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pencil grip, DS really struggling with fine motor, help please

(18 Posts)
MojoLost Tue 15-Sep-09 15:39:00

DS1 is 4.5 years old and really struggling with his fine motor skills. He can hold a pencil and kind of scribble, but is just unable to grip it well enough to make purposeful lines. School has told me this is a major problem.

Could you please help me? What type of aids have helped your children with pencil grip? Are there any special pens/pencils/colours to help with this. Thank you thank you thank you!

(he does get OT, but I haven't received any information about this from her).

lou33 Tue 15-Sep-09 15:42:29

ot should have told you that you can get a special triangular grip to go on pencils which help with fine motor skills

i know i have definitely buy coloured pencils with the grips already in place, i think they may be crayola, but not sure

you should aslo talk to OT about whether or not his fine motor skills are delayed in the long term, and whether or not he would benefit from a laptop

ds2 has a laptop provided for him due to similar issues because of his cerebral palsy, he is 8.5 and had a laptop since infants, because his writing is very delayed when compared to his peers

ChopsTheDuck Tue 15-Sep-09 16:14:34

we use ultra grips and a writing slope.

I would speak to the OT. Ours had a big range of stuff to try with ds to work out what suited him best. Would save you from forking out trying different things.

lou33 Tue 15-Sep-09 16:48:12

yes sloped board too, i forgot that

i think that o.t only provide items over a certain value, but it is definitely worth consulting them

jasdox Tue 15-Sep-09 16:56:01

I brought some pencil grips from sensory toys and they have a few other items for fine motor skills. my ds has no interest in having ago yet...

amberflower Tue 15-Sep-09 20:48:05

I had a very similar problem with my DS (turned 5 in July) and a similar reaction from school. I can't believe your OT hasn't told you about pencil grips! You can buy grips to help with the tripod grasp - even a very general store like the Early Learning Centre do a pack of 3 - and you can also buy triangular shaped pencils. As others have said there are a raft of different shaped grips, slopes etc that the OT should be able to advise on.

It might also be worth your doing some 'finger disociation' exercises with him - this basically refers to the ability to move one finger independently of the other, starting with the index finger, to help strengthen the fingers. So for example games with finger puppets, use one finger to operate the trigger on a water pistol or similar, have races with small objects like marbles pushing a marble along with one finger. Another good game to strengthen the pincer grip (which is essential to help them develop the tripod grasp on a pencil) is a simple game using clothes pegs i.e. put say 10 pegs into a bowl, get DS to lift them out one by one and clip them to the edge of the bowl using thumb and index finger, then take them off and replace in the bowl.

Once the grip has strengthened and he is holding the pencil correctly (our OT taught DS to 'make a snappy crocodile' with the thumb and index finger, tapping them together before picking up the pencil with them, to try and encourage him to hold it correctly) then try lots of work to encourage copying straight lines, zig zag lines, wavy lines moving from left to right across page.

You don't mention how keen or otherwise your DS is to try mark-making and writing work - half the battle on this I think, particularly with boys, is getting their interest. Lots of boys of this age are simply not interested! The OT that my DS did used to encourage him by, for example, printing worksheets with cars and aeroplanes etc on with dotted lines in either straight, wavy or zig zap lines - i.e. follow the race track or help the aeroplane fly across the paper. Colouring in is also a good one as it helps develop control in trying to stay between the lines. Problem being of course that a lot of boys hate colouring in, but again if you try and pander to their interests and find pictures of their favourite cartoon characters or whatever it might work.

Failing that, my best tip is bribery wink - i.e. a sticker for every session (no matter how short) and then perhaps a small treat once he's got 7 stickers. Alternatively an immediate food related reward always works well for my DS - biscuits or Haribos usually - though obviously this can backfire if your child reacts adversely to sugar - luckily DS doesn't!

If it is any help, at 4.5 my DS was really struggling with all of this. Used to clutch at the pencil like an 18 month old, wrapping all his fingers round it and just scribbling aimlessly. Now (less than three months after completing a short course of OT last term, and with lots of practise over the summer) he is gripping the pencil correctly, colouring in much more accurately, can write not just his name but form almost every letter in the alphabet from memory, and writing not just whole words but complete sentences. Okay, his writing's not the neatest smile but we are getting there, and when I compare where he is now to where he was then I can hardly believe the progress.

So don't let school panic you too much. 4.5 is still very young, and he's a boy (even very able boys generally develop fine motor skills at a slower/later rate than girls), and there is so much you can do to help him. Hope this helps - sorry it's so long but this is a subject close to my heart!

whatreally Tue 15-Sep-09 21:25:47

Just to underline what Amberflower says - get his hand stronger. Do ball squeezing exercises, lots of play doh activities, let him play in cornflower. Think about assisted scissors if that is a problem too. We didn't realise for years that DDs fine motor skills were a disaster area. When the OT first saw her just over a year ago she told us to do no writing with her until her hands were strong enough. The most she allowed DD to do holding a pencil was scribble.

feelingbetter Tue 15-Sep-09 21:34:08

Here is a supplier of pen grips. They may also have toys to help too.

JustCutAndPaste Tue 15-Sep-09 23:37:21

loads of good ideas already. Would just like to say I am surprised the school has said this is a 'major problem'. Ds2 is in Yr1 (mainstream) and has extremely poor pencil grip and can hardly write any words legibly. But I spoke to his teacher this term and she assured me that (a) they do lots of activities in the class to improve fine motor control and that (b) many boys are delayed in picking this up but will catch up with the girls eventually.

I also remember when ds1 was in Yr1 he had extra 1-1 time with a parent who worked on exactly the kind of activities AmberFlower has mentioned. He loved the extra attention and it really helped. By Yr2 he had some of the neatest handwriting in the class [proud]smile.

was going to add some more but ds3 just woken up

Scottie22 Wed 16-Sep-09 12:33:24

This is sooo useful - thanks for all those activities amberflower! My dd is some way off school yet but will almost certainly have fine motor difficulties. Like lots of you have said it's also a problems of gender - my 5 yr old ds has no fine motor problems at all and yet will NOT put pen to paper and couldn't hold a pen properly before he started school last year. On the other hand my dd loves drawing but can't physically hold a pen properly yet so I'm really pleased to hear there is lots I can do to help her!!

MojoLost Wed 16-Sep-09 15:09:46

Hello all, thank you for all your advice and links. Sorry I couldn't log into mnt yesterday.

The sort of thing the OT does is for example draw a "road" and get him to follow the road with the colour. Or link things together with a line on a large piece of paper. But she has never used an aid (like these grips).

amberflower, thank you for all that info, really useful. He is more interested now in scribbling which is a huge advantage, just 4 months ago he had no interest at all, so that should help.

JUSTCUTANDPASTE, yes I do think the school is being a little bit negative to be honest. They do tell me about the positives as well, but they seem to be comparing him with his peers who are obviously way ahead on colouring and pencil grip.

Will go into the links you all pasted for me THANK YOU VERY MUCH EVERYONE.

lou33 Wed 16-Sep-09 15:51:14

do the school have your ds on an iep?

MojoLost Wed 16-Sep-09 20:04:36

Hi Lou, not yet, they only started school this week. So they have been "assessing" his needs during the week.
I asked them if they would create an iep from the outset and they said that they need to work with him for a bit to find out exactly what his needs are.
It makes sense to me.

lou33 Wed 16-Sep-09 20:29:04

its a bit soon of them to scare you by saying he has a major problem in which case, i think its naughty really

ask them how long they need to assess him then also ask ot to be sent a copy of any report they may decide to write, or get an extra copy sent to yourself to show them

there are other options before an iep is put in place, like the lower rungs of a ladder as a clumsy example

he is young though and already receiving ot so hopefully this will be resolved fairly soon

JustCutAndPaste Thu 17-Sep-09 11:24:11

Just back to add what I couldn't put last night.

When ds1 was in yr 1 his teacher found a thing to help him keep his two smallest fingers in his hand when writing. It was like a hairband which went round his wrist, with a string and a largish bead dangling on the end. When he was writing he used his thumb and two fingers on the pencil and then closed his other fingers over the 'bead'. I'm describing it like this because I have no idea what it is called (maybe an OT will come in and tell us??) and a quick google for 'pencil grips' gives the usual moulded things which isn't what I mean.

After the teacher had shown it to me I made one at home with a hairband, embroidery thread and a bead he chose himself from a shop. Anyway that, plus all the fine motor skills activities, were what helped ds1 in the end.

It sounds like it's definitely worth talking to the OT about this. Maybe she thinks a pencil grip isn't a good idea yet. I know we talked to ds2's teacher about them last year and she didn't think it was important at that point.

Also I have some crayola crayons at home with a triangular cross-section so that encourages the kids to hold them correctly without being too obviously different.

MojoLost Thu 17-Sep-09 15:33:33

Hi Lou, well he's been receiving OT weekly for 3 years, so who knows how many more years of OT he will need to resolve this problem.
I think school is definitely helping though, last night I asked him to draw a circle and he actually managed to join the line, I couldn't believe it grin , just a week ago he wasn't able to do it. Will ask him to do it again tonight, just to check if it is consistant.

JCAPaste: the teacher sounds so inventive, that is what you need isn't it? I have managed to find an OT that is willing to go to school and discuss ideas, so I am feeling much more hopeful.

On a positive note, his language has come along heaps!!! They are very pleased with the improvement (based on an assessment he had 6 months ago)

asteamedpoater Thu 17-Sep-09 16:35:08

The thing JustCutAndPaste is talking about is called a Handiwriter - you can buy them from Special Direct This has really helped my ds1, whose main problem was that the pencil sloped forwards in his hand rather than backwards. As for pencil grips, there are so many different types, for slightly differing grip problems, that it's probably better to get advice from an OT before trying anything other than the basic triangular ones - or better still, just buy thick, triangular pencils for now, as my ds1 hated things being put on his pens and pencils, but didn't object to the actual pencils being triangular. I've found the Faber-Castell Jumbo Grip pencils really good. Basically, a fatter pen or pencil is far easier to grip than a thin one for small, weak hands.

MojoLost Fri 18-Sep-09 17:10:16

asteamedpoter: thanks for that, will def talk about what you tell me with the OT. Sounds really helpful

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