Travelling through life with poor hand function is tough to say the least. When BJ was younger I was focused on him gaining speech and walking independently. They seemed to be the things that family and friends also focused on as ‘the important skills in life’.
As time passed I realised that good hand function was just as important, if not more important. Good hand function would enable him to move well in an electric wheelchair and access a communication device to ensure his message was heard. Good hand function is empowering.
Once I had this realisation I continued to find activities which would help BJ improve his skills and I continue that even now.
Your child’s Occupational Therapist will guide you as to what will help your child. The idea of this blog is to share activities which we have found helpful.
ASSISTANCE WITH DRAWING
When I shared this crayon holder on our facebook page it was very popular and families had so many questions I have drawn a template of the one pictured above including the measurements
BJ has never been a fan of drawing. The only success we ever had was with these crayons and a little hand grip made by our Occupational Therapist. I recently made one for a friend’s child and thought I’d share it with everyone else.The crayons in the photo have an easier to hold knob on top, the little hand strap is made of Neoprene material (wet suit material), has a small slit to slip the crayon into and velcro to fasten. Although a child may not be able to maintain consistent grasp the crayon stays put allowing them to grasp again when ready.
Teachers kept persisting with drawing with BJ but he never took to it. Personally I don’t think he saw the point because nothing he produced looked like anything. In the scheme of life, his lack of drawing isn’t a big deal for us. I am sure many children are very keen though and this may just help them.
ISOLATING POINTER ACTIVITY
When BJ was little he had an activity that his Occupational Therapist gave him. It was a plastic ice cream container with a hole in the top and he had to try and poke the foam pieces through the hole. I like this mug because it involves holding the handle with one hand and using the other hand to poke the foam pieces through the hole. Make sure when you cut the foam that it is a tight fit. This will allow some resistance when your child pushes on the foam.
When BJ received his iPad last year I wondered how he would ever manage it because they are so touch sensitive. I am happy to say he joined the world of swipers quite quickly but this did not help him with his communication program. An acrylic guard was designed to work with the cells of his Touch Chat program to help alleviate him touching the wrong cell by mistake. This encourages him to target the cells with his fingers rather than a whole palm.
BJ uses his whole hand to grab things where possible but we have found a few activities which encourage a pincer grip. Getting used gift cards or old loyalty cards and putting them in a wallet with lots of pockets worked a treat. When a wallet is new the credit card pockets are firm meaning quite a bit of determination is required to pull out the cards. If it helps motivate your child put stickers on the cards. A laminated business card works well too.
PINCER GRIP ACTIVITY WITH FOOD CONTAINER
Putting food in a container with sections, like the one pictured above, means that BJ cannot use his whole hand to get food. For him cheese is very motivating and he can now very expertly get it out using a pincer grip. Choose a food that is motivating for your child and give it a go. This is a good container to put in the lunch bag which means there is consistency with practice every day.
SWIPING WITH SUCCESS
BJ joined the world of swiping with the help of “guided access”. “Guided Access” allows the iPad to be locked into a particular program which avoids the frustration of it swapping with unintentional touch. “Guided Access” is easy to activate. Head to the settings on your iPad. Go to “General”, you will see “Accessibility”, click on this and scroll down to “Guided Access” turn it “on”, click on “click passcode” Set your passcode and then head to the iPad area you want to access ie Photos, click the home button three times quickly and press “start” which should appear in the top right-hand corner of the iPad. To disable guided access you need to click the home button three times and enter the passcode and click on the “end” button which should appear in the top left hand side of the iPad. I know this all sounds complicated but I promise you it is easy and a total game changer for anyone who has trouble with the iPad switching between programs with incidental swipes.
ISOLATING POINTER FINGER
I remember this pop-up toy fondly from many sessions with our Occupational Therapist when BJ was younger. There are springs under the little wooden peg people. Isolating a finger is the aim of the game and when the child pushes down on the pop-up person it springs out of the container. Lots of giggles and fun can be had with this one when successful.
Most of these ideas and games are small enough to travel with which means you can have fun and therapy on the go. The iPad is certainly motivating and a good entertainer on long-haul flights.
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Laila Siddiqui says
You are a genius. Thank you for all your inventive ideas. Get them out there….. Worldwide. Thank you once again… Linda x
Thank you for your kind words Laila. It is lovely to know that the ideas we have learnt over the years are useful to others. Take care and thank you for taking the time to comment. Julie
Anita Bird says
Love all these great ideas! I am a teachers assistant with a child with Cerebral Palsy. I want to show these to her OT!! Super excited!!!
Hi Anita, I’m glad you like the ideas. Most of these are from our different OT’s over the years so the OT might know them all but I’m so pleased you have found ideas you may be able to work with. I love that a teacher’s assistant is looking for idea. That says a lot about your dedication to your job and we love people like you. Thanks Julie