets, but I can deal with that! It's the teachers and SENCO and SENCO Mentor who have to deal with the minutiae.

tabulahrasa Thu 25-Oct-12 17:50:00

Don't get me wrong I think it's fantastic that you're looking into things yourself, I just got a bit worried that you might have been thrown in at the deep end with no support.

Glad to hear that's not the case and I'm just jaded, lol.

Eveiebaby Thu 25-Oct-12 20:14:52

I would second the Theraputty idea - both myself and DD's school use it with her. I hide as many marbles as I can in it and she has to pick them out. I think it has helped DD build up finger strength and she seems to quite enjoy doing it. OT should be able to provide theraputty.

JackieLanaTurn Thu 25-Oct-12 21:05:53

No probs Taulahrasa. I really appreciate the support and advice on here and I think it's wise to ask people if they are getting all the support they should be. If nothing else it prompts them to ask the kind of questions they should be asking. And it stops your average Level 2 TA from being put under ridiculous amounts of pressure to achieve something they shouldn't be expected to achieve!!

Thanks Eveiebaby. Will ask about the theraputty at school tomorrow and the vertical blackboard after reading the list above. Got a plastic sticker playscene coming from ebay and a doctor who money box and plenty of coins of varying sizes sorted. Should help with counting, money recognition and muscle building.

Just off to print out my playdoh recipe.

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