Welcome to my new blog – On the Road with @stacyturke OTR!
Hello, my name is Stacy Turke. Let me introduce myself and share some of my background before we begin my first article on the “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.” I’ve been a school OT for nearly my entire adult life. In fact, in November of 2015, I will celebrate 30 years in my dream job with the same school district; and while my assignment within the county has changed over the years, my passion and energy have not. My career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including rural, suburban, and urban schools. I have been blessed to have been able to work with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. More recently, OT within my school district has broadened somewhat, giving me access to working with all students and their teachers when needed, focusing on self-regulation, classroom design to enhance learning, and handwriting support (among others). This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!
Though I am assigned to work with kids, much of the work of a school OT happens with the adults who support these kids, namely teachers and parents. I’m often asked really good questions, mostly about how to help kids in the classroom, on the playground, at home, etc. This month I am answering a question asked by the mom of a girl in 4th grade with whom I consulted with last year, though her questions apply to all kinds of kids. She asked me: “How can I take advantage of all the wonderful school supplies that are in the stores this time of year to support my daughter’s visual motor skills? I’ve got the list from her teacher, but I want to know what else I should be stocking up on to help her at home without breaking the bank. Any thoughts?”
Oh yes, I have some thoughts!
This is a great time to stock up on some of the supplies that this #schoolOT says you probably aren’t buying, but should be! Here are my top 3 FAVORITE ‘Non-School’ School Supplies, along with suggestions for using them to your best advantage.
- 2-3″ Binders: Okay, so this is not such a stretch. These are actually considered to be “school supplies” and many folks do purchase binders to help organize their child’s school work. Once kids go back to school in your region, stores are often overstocked with these items. I suggest buying one or two heavy duty binders with either 2″ or 3″ spines at what will likely be a great clearance price. Your child may find that by using this as a Slant Board, it will be a great way to reduce writing fatigue and improve visual contact with the work. Plus this new way to use the binder is just so novel to kids, and sometimes new is more exciting! Place the binder in front of your child on a table that is elbow height when seated, so that the spine of the binder is opposite his or her body. Rest the forearms on the binder when writing, drawing, or coloring. This helps stabilize the arms and allows the shoulder muscles to kick in and support as they should. Your child should be able to write, draw, or color for longer than he or she would be able to otherwise. Plus an added bonus: the paper is in alignment with their visual field, so visually attending is even easier and more direct. Win-win!
2. Page Protectors: Again, you’re thinking, this is ANOTHER school supply, so why does it make this list? Well, because I like using them differently than others, and so will your kids, especially if their teachers want them to practice their penmanship. You can use any “learn to write” workbook, available at Walmart, Target, etc., or you can use the handwriting worksheets your child’s teacher sends home for practice. Place the pages into the page protectors, grab a dry erase marker (or two or three!), and you have just created something your child can practice with over and over. As a school OT, I have NEVER come across a child who learns to correctly write a letter with only one practice. So, in my mind, this is the perfect solution to the One-And-Done that you get with handwriting practice notebooks. I usually find “Economy” sized packages of Page Protectors, usually 50 or 100, for half price after schools start in my area. (Bonus: This is a great way to practice ANY worksheet or workbook-type page. Even simple math practice can happen using a worksheet inside a page protector and a dry-erase marker.)
3. Ponytail Holder or Hairband: Ah-HA, a true non-school supply finally makes the list! And this one is my absolute favorite. I always buy a package of 50 at the beginning of the year and I usually need to buy more by November. Give your child one ponytail holder and place it on the wrist of his or her dominant hand. Give your child their usual pencil or other writing tool. This strategy works best if this is a full-length tool, not a “Pip-squeak” or similar, shorter tool. Stick the eraser end under the band, then place the business end into the fingers as usual. The hairband helps to hold and stabilize the tool in the hand and, suddenly, grasp endurance is enhanced! It’s not really magic, but your child might think it seems like magic. And that’s all that counts, right? (Note: You can use a rubber band just as easily…but many kids find that they pull on the hairs of the back of the wrist, and who wants that?)
Now of course, the three of these items work well together: Place the worksheet into the page protector, place it onto the binder as a slant board, then use the hairband to support the dry erase marker in your child’s hand, and you are going to feel like a homework-helping ROCKSTAR!
A side note: Try these out with your child. But don’t INSIST that the tools be used all the time, every time. In fact, some strategies work well for some kids, but others are just not a good fit. Give your child some control over what tools he or she uses and you may find a much more willing practice time.
Thanks to this Mom for her excellent question about supporting her daughter’s visual motor skills. We’ll take on another question next month!
Stacy Turke, OTR/L: “On the Road with @stacyturke OTR blog.” Stacy has been a school OT for 30 years with the same school district in Michigan in what she describes as “my dream job.” Her career has ranged from working in a “center-based” school to working in public and private schools throughout the county, including those in the rural, suburban, and urban areas. She has experience working with students with a wide range of educational needs, to include cognitive impairments, Autism Spectrum Disorder, physical challenges, sensory processing needs, and many other learning challenges. She expresses her enthusiasm when she says “This career has been fulfilling, always presenting new and interesting challenges, and is NEVER boring!” You can connect with Stacy on Pinterest at https://www.pinterest.com/stacyturke/ and on Twitter at @stacyturke.Disclaimer: The information shared on the Go-To-For-OT Blog or affiliated Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest sites, and shared on social or public media or as links on other sites is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors and administrator of these posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources. Photos are the property of the authors and administrator and are not to be used in any fashion except as links to the appropriate blog without the expressed, written permission of the author and/or administrator.