Tag Archives: vision

Improve Children’s Handwriting

By: Laura Van Zandt, MS, OTR/L

There are many reasons children are referred to occupational therapy, but one of the most common, especially for school-age children, is because of difficulties with handwriting. Expectations for handwriting increase quickly between grades.

In most preschools, handwriting is done through more hands-on activities (think playing with play dough or using a paint brush). Then in kindergarten, children are expected to be able to write. By first and second grade, they are expected to write for longer periods of time with accuracy.

Many of the children we see as Occupational Therapists are able to write, but might have concerns with proximal stability (think core and shoulder strength), endurance, or have an inefficient grip on their writing instruments that may lead to messy handwriting. Other reasons might also be related to vision or sensory processing.

NicholasBelow are a few tools for children to help their hands for strength, endurance, and grasp.

Some things to keep in mind when picking out writing tools for children:

  • The smaller the writing instrument is, the more likely it is to encourage a tripod-like grasp (you may need to build up the handle to encourage)
  • For kids with decreased grasp strength, drawing and coloring with markers or gel crayons may be easier and decrease frustration when presented with more challenging activities
  • Work on a vertical surface whenever possible. It’s not only great for working on increasing upper extremity and core strength, it encourages wrist extension which is important for proper grasp on writing instruments

Squiggle pen

squiggle

Who doesn’t remember this pen from their childhood!? The Squiggle Wiggle Writer is a vibrating pen that produces squiggly lines. It comes with 3 interchangeable pens which slide in and out of the tip of the pen (which is great for working on bilateral coordination). The vibration is great for providing children with sensory input while drawing or writing which helps with focus and attention.

Mechanical pencils

mechanical.jpg
Picture by: www.raymondgeddes.com

I am a huge fan of using mechanical pencils with children because it helps them work on grading the pressure they use when writing. If you press too hard, the tip will break which gets frustrating after a few tries.

 

Twist and Write Pencil

twist pens.jpg

This pencil was designed for a child’s hand. The Y design not only encourages a child to utilize a tripod grasp, but it also forces them to use less pressure allowing them to write for longer periods of time without tiring.

 

Small Pencils, Broken Crayons

color-pencil-drawing-coloring-colored-pencils-159825.jpeg

 

I always have a collection of 1/2 pencils to use with the kids. The shorter a pencil, the more likely they are to use a proper grasp.

 

Beginning Writers

palm eggs

Crayola has launched a handful of new products meant just for little hands. These egg-shaped crayons are the perfect size and shape for your little artist. There are many benefits of children drawing at an early age including developing fine motor and grasping skills, encourages creativity and imagination, improves hand-eye coordination and bilateral coordination.

If you have an easel, I highly recommend having even the youngest of artists to use that because working on a vertical surface is great for kids of all ages. Working on a vertical surface helps increase core and upper extremity strength while encouraging proper wrist position, head and neck position, promotes bilateral coordination, and crossing midline skills.

clover.png

Stylus

 

pexels-photo-416396.jpegFor a variety of reasons, kids spend more time on tablets these days. As with all things, as long as you don’t overdo it, working on the iPad can provide a lot of benefits. One of the things I recommend to all parents is that if they are going to let their kids use an iPad or other kind of tablet, be sure to have them use a stylus as much as possible to help develop fine motor and grasping skills. I think this is especially important if your child is doing any kind of handwriting or drawing apps. There are a lot of different stylus’ to choose.

 

Sidewalk Chalk or Small Chalk Pieces

chalk.jpg

One of my favorite outdoor activity is drawing with chalk.

 

Learning Without Tears Flip Crayons

flip crayons
Photo by: therapro.com

This is one great product. The crayons are already nice and small to encourage a tripod grasp and having a different color on each end encourages in-hand manipulation skills.

 

Triangle Shapes

triangular crayons.jpg

Triangle shapes are perfect to encourage the use of just your first three fingers.

Forbidden Tools

window crayons  bathtub crayons

Who doesn’t like the power of doing something forbidden like writing on windows or in the bathtub! These special items from crayola are designed to encourage writing and creativity is a fun way but also keep mom and dad’s sanity with easier clean up!

For more information on occupational therapy services at Easterseals DuPage & Fox Valley, visit: http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/occupational-therapy.html. 

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Learning-Related Vision Problems

By: Carla D. Adams, OD, FCOVD

WHAT IS THE VISION TRIANGLE?
UntitledSome parents have received a notice that their child needs a complete eye examination.
Parents often take their child to an optometrist and anxiously watch as they are asked to distinguish between lenses. “Which is better -1 or 2?” While a routine exam is a good start it should not be the only test for many students. Since vision and learning are closely linked, problems with vision can often interfere with learning. A routine eye exam alone will not always detect all problems that could affect good vision and thus good learning. Parents should be aware of the vision triangle. There are three types of vision exams, two of which are beyond the routine exam performed by eye doctors. By understanding the vision triangle, it will help avoid frustrations. Parents are armed with options if their child should have academic problems related to how he or she interprets what is being taught, especially if the problems persists with eyeglass.

ROUTINE EYE EXAMS
The first part of the vision triangle is the routine eye exam (just like the example aimagebove). Routine eye exams can detect sight imperfections such as near-sighted, far-sighted and astigmatism. Routine exams can also detect more complex problems such as crossed-eyes and lazy eyes. These conditions are often diagnosed during routine eye exams and respond well to eyeglasses and contact lenses. However, if eyeglasses cured all learning related problems, then there would be an overabundance of “A” students. Clear vision or having 20/20 sight is only part of the vision triangle. Unfortunately, most optometrists and ophthalmologists do not proceed further.

FUNCTIONAL VISION
The second part of the vision triangle is centered on functional vision. To read smoothly, a child’s eyes must work well together. This is called binocularity. A depth perception test is one of several tests used to test this skill. Fine eye movements and focusing tests (accuracy, flexibility and stamina) should also be measured. There maybe deficits in this area if your child complains of readiUntitledng problems such as eye strain, fluctuating vision that will not stay clear, words that float off the page or even headaches. Maybe you even suspect that one of your child’s eyes do not look straight. These types of deficits do not always respond well to eyeglasses or contact lenses which is why some students continue to have problems after a routine exam. Vision therapy is often a good approach to treating such problems. Typically, only a few eye doctors offer therapy. More will be discussed about vision therapy later.

PERCEPTUAL VISION
Untitled1The third and final part of the vision triangle is perceptual visual testing. Visual perception involves not only the eyes but also the brain and how it interprets and organizes information. This type of disorder surfaces around the age of 6 when children first learn to read. You should consider perceptual problems if your child tends to avoid reading and writing. Children with perceptual problems may reverse letters, print poorly and have trouble learning. Eye glasses alone do not solve perceptual problems. A vision therapy consultation with a pediatric optometrist is advised when learning problems persist.

What is Vision Therapy (V.T.)?
Just as eyeglasses and contact lenses work well to treat sight imperfections (i.e., near sightedness, far sightedness, etc.), functional and perceptual problems are often best atreated with vision therapy. It is a type of physical therapy for the eyes. The purpose is to resolve visual problems that interfere with reading and learning. V.T. helps children develop or improve visual skills, read with efficiency and changes how a child processes or
interprets visual information.

Vision therapy is a progressive program of vision exercises or procedures performed under an optometrist’s supervision. The therapy sessions are individualized for each child. The meeting sessions are conducted in-office, once a week.

Following is a list of symptoms that often respond well to vision therapy:

• Blurred or double vision
• Headaches or eye strain
• Crossed eyes or strabismus
• Avoidance or dislike of reading
• Short attention span when reading
• Turning or tilting head to favor one eye
• Rubbing the eyes
• Slow reading speed
• Difficulty remembering what is read
• Omitting or repeating works or confusing letters
• Poor eye-hand coordination
• Losing one’s place while reading or using finger as a guide

For more information regarding vision visit our website:
http://www.easterseals.com/dfv/our-programs/medical-rehabilitation/clinics.html

Editor’s Note:
Dr. Carla Adams is a Developmental Optometrist with a specialization in pediatrics and vision therapy.  Her training includes an emphasis on serving children with special needs.  Dr. Adams is successful in treating children struggling in the classroom as well as children with attention deficit, PDD and autism.  She is a partner of the Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Jayne Shover Center in Elgin.  Learn more about her care via  www.optique-eyecare.com