Pawprint - February 2015
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New Product Spotlight
Composite Climbing Wall Composite Climbing Wall

The Composite Climbing Wall is made of material that is easy to clean and can be mounted outdoors. The climbing wall comes with (20) handholds that can be used to arrange various paths. The wall has (60) handhold mounts to provide plenty of options.

Dimensions: 48"W 86"H 24"D
Working Load: 175 lbs.

Therapist's Corner
Deanna Maciole
Handwriting: It Is More Than Meets the Eye
Deanna Macioce, MS, OTR/L

Handwriting: a common topic of conversation among teachers, therapists, and parents. When attempting to assess a child's handwriting and legibility skills, the child is typically asked to complete a writing sample, either by copying, self-generation or dictation, and the adult will look at the finished product, as well as the grasp. However, when the task of handwriting is broken apart, we find there are a lot of other skills that contribute to the success writing.


With the increased demands of school beginning in kindergarten, handwriting is often looked upon as a benchmark, among others, for school readiness. More and more, we are finding parents are faced with the challenge of making the choice to start kindergarten or enroll in a pre-K class. Although this decision is based on a variety of components, such as reading skills, socialization, maturity, direction following, and handwriting, our purpose is to dissect the task of handwriting, while giving a few pointers. It should be noted that with the demands in school performance, there is much debate on the overall readiness of children at such a young age, but regardless, it is important to know that a lot more goes into handwriting than what meets the eye! From fine motor control to motor planning, handwriting is a complex task.


Fine Motor Control: It goes without saying that overall fine motor strength and control play a key role in handwriting. Having an ideal triad grasp with proper web space opening contributes to a child demonstrating the ability produce smooth movements during handwriting, as well as have the endurance to write for a period of time. If these are not strong enough, a child will compensate with an inappropriate grasp, and will tend to use a thumb wrap on a writing utensil.


These skills can be improved through the completion of fine motor strengthening activities, such as using tongs and tweezers, in-hand manipulation games with small objects, such as pennies, and manipulatives such as small beads, blocks, and pegs.


A well-developed grasp is very important for writing, but is not the only focus for success. Grasp, actually plays a larger role for students who are required to write for longer periods of time and with increased speed.


Visual Motor: Visual motor skills include how the hands and eyes work together.  Therefore, a child's vision and hand-eye coordination are very important for handwriting. Paying attention to a child's ability to copy simple strokes or shapes, complete an age-appropriate maze or dot-to-dot, coloring within a designated area, as well as his or her ability to trace letters and shapes are good indicators for visual motor strength or weakness. Asking a child to form a letter, when tracing and copying simple strokes is difficult, will result in poor production.


In addition, children who demonstrate poor visual motor skills will often demonstrate difficulty making their letters fit within a designated space. It is important to pay attention to what is appropriate for a specific age range. For instance, asking a 5-year-old to use notebook paper with ease versus using large, wide-spaced paper.


These skills can be strengthened through practice of mazes and dot-to-dots, completing interlocking puzzles, playing ball catching and target throwing games, as well building with blocks or Legos.


Motor Planning: Motor planning is the planning and execution of a series of movements. In handwriting it relates to a child's ability to complete letter formation; how a child organizes his or her thought to letter writing, and then executes it on paper. Children with poor motor planning abilities will often form their letters in segments or broken lines. In addition, some children will have difficult forming letters correctly (from top to bottom). Although it is important to note reversals of letters and numbers, it should be known that reversals are common among young children, and really do not become an area of concern until about age seven.


Motor planning difficulties are often seen in children with Sensory Processing Disorder. Therefore, improving body awareness, proprioception and overall practice with help the brain conceive, plan and execute the steps needed for handwriting.


Core Stability: Core stability plays a larger role in so many of our skill areas, and is often overlooked. Having a strong trunk and good shoulder stability with improve the function of the hands. Children who demonstrate poor core stability, often have difficulty sitting for tasks, and during coloring and writing are observed to get most of the movement from the shoulder, not the wrist. A strong core will also help improve attention and focus, which are needed for so many of these complex school tasks.


Ways to improve core strength include completing activities in the net swing, on a bolster swing, or platform swing. Having children do animal walks (crab, bear, etc.) and wheelbarrow walking during transitions, especially in the home, therapy ball exercises, and using a t-stool during activities.


Bilateral Coordination: Using both sides of the body together, either in alternating movements (walking), both sides doing the same or different thing, such as cutting is bilateral coordination. A child's ability to cross mid-line with ease also plays a role in bilateral coordination. In regards to handwriting, bilateral coordination is noted by having the non-dominant hand hold and stabilize the paper during writing. Crossing midline refinement is needed in order to have children move from the left to right progression on the paper. Children who lack these skills are often seen to switch the writing utensil from one hand to the other during writing activities.


Bilateral coordination skills can be improved with playing on playground equipment, playing clapping games, Simon Says, or dancing. In addition, bike riding, jumping jacks, and musical instrument playing are all skills that demonstrate strong bilateral coordination.


Attention and Direction Following: In any complex skill, attention and direction following skills play an important role. If a child demonstrates difficulty sitting and attending for less stressful tasks, such as circle time, it is likely that sitting for activities that require more attention and focus will be difficult for the child. Therefore, providing directions in a simple manner will be beneficial. Children need to be able to sit and attend for handwriting, and those children who struggle with following simple verbal directions, will likely struggle to follow class instruction for writing.


Working on strategies to improve attention and focus from a sensory standpoint could be beneficial. Some children perform tabletop tasks with adaptations such as weighted items, the Miracle Belt, or sitting disks.


It is easy to see how complex the task of handwriting is for all children. However, working to strengthen all the areas will help make the task of writing easier for our younger children. Handwriting is not only a grasp with the end product of a letter on a piece of paper. Now is time to work on 'building' some strong writers, making the school experience better for all...students, teachers, and parents!
Sensations TheraFun and Southpaw MSE

Parents Commitment to Their Daughter, Occupational Therapy, and Southpaw MSE  


When I was first introduced to Sensory Integration Disorder, it was described as what was causing my daughter to have challenges in school, sports, at home and out in pubic areas like grocery stores and libraries. My wife and I were frustrated, as the tools we used with our older son just were not working. Bribing, threatening, ignoring, none of those were working. What were we going to do, take away our 3 year old's Iphone?

With a soft recommendation from one of her teachers, we were introduced to an Occupational Therapist. Not knowing what an OT does, it was described to me as occupational therapy was therapy to help a child with their occupation, and a child's occupation was school, social, eating and other things "typical" to a child's development. Soon we were taking her to our weekly therapist where she would swing, spin, climb and do other play therapy. I was skeptical that it would help my daughter, but would try anything to help her. Slowly we saw improvements, and I became a believer.

We became such believers that in 2008, we launched a multisensory activity center that was a giant indoor playground with all the fun things an OT would recommend. With swings, trampolines, a zip line and climbing walls, we were not only able to give our daughter a daily dose of her sensory diet, but open it up to hundreds of other kids who also needed it. The most exciting part of our center turned out to be our state-of-the-art multisensory room. With a bubble tube, lighted fiber optics, lighted ball pit and a wall projector with calming images and soft music, we soon saw how children gravitated to this room when they needed to calm themselves, focus, or just get away from overstimulating things.

Today, we not only welcome families to our center who bring their children for therapeutic play, but help families install all types of equipment at home to help their children. We also work closely with schools and clinics in developing their multisensory environment. What we have learned is that given the right recommendations, families can engage their children in productive therapeutic play, at home, in the clinic or even better, at Sensations TheraFun, our Atlanta based activity center.

As representatives of Southpaw, Sensations TheraFun has become a showroom of all that is involved in satisfying a child's sensory diet. Come play with us, or let us design and install your own personal sensory room, and with Southpaw you get a one-stop partner. It's easy, affordable, and a fun way to help the child who needs it.

And trust me, it's a lot more effective than taking away the Iphone!

Jay Perkins


Come play at:                                                             Build your own sensory room

Sensations TheraFun                                                  Southpaw Southeast

Atlanta, Georgia                                                         404-307-5790



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