Monday, July 12, 2010

The fight for dexterity

I've attended enough SPD educational offerings, read enough SPD blogs and texts, and spent enough time with occupational therapists that specialize in the SPD field to know that handwriting is a very common challenge for kiddos with these issues.  The reasons for handwriting challenges are about as diverse as the kiddos themselves.......and the answers and solutions are just as diverse. 

Jennica is no exception to the handwriting issue.  We've seen it coming but, in all honesty, lots of 6-year-old neuro-typical children also have handwriting issues.  So.......its hard to get anyone real excited about it.  The schoolteachers sort of shrug and say, "She's within normal age range on this skill."  Yeah.......but for how long? 

So handwriting is the #1 issue that I have requested help from our OT for the summer.  I'm probably a little ahead of the game, but Jennica has to get this a little bit resolved in the next year.  (I happen to be a rabid opponent to teaching keyboarding for first grade for anyone that is physically capable of mastering the basic tasks involved.  Reality tells me that, regardless of a child's future path, they HAVE to be able to write to some degree to function normally in life.)  I'm not foolish enough at this point to say, "Fix her.  You've got 10 sessions."  Instead, I walked in the door today and said, "Teach me about handwriting and what it truly takes for the hand to write correctly."  Bless her heart, our OT opened her door of knowledge and shared a little with me.  I am volumes ahead of where I was this morning.......and its all bursting out of my brain in fits and starts tonight.

First of all, she showed me that Jennica has a fairly weak use of her opposable thumb.  Interesting......and after having being shown what she was talking about, I feel like I should have noticed it before!!!  She assured me that without the skills that we have been building in the past year already, it wouldn't have really mattered if I noticed it before or not......Jen wasn't ready to focus on this issue until now.  (Whew!  No guilt then for missing the signs on this one!) 

So......we have to focus on strengthening "grasp."  And not just "pencil grip" in the traditional sense.  But actually training the fingers how to work in sync with the thumb.  I wasn't sold on it, until I literally watched my daughter today move her thumb (with prompting) to a new position and her fingers immediately lost their ability to function!  Her fingers no longer knew what to do when her thumb went to a new position!!  Fascinating!!

I have a lot to learn so that I can help guide Jen's daily life to include more use of her thumb.  Picking up toys off the floor.........swinging on the monkey bars at the playground........holding the chains on the swings.......Everything will now have to include a quiet "prompt" to make sure that her thumb is in the opposable position.  She's going to struggle with coordination at first, but I can see the progress coming quickly with this one.  Of course, that might be the optimist speaking.  :)

And meet my new friend!  Jen will have to give her a name.  But each day, Jen will be responsible for "feeding" our friend beads, cotton balls, and anything else that we can think to feed her.  The goal?  Squeeze to open her mouth. 

I LOVE occupational therapists!  They are the coolest, most innovative people on earth!  Thank you, Renae, for sharing your knowledge with me! 

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