All posts by Lisa Bochenek

Teaching your dyspraxic child how to tie their shoe laces – over 30 tips, videos and products to help.

Teaching your dyspraxic child how to tie their shoelaces.

30+ tips, videos and products to help teach your child how to tie their shoes successfully:

  • As with most fine motor skills teach your child to tie shoelaces
    How to teach your child to tie their laces
    How to teach your child to tie their laces

    one step at a time, let them master that stage, then teach the next.

  • A little known trick is to use a double twist to get started as it stops the laces from slipping and coming undone – especially good when your child cannot tie laces tightly (put one lace over and under the other twice before forming a bow).
  • Start to learn how to tie your shoelaces by sitting comfortably and practise with a wooden shoe or a shoe on the table facing away from you so that it’s in the position that your own shoe would be in if you bent down to tie it, much more preferable to learning whilst uncomfortably reaching down to tie your shoes.
  • Invite your child to hold one end of the shoestring in each hand. Everything you tell them to do, you should also do so that they can copy you.
  • Make sure the laces are long enough before to start!
  • Do you need to change the laces in your shoes? replace thin laces with firmer, slightly thicker laces that are easier to grip. Synthetic shoelaces can be slippy to use, select a natural cotton lace as they provide better grip.
  • If you are demonstrating, sit to the side of your child so they can see you tying your laces at the same angle that they are tying theirs. If you are demonstrating how to tie them whilst sat at the table you can stand behind your child and reach around them to the shoe that is directly in front of them so that they really do get the best perspective and can copy more easily.
  • Read instructions and play videos to yourself first so that you are brimming with confidence before demonstrating to your child.
  • The bunny ear method (two loop knot) worked for my son, stage by stage:

  • The bunny ears method helps your child tie a square knot, one of the easiest knots to learn. The steps to the bunny method:
  1. Fold each end of the lace into a single “bunny ear.” You can hold the “ears” in place between your thumb and pointer finger on each hand.
  2. Cross the bunny ears so that they form an “X” in the air.
  3. Loop the bottom bunny ear over and through the top bunny ear. This will create a second knot.
  4. Pull the bunny ears out to the side away from the shoe. This will create a square knot that will not easily come undone and will hold the shoe in place.
  • If you haven’t tried the new Lace’mup yet we would highly recommend it, for just £3 you can’t go wrong and lasts long enough to be passed down to the next in line! Children can often get to the stage of making the rabbits ears but then it’s all fingers and thumbs, sad faces and lost laces thereafter. This clever little device holds the ears whilst your child masters tying them together to finish the bow. Once tied you just pull it away from the laces and hey presto! shoelaces tied.
The easiest way to teach your child how to tie their shoelaces - lace'mups
Simple, 4-step way to teach your child how to tie their laces. Takes the frustration out of learning to tie their laces
  • This handy gem of simplicity has been transforming children’s lives. One Dyspraxic mum wrote: “I bought a Lace’mup for my daughter who is Dyspraxic and therefore struggles with laces. She can’t wear the shoes she wants to wear. It’s only been in our house a day or so but instantly she can tie her shoes. She can now buy the shoes she wants and is already looking online at lace up boots.”
Step by step simple instructions on how to effectiveley use your lace'mup for stress free shoelace tying skills.
Step by step simple instructions on how to effectiveley use your lace’mup for stress free shoelace tying skills.
  • Lace’mups video

  • Try a lacing card using pipecleaners for laces (tie two different coloured ones together to help your child master the steps) helps
    Thick, sturdy lacing cards in beautiful designs with laces to help child master their shoe lacing skills
    Thick, sturdy lacing cards in beautiful designs with laces to help child master their shoe lacing skills

    the laces to stay in place and provides more stability whilst they learn to tie the knots and loops.

  • Reinforce learning by having your child verbalise the steps as they go.
  • Some parents have found colouring one end of the shoe lace another colour with a fabric pen quite helpful for visual instruction. This really helps when your child struggles with left right confusion, you can use colour instruction instead.
  • Tying shoe laces requires a level of dexterity most kids don’t possess until they’re between five and seven, so try not to start before they are ready.
  • Tying shoelaces requires not only good  fine motor skills, it
    Handy little fine motor skills board helps prepare your child for independence in dressing and learning how to tie their shoes in a fun way
    Handy wooden fine motor skills board helps prepare your child for independence in dressing and learning how to tie their shoes in a fun way

    requires good visual perception, good hand eye coordination, bimanual hand use (bilateral coordination), tactile perception, and hand strength. You might need to practise these skills first to enable shoe tying success later.

  • If your child has poor proprioception or poor tactile perception their ability to know what their fingers are doing without being able to see them is a challenge for them. There is a lot of ‘feeling’ going on when tying shoe laces. Choose a more tactile shoe lace to improve the ‘feel’.
  • Draw notches along the lace in different colours with a fabric pen so that your child knows where to fold the lace for the right sized ‘ears’ or loops.
  • Avoid left, right instructions: use the colour names of the laces if you are using two different coloured laces or say… pick up the lace with the hand you use for writing.
  • Practise with lots of alternatives to laces if they are finding laces difficult to manage: wikki stix, wire-edge ribbon, pipe-cleaners etc.
  • I have always found that it helps to reinforce the learning of each stage if I get the child to act as a teacher and teach me the stage they have just learned, or they can teach it to teddy or a sibling, it gives them such a confidence booster too.
  • The Wood Lacing shoe is a great practice tool, it
    Wooden lacing shoe - stable eyelets and a quality lace supports confidence building when learning to tie their shoes.
    Wooden lacing shoe – stable eyelets and a quality lace supports confidence building when learning to tie their shoes.

    has cheery bright colours and stiffer laces than the ones typically found on shoes.  Practice on the model before moving to your child’s real shoe.

  • Prepare your child mentally for the task beforehand – it is a challenging activity that they won’t master in the first few tries. Practice several times a week to reduce frustration and improve success.
  • Your child does need to be able to master the pincer grip and have reasonably good finger dexterity to be able to tie their shoe laces effectively and so plenty of pencil grip work (see our other blog on this) would really help.
  • Now this video I like – it  makes it look so easy using the loop method and would help if your child is struggling with sequencing difficulties:

  • Your child will always look for the easier route. Untie your child’s shoelaces every night  to make sure they can’t just push their foot into the shoe that’s still tied. The daily practise of tying helps them to learn more quickly.
  • Some therapists use a technique called backward chaining which can be really helpful.  You teach the last step first – for shoe tying you would first teach how to pull a bow tight.  Once the child masters this step you work your way backwards through the steps of shoe tying, until all the steps have been introduced.  Backward chaining is rewarding for children, as they always end with the finished result!
  • We saved learning to tie shoelaces until the long summer holiday when there were no time constraints and every morning whilst fresh and willing, we would work on a stage of lacing, photograph it and stick it up on the wall for visual reinforcement. We’d use a wall chart to show progress and earn rewards and by the end of the 8 weeks the skill was in place. Not the speediest, but he could do it.
  • Moving to senior school means getting changed even faster for sport,
    Elasticated shoe laces and lace locks are a real help.
    Elasticated shoe laces and lace locks are a real help.

    switching to an elastic shoe lace with lace lock for football and rugby boots will help. It’s not giving up, it’s helping your child to keep up with the pace and keeps their stress levels down – the move from Primary to Secondary school is a big step – every little aid helps.

  • Incentivise your child before starting your shoe tying programme – have them identify a pair of shoe or trainers that they would really like to wear, this helps them to keep a positive focus throughout the programme.
  • Don’t worry even Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe struggled to tie his shoelaces!
  • If you have been practising for some time and are having little success it might be advisable to consult an Occupational Therapist who will be able to identify any underlying reasons that may be causing the difficulty.
  • If laces remain a problem , use Velcro fastening shoes or purchase some elastic laces.

Good luck, we’d love to hear how you are getting on!

Teaching dyspraxic children how to hold and use their cutlery and choosing the right cutlery

Teaching your dyspraxic child how to master their cutlery starts with their posture and seating position, this affects the way they eat as much as the cutlery they use:

Cutlery skills and the best cutlery for children with dyspraxia or DCD
Cutlery skills and the best cutlery for children with dyspraxia or DCD
  • Being comfortable to eat is very important to a dyspraxic – often eating can be a tiring process, trying to eat whilst slipping around on a chair therefore becomes an even bigger challenge.
  • Posture: Feet should be flat on the floor and so you may need to put some phone books under their feet. The chair must be supportive and not slippy.

 

  • Use a sheet of Dycem
    Dycem sheet for stabilising plates, bowls and even makes seats non-slip!
    Dycem sheet for stabilising plates, bowls and even makes seats non-slip!
    Gymnic movin sit cushion aids posture for eating and handwriting. The sensory surface often calms children.
    Gymnic movin sit cushion aids posture for eating and handwriting. The sensory surface often calms children.

    under their bottoms or if they are slouching at the table then look at a Gymnic movin’ sit cushion which aids posture and also calms children with ADHD and Sensory challenges.

  • The chair height must be appropriate for the table height (The Gymnic cushion helps to raise them up nicely).
  • Once they are sitting comfortably provide them with a wet face cloth so that if they are sensitive to touching food they can wipe it off straight away, have a little plate to the side so that if something offends them in the extreme they can remove it from their main plate and in some cases they may want to cover it over with their face cloth and pretend it’s not there.
  • Pop a little piece of Dycem under your child’s plate/bowl to stop them slipping around the table – again, looking for ways all the time to reduce the effort your child is needing to put in to eat.

How to teach your dyspraxic child to hold and use their cutlery:

Practise away from meal times to get started.

  • Begin by using a knife only, no fork. Ideally start on a flat chopping board and as skills progress put the playdoh roll onto a plate and practise some more that way. Encourage your child to hold the knife with the first finger resting on top of the knife (mark the point with Tippex).
  • Make a roll in playdoh, hold the roll with one hand just beside where the cut is to be made, keeping the fingers a safe distance from the knife. Have your child place the knife on the roll beside their other hand (sensible distance from fingers!) and have them cut through the roll. Practice putting the knife down in-between cuts so that they can successfully find their grip each time, repeat until 5-6 cuts have been made. Cut with the knife using a sawing action – not the stab and drag that many Dyspraxics prefer. Once knife cutting (sawing) is mastered it’s time to introduce the fork.
  • Again, demonstrate how to hold the fork with their pointer resting on top of the fork (mark with Tippex). Say to them that their fork is going to do the work that their hand did when they held the food when practising knife work. The fork will allow their hands to stay clean and prevent them from cutting their fingers (it all needs explaining to our Dyspraxic kids). Again with a Playdoh roll etc. ask your child to pick up only the fork and have them push it into the roll near to where they want to make their first cut. Holding the roll still with their fork have them pick up their knife and saw cut through the piece. Make longer rolls which will provide more cutting practise, returning the cutlery each time to ensure they have the grip mastered. Once you have progressed to a plate place a little Dycem under the plate to keep it from moving.
  • First practise with Playdoh, toast, bananas with or without their skins, Plasticine (offers more resistance than Playdoh), cut chocolate bars into chunks then progress to typical lunchtime food for cutting practise – sausages, fish fingers, carrots, chips.
  • If you have used specialist dyspraxia Cutlery to master the knife and fork process then I would keep the plasticine practise going but offer a range of different knives and get them used to other cutlery too so that after a while they can switch away from the supportive cutlery and use the school cutlery like every one else. It might be an idea to ask the school to borrow a set of their cutlery for practise at home.

Choosing The Best Cutlery for children with Dyspraxia

  • Doddl cutlery – I especially love their knife for learning to cut
    Ergonomic cutlery set for correct finger positioning and development of fine motor skills. Ideal for children who are struggling to master their cutlery.
    Ergonomic cutlery set for correct finger positioning and development of fine motor skills. Ideal for children who are struggling to master their cutlery.

    through food. Their cutlery encourages the pincer grip which will help develop the grip for handwriting in later years. Just launched in the UK. For children with smaller hands, ages 12 months+

  • Fantastic Dyspraxic’s Children’s Dyspraxia Cutlery, good
    Cutlery for children with dyspraxia
    Fantastic Dyspraxic’s cutlery for children with dyspraxia

    ergonomic design with ‘wells’ for fingers to rest correctly into, not too heavy. Features a really effective cutting blade. For ages 3+ to around the age of 12.

  • Skill trainer witty eating spoon – excellent grip you can put onto any spoon to teach correct grip for using a spoon. For ages 2 – 7 years. For left and right handers. It’s shape is specially designed to permit only one possible finger position which extremely cushioned and comfortable for our sensitive kids.
  • Cleverstix training chopsticks for kids – we are getting some
    CleverstiX have gained wide recognition and approval from Occupational Therapists, the National Handwriting Association and Educational Suppliers.
    CleverstiX have gained wide recognition and approval from Occupational Therapists, the National Handwriting Association and Educational Suppliers.

    great feedback on this product from dyspraxic children, OT’s and schools: For ages 3-10 (older for Dyspraxics). They train the correct grip, actually develop the hand writing grip, improve motor skills and make meal times more fun. A friend of mine bought a pair for her daughter and gave her a pencil to write with afterwards, she went straight for a tripod grip hold on the pencil! She is only young, 6 years old, but managed to use them from the get go.

  • Older children: Sporks (they are a spoon, fork and knife combined permitting you to carry out all the action with one hand, the well in the spork allows you to transfer food (especially peas) from plate to mouth without dropping it halfway along, I know a few teenage dyspraxics who keep these in their school bags for use in the school canteen.)
  • Adult Kura Care Cutlery – again, good ergonomically but as they get older, may be a little too visual and embarrassing to use in public, or take them into a cook shop and have them pick their own cutlery – they will tell you straight away what is best for them.

With regular use of an ergonomic set of cutlery your child should begin to master the skills to enable them to transition to any type of cutlery. I would never dive in with new cutlery – grab the playdoh and really play with the cutlery away from the table, cook loads of toast and have him/her cut it up and feed it to you or themselves etc. Remember, it has to be on their terms – lay the range of cutlery out that you have allowing your child to decide which is easiest for them.

Thoughts and tips…

  • When children find the oral process of eating tiring and difficult to coordinate, we then add mastering cutlery to the mix at the same time. You’re probably already with me on this – overwhelmed. What we need to remember is that the important thing is for our children to eat and at no time must we put so much pressure on them that they no longer want to eat.
  • Practise cutlery and oral/eating skills away from the dinner table so that dining with the family remains a pleasant and positive experience no matter how much food gets splattered on them and the room. Source some clear covers for the floor beneath them and have a set of eating TShirts that won’t get ruined with food stains and then you can all relax.
  • Encourage your child to cut up their food right at the beginning of the meal before the tiredness sets in.
  • Use Tippex on your cutlery to show your child where their first finger should be placed (Peter Pointer) on their knife and fork
  • Handedness with cutlery: Oli is right handed but eats/uses his cutlery, like a left hander. Interestingly, in a recent survey, nearly 80% of left handers eat the right-handed way. Some schools are trying to ‘encourage’ children to eat the right-handed way, I have spoken to parents where this has caused anxiety and even stuttering and tics, as soon as they asked the school to let their children eat with their cutlery in their chosen hands the tics, stuttering and anxiety all went away. I would let your child decide which hand holds the knife and fork, especially as ‘handedness’ is one of the red flags for Dyspraxia. Occupational therapists can assist you in understanding the handedness of your child.
  • When Oli was younger I bought some velcro fruit and vegetables
    Wooden food cutting set trains the cutting action preparing your child really well for mastering or improving their cutlery skills.
    Wooden food cutting set trains the cutting action preparing your child really well for mastering or improving their cutlery skills.

    that came with a plastic chopping knife to help him to begin to master his knife. It won’t necessarily teach the ‘sawing’ action but it was a good start and fun to do. Engage your children in food prep at home, you might nervously watch over them but they love the ‘risk’ factor of a big sharp knife. Always be totally 100% watching and advising whilst they do this! If you are a bit of a nervous type you can buy really big plastic lettuce knives to give your children the feel of a chopping knife to use on Playdoh or plasticine. The chopping action is different though and will need to be taught. (I’ll put some detail in about this soon: rock from point to end).

  • As with everything I write I would always recommend seeing an
    Just take a bite provides constructive advice on food aversion and eating challenges
    Just take a bite provides constructive advice on food aversion and eating challenges

    OT or speech/language therapist for professional advice. You might be buying cutlery to fix a problem that a few exercises may remedy or it may uncover a bigger picture – for us it was called ‘sensory processing disorder’. Some of the OT’s in the UK have now been trained by Kay Toomey – a specialist in children’s eating problems – you can follow a food school/science programme with them. I also like the book we sell called ‘Just Take A Bite’, it’s one of the only books I’ve found so far that goes beyond addressing ‘picky eaters’. By the way, all you kind-hearted souls who suggest to us already stressed-out parents to starve a child and they will eat – Oli went for 5 days like this and didn’t eat a thing – some don’t! They need our help, they are not spoilt, fussy children (phew – that memory will never go away – had to get that off my chest!).

  • We have tried most things and you know, sometimes Oli still comes home from a particularly exhausting day at school and dives into his meal with both hands – sometimes you just need to look away – our dyspraxic kids get enormously tired compared to their peers – a late night meal with a row over using their cutlery correctly might not result in a positive experience for anyone. It’s okay to have a little giggle to yourself when your child stabs a whole Yorkshire pudding with his fork and puts it to his mouth like a gigantic lollipop rather than go through the effort of cutting it.

 

 

 

Handwriting with too much pressure. The reasons why and 16 ideas to help reduce pencil pressure

Handwriting with too much pressure?

Handwriting with too much pressure. The reasons why and 16 helpful solutions.
Handwriting with too much pressure. The reasons why and 16 helpful solutions.

If you or your child is constantly breaking their pencil lead, is tearing through their paper or complaining of their hand hurting then the likelihood is that they are applying too much pressure when writing.

The reasons why your child might write with too much pressure

Pencil pressure is dependent upon one of our sensory systems: proprioception. Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense itself. Our proprioceptive system receives input from our receptors in our skin, our joints and muscles relating to body position, pressure, movement, stretch, contract, changes of body position in space and weight. It is proprioception that enables us to apply more or less pressure and enables us to judge the force required for a specific task. Proprioception enables us to coordinate our movements appropriately throughout the day. We know that lifting a sponge on the side in the kitchen requires very little effort and pressure, whilst lifting the bed mattress to tuck in the sheet requires more work. Alongside the proprioceptive system the brain has to coordinate input about movement, gravity and balance involving the vestibular system.

A functioning proprioceptive system allows us to move the small muscles on the hand to move the pencil in fluid movements and with that ‘just right’ pressure. If a child’s proprioceptive sense is impaired, they may find it challenging to ‘judge’ how hard they are pressing.

Heavy pressure can really reduce the speed of writing and can cause fatigue, the hand might become tired and sore.

Typical signs of too much pressure when writing

  • The pencil point breaks
  • Letters are very dark
  • Lines and handwriting are often smudged
  • Paper tears
  • Deeply embossing into the next few pages of their books
  • When erasing mistakes they don’t fully erase, mistakes can still be read

16 ideas to hep reduce pencil pressure (and a few more!!)

  1. Increase proprioception, try sensory input before handwriting, anything that involves joint compression, heavy work e.g. chair pushups, wheelbarrow walk pushes, wall push ups, animal walks, praying with hands and fingers really pushing together, therapy putty manipulation. Regularly place pressure in the upper limbs through exercises which may include crawling games, ladies press ups etc. These games can be performed ‘just for fun’ even when you are not planning a handwriting activity. Hand exercises before a handwriting task are really effective at reducing handwriting pressure. Squeeze your hand into a fist as tight as you can, then relax and stretch out the hands and fingers. Repeat
    Therapy putty for finger and pencil grip strengthening and to improve fine motor skills
    Therapy putty for finger and pencil grip strengthening and to improve fine motor skills

    a few times. Then practise writing with a tight hand compared to a relaxed hand and have your child comment on the difference in the way it felt and how the handwriting looks. This helps your child to begin to develop their awareness and words for the way they are holding their pencil.

  2. Use therapy putty – available in three different resistances, making pinch pots prior to writing or pulling small buttons from the putty provides a good ‘finger pincer’ workout for the fingers prior to writing.
  3. Try a light up pressure pen. It teaches your child how to modulate
    The Light Up Pressure Pen is ideal for children who press too hard and for anyone undertaking the Speed Up! Handwriting Programme by Lois Addy.
    The Light Up Pressure Pen is ideal for children who press too hard and for anyone undertaking the Speed Up! Handwriting Programme by Lois Addy.

    their pressure without you needing to point it out to them. Very fun and effective. If they press too hard the light will be constantly on. A super ergonomic pen too that is refillable if they want to continue using it as a permanent pen. You can challenge your child to write so that the light doesn’t come on.

  4. Secret spy messages. Create your own secret spy pads. Layer carbon paper and plain paper and staple the pad together. When they first write a message on the top of the pad it might copy through to three agents, you only want to share it with the first agent, ask them to try and reduce the pressure so that only the first agent can read the message – effective fun. Discuss the adjustments they made to succeed.
  5. Try using a mechanical pencil.  Each time the lead breaks it will
    The patented WriteRIGHT ergonomic pencil grip and trainer. Designed by an occupational therapist, the dolphin pencil grip provides a superb visual and tactile cue to finger positioning for a correct pencil grip.
    The patented WriteRIGHT ergonomic pencil grip and trainer. Designed by an occupational therapist, the dolphin pencil grip provides a superb visual and tactile cue to finger positioning for a correct pencil grip.

    provide feedback to your child encouraging them to modify their pressure. A 7mm lead is better to start with for heavy pressure writers. Your child might like the WriteRIGHT mechanical pencil and dolphin grip.

  6. Do some hole punching around the edge of the paper to ‘wake’ the muscles before handwriting
  7. Place a sheet of paper over a piece of cork or a soft mouse pad and ask your child to try and write across the paper without poking a hole through it.
  8. Place the writing paper over a sheet of sandpaper – great heavy work for the small muscles in the hand and provides strong proprioceptive feedback.
  9. Try ghost writing! Ask your child to write lightly on the paper and then erase the words without leaving any marks. Try and read the words after they’ve been erased. If you are not able to read them the writer wins the game! Great fun!
  10. Your child may benefit from sensory feedback from their
    Faber Castell GRIP 2001 HB pencil with eraser
    The raised sensory grip on the Faber Castell GRIP pencils increases proprioception and can help to reduce handwriting pressure.

    handwriting tools (especially children with sensory processing disorder). Tactile sensory seekers love textures, this can be provided on their pencil. Try the Faber Castell GRIP writing pencils, the sensory pencil grip and fidget pencils.

    Pencil fidgets for sensory seekers
    Pencil fidgets for sensory seekers
  11. Try writing on newspaper or tissue paper, a very light hand is needed to prevent tearing it.
  12. Wrap a bit of blu tack around the pencil as a grip. Encourage your child to hold the pencil with a grasp that does not press too deeply into the blu tack.
  13. Draw three identical flowers, cars etc for them to colour in. Ask them to colour them in with the same pencil, one should be coloured in lightly to make light grey, one medium grey and one dark grey. Talk about the different amounts of pressure they used to achieve the different shades of grey. Ask how it feels when they are making the darker grey compared to the lighter grey shade. You can do the same with ruler lines too – start really light and see how many different shades of lines they can make until they can’t get any darker. Do one long ruler line starting light and ending dark and vice versa, keep talking about how it felt and what the difference was. Once this is understood ask your child to write a sentence ‘too dark’, ‘too light’ and then ‘just right’. Discuss how their hand felt after each sentence. Encourage their understanding of that ‘just right’ feeling. This can then be advanced to your child writing their name with their eyes closed using the ‘just right’ pressure. Discuss how it felt.
  14. Try slipping a thin sheet of plastic under their writing paper or a page of their school exercise book. The firmer surface will reduce the amount of pressure they can use to write with. Alternatively any firm surface will have the same effect.
  15. Try increasing the width of the pencil shaft, some children find it
    Pencil pack available in pinks or blues. Support the correct tripod grip for efficient handwriting. PenAgain, Yoropen Pencil, Stabilo Ergo Pencil, Faber Castell Jumbo GRIP pencil and Faber Castell triangular GRIP standard pencil with eraser. Stabilo eraser. Comes in left or right handed packs.
    Pencil pack available in pinks or blues. Support the correct tripod grip for efficient handwriting. Available in left or right handed packs.

    easier holding a wider pencil. Try a range of pencils and ask your child if it one feels easier to write with. It is important that your child is aware of how tightly they are holding their pencil and how heavily they press on the page. The best pencil grip is a comfortable grip that allows the hands and fingers to move freely and easily when writing and drawing. Some children immediately press lighter with a change in the writing utensil.

  16. Try squeezing a stress ball before handwriting and during
    Happy Hand Exercise Ball for increased proprioception before and during handwriting
    Happy Hand Exercise Ball for increased proprioception before and during handwriting

    handwriting to help wake the muscles before handwriting.

  17. Have fun writing on a boiled egg with a felt tip, it’s quite tricky not to poke through the skin!
  18. Watch out for bi-lateral coordination difficulties (the ability to use two hands together). Some children don’t use their helping hand to stabilise their paper which can result in them using the forearm of their writing hand to compensate which can cause them to press too hard.
  19. Place a sheet of paper over a carpet tile or piece of felt placed on the table and ask your child to write on it. Show your child how the back of the paper is all raised up, have him try again so that the back of the paper isn’t raised after they’ve written a sentence. Some children enjoy the feeling of pressing really hard on their paper, if this is so switch exercise books for single sheets of paper in school to reduce the ‘feel’ of the pencil digging into the sheets of the exercise book.
  20. You could also ask your child to listen to the sound of the pencil. Pressing too hard usually creates a louder sound than when they press ‘just right’.
  21. Make sure you are not giving your child a soft pencil (B) as this will make their handwriting even darker and even more likely to look smudged. A hard pencil (HB) will not smudge so easily.
  22. A vibrating pen provides sensory feedback and can help children with low muscle tone, it helps to wake up or stimulate muscles. The wiggle pen is fun, encourage your child to hold it lightly which will result in spirally lines or apply a steady amount of pressure to write without squiggles.
  23. Finally, if despite your best efforts there is no improvement, we would recommend talking to an occupational therapist or your schools’ SEN teacher to perform a full handwriting assessment.

Well, we hope this has helped…

If you have tried something that made a real difference in reducing the hand writing pressure please share it with us! Thanks…

Copyright Fantastic Dyspraxic. Author Lisa Bochenek. 2017.

How to choose the right laptop for your Dyspraxic and or Dyslexic Child to use in school

Choosing laptops for use in school for children with Dyspraxia or Dyslexia
How to choose the right laptop for your dyspraxic or dyslexic child to use in school

After struggling to find any comprehensive help on this subject on the internet I decided to make a list of important things to consider and share them with you. Many children with dyspraxia can achieve reasonable handwriting but when the volume of writing and increased speed required significantly increases the handwriting can become illegible and the child may become very tired trying to keep up. Also the art/skill of listening and taking notes at the same time can be extremely challenging for our children, especially those with short term memory difficulties. If the problem is severe then you may need to seek an in-class scribe for your child. Also, there are many speech to text programmes available that may help. Some children may need to record the lesson and download it to their laptop using specialist programmes. I am going to keep this fairly simple for the moment though and focus on the general criteria we need to look for in a laptop that we provide to our children for use in school:

  • Battery life – Look for at least 8 hours battery time
  • Look for an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor – the higher spec you can stretch to the longer it will be useful through secondary school and University. A processor with a 6000 in it will indicate it has the  latest Intel Pentium 6th generation chip. Watch out for noisy cooling fans that protect the processor or no one will want to sit within 5 metres of your child!
  • The desk spaces have to be shared and so the screen needs to present clearly visible text but not occupy too much space – we found around the 13″ to be perfect, you could get away with a size from 11″ up to a maximum of 14″.
  • Weight – dyspraxic kids and especially those with low muscle tone do not want to be hawking around weighty laptops – ideally 2kg or less. Look for a school bag that has a padded pocket to slide the computer into easily, avoids time pulling it out of a zipped up laptop bag during lesson time – a lot of messenger style bags and rucksacks have this feature.
  • Keyboard – have your child play with a few keyboards and have them tell you which they prefer. We popped into John Lewis to try a few and the closeness of some of the keys on the keyboard was problematic for Oli. Also, there seemed to be a trend for brightly coloured and decorated keyboard areas on the laptops which were distracting to Oli and would cause unnecessary attention from other students. There also seemed to be a trend for illuminated keyboards (for gaming in the dark) which will drain battery, cause distractions and again, create unwanted attention (there is an off button you can press though).  Oli also declared after playing with a few keyboards that it was easier to see the letters on some keypads than others. The responsiveness of the keys was also important to Oli – he tried an Apple keyboard and stated that he couldn’t tell if he had pressed the key or not – this would be a problem for children with poor proprioception. Some of the keyboards were very clunky and therefore noisy in use which would not go down too well in the classroom. The keyboard should be springy and comfortable, not mushy. Look for deep travel and strong feedback. The touchpad is equally important; ensure the responsiveness is smooth and that multitouch gestures like pinch-to-zoom are sensibly reactive.
  • RAM – minimum 4GB, ideally 8GB plus to allow multi tasking between programmes
  • Durability – Look for durability manufacturer claims: aluminium, magnesium alloy or carbon fibre provide additional sturdiness. Some laptop manufacturers even make claims that they can be dropped! Spill resistance is also an important feature.
  • High resolution screen – Don’t be fooled by the label HD which most manufacturers claim. You need to look for a model with a display that’s at least ‘Full HD’ : 1080p, or 1920 x 1080. Even sharper screens are often labeled as 4K / Ultra HD (3840 x 2160), 2K / QHD (2560 x 1440) or are just listed by their pixel count.
  • Storage / Hard Drive –  Get an SSD (solid-state drive) rather than a mechanical hard drive: because SSDs have no moving parts, they run three to four times faster than typical 5,400 rpm or 7,200 rpm hard drives. That means faster app opening times, start times and task switching, along with much better responsiveness.
  • Wi-Fi – Make sure you get a laptop with 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, rather than the older 802.11n.
  • Ports –  USB Type-C ports are the future, but regular USB Type-A ports are the present. If you can get a laptop with a mix of both, that’s ideal. Definitely try to get a laptop with multiple USB ports, so your child doesn’t need to carry a lot of dongles around with them
  • Finally, ease of use – if your child can’t open the laptop and put it down safely on the surface then it’s not for them. Once you are down to your final few to choose from make sure they really play around with them in the store. If they have problems with fine motor skills then this may come into play in your decision making.
  • Avoid the 2 in 1’s with detachable keyboards and monitor stands – there’s too much to drop, set up etc. making them time consuming to get ready for the lesson with parts easily left behind!
  • Consider the operating system. Check with your school about software requirements. Sometimes schools will need you to have a specific type of software or operating system to ensure compliance. Windows 10 is the most popular operating system and most versatile.
  • Consider any program requirements and storage demands they may place on your system – speech to text etc. You may need to spec your system a little higher if you have a lot of these.
  • Once you have decided on the make and model you desire check out Game stores and second hand electrical stores, it can save you hundreds of pounds.
  • So what did we choose? The HP Envy 13-d008na laptop, Intel Corei5, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 13.3″ Full HD is probably our number 1 choice but it is pricey at around £649, there is a cheaper HP Envy with a 4GB RAM at a more sensibly priced £499. I’m going to search around for the best prices but this is the one that Oli seemed most comfy with and should last quite a while into the future… We still haven’t purchased one yet so if there are any techies out there reading this your advice would be very welcome! Read a couple of reviews about a slightly noisy fan on the upgraded i7 model so will test for noise production again before purchasing the i5…

I’m just working on the details below and would be really delighted to hear from any parents who have children currently using their laptops in school to learn the positives and avoid the negatives and share these with you.

Prepare your laptop before school commences:

  • Upload all required programmes and test/practise on them
  • Ensure the link to the school internet is working and functional
  • Turn on the auto save to protect lost works and relieve the upset of accidents and laborious re-typing of works
  • Make sure everything is clearly labelled with your child’s name, plug and all…
  • If your child uses coloured overlays there is a disc that can be uploaded which will automatically place the overlay colour your child prefers over everything they access on the computer. It’s made by Crossbow and is available in our shop (not suitable for Apple at the moment. Please check programme compatibility). Click here to see the product.

    Virtual coloured overlay for pc. Select your perfect tint, unrestricted by the 10 colour plastic overlay choices for screens. Convenient, easy to use visual stress and reading support product.
    Virtual coloured overlay for pc. Select your perfect tint, unrestricted by the 10 colour plastic overlay choices for screens. Convenient, easy to use visual stress and reading support product.
  • If your school has provided you with written authority to use a laptop in class it would be a good idea to keep a laminated version of this with the computer for your child to present to their teacher on first meeting – avoiding any problems with teachers who are not so good with SEN accommodations
  • Set it up to your home and if possible, school printer. Some schools have dedicated IT departments that you could call in advance to help you get started effectively.
  • Download a good virus protection software programme to protect your investment and decide how often to run the scan or leave it on an automatic setting (ensuring that is not going to scan during school use times).
  • Set up short cut icons to the school internet and email etc.
  • Decide where your files should be stored – the online ‘cloud’ is good if the laptop is stolen or broken, the files can still be accessed through another computer. Back up data onto an external hard drive at home or simply use a USB memory stick which can hold up to 1TB of data. Your choices would be influenced by how much data needs to be stored and accessed on a regular basis.  Don’t forget to format any USB sticks before school starts so you’re good to go. You can buy USB sticks on wrist bands or with clips to easily clip them on and off their home key ring – helps avoid them being lost and can be accessed quickly.

Check your child knows:

The obvious ones:

  • How to turn it off and on
  • How to plug it into the charger
  • How to print off saved work
  • How to save work
  • How to email work to the teacher
  • Where to leave the laptop when not in use
  • Which lesson the laptop should be used for
  • Knows how to put it in silent mode
  • How to log into the school internet
  • How to open up the right program
  • How to use all the programs they will need to use in class
  • Daily organisation – recharging/printing and checking off work. Sometimes the auto spellcheckers can throw in a completely wrong word.
  • How to adjust the screen brightness
  • Passwords and access keys – agree where these will be kept ensuring they have fast access to them. If they have a school pocket diary that they can keep in their blazer pocket that would be the ideal place to write these details in. Just in case, keep a second copy of the passwords in their school locker.

Using a laptop in school requires organisation that will not appear overnight. A laptop might not be the best solution if your child’s typing speed is poor – try the BBC dance mat programme during the Summer holidays to see how well your child copes with touch typing.

 

A few do’s and don’ts to discuss together:

  • Avoid letting friends or classmates use the laptop at school. They could accidentally delete an important document or they might try to access a document through the Internet that may get you into trouble.
  • Avoid eating or drinking anything whilst using the laptop.
  • Don’t play games on your laptop. Keep it purely for school work – use your other home gadgets to downloads gaming apps etc. This will keep your laptop fast for use in school.
  • Discuss online safety
  • Read the school IT policy together

What to do if:

  • The laptop doesn’t work – checks to run through

Parents’ suggestions and experiences:

UK Mum: My child goes into school early to print off all his work from the previous day – he had a laptop provided to him at school and he could only print off his work whilst at school.

USA Mum:  For learning how to type I can’t recommend enough keyboarding without tears. Yearly license not expensive and my hyper-mobile kids love it!

UK Mum: Develop an easily managed system for printing out work, making sure that it gets handed in, filed or stuck into their exercise books as appropriate.

UK Teacher: Check the location of your child’s desk. If they have sun directly falling onto their screen they may need to move. Decide whether to remove the spellchecker from first use – spellchecker cannot be used in exams. Remember to plan enough time to gather the evidence required and functions required for permission to use their laptop in exams.

UK Mum: Set up standard documents in Word with formatting in place so your child can start notes in a lesson or homework quickly. Set up a header that contains your child’s name and a ‘date’ field, so it automatically puts in the date the document was created. In the main body of the text are the words Title, underlined and bold, then the rest of the text is formatted in an acceptable font.

UK Mum: My son had to use a great amount of brain power just to write and therefore couldn’t think about what he was writing too. His comprehension strategy before using a laptop was, ‘how can I answer this in as few a words as possible?’ Now he has just come top in his class exam which was a complete shock.

I am a fan of mobile phones to support special ed. kids in school

They can be used to:

  • Photograph homework notes from a friend/buddy or from the blackboard
  • Photograph text from the board to have by their side to copy from.

There’s a wide range of solutions and software that may help your child:

  • A digital voice recorder may help to record in the lessons that are most challenging to keep up with
  • Text-to-speech e.g. Claroread, TextHelp
  • Speech-to-text software e.g. Dragon dictate (free version on MS Word ad free app version
  • Grammar correction software

Well, I hope this helps you to choose the perfect laptop for your child to use in school. If you have found other models or have other tips you can share please, please do, and we’ll put them into this article.

 

Copyright. Author: L Bochenek. Fantastic Dyspraxic. 2016.

Games for children with Dyspraxia

Games for children with Dyspraxia and Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD).

Supplement your occupational therapy sessions with therapy-play sessions at home from these specially selected products.

  • All the products are available from www.fantasticdyspraxic.co.uk
  • All the games and accessories have been tried and tested with Dyspraxic children.
  • Simply click on the image to learn more about that particular game

FINE MOTOR SKILLS GAMES and accessories. All these games will help with handwriting development. Remember to click on the images below the list for further information.

  • Avalanche Fruit Stand Game
  • Bed Bugs
  • Chair stack
  • Cleverstix training chopsticks
  • Colour and spin spinning top
  • Crayon Rocks – tripod grip finger trainer crayons
  • Elephant finger trainer
  • Ergonomic pencil pack
  • Fine motor skills toolset
  • Fine motor skills peg domino game *FAVOURITE GAME*
  • Fine motor tricky tree peg game
  • Gator Grabber Tweezers
  • Get a grip patterns game
  • Happy Hand Exerciser Ball
  • Magna Maze with 2 pens
  • Mini Muffin match up game
  • Number Magna Maze Ants
  • Peg stack and thread activity set
  • Roulette Magna Maze
  • Shelby’s Snack Shack
  • Stabilo 3 in 1 pencil pack
  • String along lacing game
  • Super sorting pie
  • The sneaky snacky squirrel game
  • Time shock
  • Some people recommend the game ‘Operation’, but we have always found this too hard for our testers who reject the game early into play as they simply cannot compete on equal terms with their peers or are scared by the buzzing sound that always comes on for them. If you do have this game we suggest turning the sound off.
A fabulous game to teach coordination, early handwriting skills, motor planning, matching, colours and numbers.
Number Magna Maze Ants. A fabulous game to teach coordination, early handwriting skills, motor planning, matching, colours and numbers.
Teaches the concept of visual balance, develops fine motor manipulation skills, and encourages the use of both hands to support construction and prevent tipping. Ideal pre-handwriting preparation game.
Fine motor tricky tree peg game. Teaches the concept of visual balance, develops fine motor manipulation skills
Fine motor skill development game - provides therapy without them even realising!
Fine motor skill peg domino game – provides therapy without them even realising! *OUR FAVOURITE GAME*
Quality spinning top encourages colouring in and top spinning fun for fine motor and hand eye coordination benefits.
Quality spinning top encourages colouring in and top spinning fun for fine motor and hand eye coordination benefits.
Happy Hand Exercise Ball for fine motor skill and hand strengthening on the go.
Happy Hand Exercise Ball for fine motor skill and hand strengthening.
Dyspraxia game chair stack - fine Motor Skills and hand control, Hand/Eye Co-ordination, Strategic Motor Planning, the concept of balance and Visual Perception.
Chair stack – fine Motor Skills and hand control, Hand/Eye Co-ordination
Roulette Magnamaze develops hand eye coordination, early handwriting and reading skills and strengthens motor planning and problem solving in a fun way.
Roulette Magnamaze develops hand eye coordination, early handwriting and reading skills.
Magnamaze with 2 pens for motor planning, hand eye coordination, crossing the midline, strengthening of the muscles used for handwriting and encourages forward thinking in a fun and engaging way. Joint participation together makes it really fun.
Magnamaze with 2 pens for motor planning, hand eye coordination, crossing the midline.
Develops grip strengthening, early maths skills, memory strengthening, hand eye coordination, motor planning - all in one fun to play box set
Get a grip fine motor skills patterns game.  Develops grip strengthening, early maths skills and memory strengthening.
CleverstiX have gained wide recognition and approval from Occupational Therapists, the National Handwriting Association and Educational Suppliers.
CleverstiX have gained wide recognition and approval from Occupational Therapists, the National Handwriting Association and Educational Suppliers.
Rainbow Peg Play - stack, thread and count game. Maths side develops counting skills and colour recognition.
Peg Stack and Play Activity Set – stack, thread and count game.
Rainbow Peg Play - stack, thread and count game. Develops early stage grip, fine motor and motor planning.
Peg Stack and Play Activity Set – stack, thread and count game. Develops early stage grip, fine motor and motor planning.
Fun fine motor skills / handwriting grip game. Follow one of 16 pattern cards using 18 laces or freestyle your own design. Team with a pencil grip to ensure the tripod grip is encouraged from the start as the pencil is round and slippy. Really great way to develop finger strength through the pushing motion.
String Along Lacing Kit. Fun fine motor skills / handwriting grip game. Follow one of 16 pattern cards using 18 laces
Tummy time activity - great for shoulder strengthening for handwriting! Fun fine motor skills / handwriting grip game. Team with a pencil grip to ensure the tripod grip is encouraged from the start as the pencil is round and slippy. Really great way to develop finger strength through the pushing motion.
String Along Lacing Kit. Tummy time activity – great for shoulder strengthening for handwriting!
Super Sorting Pie Dyspraxia Game. Tweezer play for developing fine motor skills. Develops early maths skills too!
Super Sorting Pie Dyspraxia Game. Tweezer play for developing fine motor skills. Develops early maths skills too!
Shelby's snack shack Dyspraxia fine motor skills game with free Jumbo tweezers to extend fine motor skills development.
Shelby’s snack shack Dyspraxia fine motor skills game with free Jumbo tweezers to extend fine motor skills development.
Dyspraxia fine motor skills game - sneaky, snacky squirrel with free Jumbo tweezer to extend fine motor skill play. Colour matching game for 2-4 players.
Dyspraxia fine motor skills sneaky, snacky squirrel game with free Jumbo tweezer to extend fine motor skill play.
Dyspraxia game for children - Bed Bugs - fun way to develop fine motor skills.
Dyspraxia game for children – Bed Bugs – fun way to develop fine motor skills.
Many children with dyspraxia struggle to get their fingers to do what they want them to do, this is a very simple, clever toy that encourages independent movement of the fingers and thumb in a very fun way, excellent for both left and right handers.
Finger gym elephant. Clever toy that encourages independent movement of the fingers and thumb.
Children's Gator Grabber Tweezers strengthen muscles in the hands, developing the pincer grasp for school readiness.
Gator Grabber Tweezers strengthen muscles in the hands, developing the pincer grasp for school readiness.
Fine motor skills toolset
Fine motor skills toolset
Ideal game for children with dyspraxia and fine motor skill difficulties. The Avalanche fruit stand game. Comes with 2 jumbo tweezers that you can use for other fine motor skills activities.
Avalanche fruit stand fine motor skills game. Comes with 2 jumbo tweezers that you can use for other fine motor skills activities.
Dyspraxia game time shock strengthens fine Motor, Hand/Eye Co-ordination, Spatial Awareness, Visual Perception and figure ground challenges.
Time shock – Fine Motor, Hand/Eye Co-ordination, Spatial Awareness, Visual Perception and figure ground challenge game.
Stabilo Woody 3-in-1 pencils are really versatile. Use on windows, paper, even the sides of wellies! Strong colours, water soluble for blending colours with water. Ideal for encouraging pencil grip time.
Stabilo Woody 3-in-1 pencils are really versatile. Use on windows, paper, even wellies! Encourages pencil grip time.
Crayon Rocks® are the best crayon you can buy to encourage the tripod grip in your child's early handwriting development
Crayon Rocks® really are the best crayon you can buy to encourage the tripod grip in your child’s early handwriting development
16 Crayon Rocks in muslin bag for fine motor development
16 Crayon Rocks® in a muslin bag – the best fine motor skills crayon
Dyspraxia pencil pack available in pinks or blues. Support the correct tripod grip for efficient handwriting in the later years. PenAgain, Yoropen Pencil, Stabilo Ergo Pencil, Faber Castell Jumbo GRIP pencil and Faber Castell traingular GRIP standard pencil with eraser. Stabilo eraser. Comes in left or right handed packs.
Popular Dyspraxia pencil pack available in pinks or blues. Unique pack of OT recommended pencils.
Fine Motor Skills, Colour Recognition, Sorting, Matching and Counting Game ideal for children with Dyspraxia. Squeezy tweezers and activity guide.
Fine Motor Skills Muffin Match Up Game, Colour Recognition, Sorting, Matching and Counting Game ideal for children with Dyspraxia. Squeezy tweezers and activity guide.

 

FINE MOTOR SKILLS GAMES and activities for fun in the bath – Remember to click on the image for further information.

  • Fine motor skills toolset *FAVOURITE TOOLS FOR THE BATH*
  • Stabilo 3 in 1 pencil pack (but don’t get it on the grouting)
Fine motor skills dyspraxia toolset for strengthening the fine motor skills. Fun scissor scoop for pre-scissor skills development. Endless play possibilities. Can be used at bath time too.
Fine motor skills dyspraxia toolset for strengthening the fine motor skills. Fun scissor scoop for pre-scissor skills development. Endless play possibilities. Can be used at bath time too.
Stabilo Woody 3-in-1 pencils are really versatile. Use on windows, paper, even the sides of wellies! Strong colours, water soluble for blending colours with water. Ideal for encouraging pencil grip time.
Stabilo Woody 3-in-1 pencils are really versatile. Use on windows, paper, even the sides of wellies! Strong colours, water soluble for blending colours with water. Ideal for encouraging pencil grip time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GROSS MOTOR SKILL GAMES and activities – Remember to click on the image for further information.

  • Scooter board (with hockey sticks!) *FAVOURITE*
  • Alpha Catch
  • Balance beam
  • Easy catch sensory ball
  • Easy catch beanbag scarf
  • Floor surfer / roller board / scooter board by Gonge
  • Rainbow comet easy catch ball
  • Gymnic Rody Junior Cavallo Horse
  • Gymnic Rody Max Space Hopper
  • Gymnic sensory ball
  • Puff and play super soft easy catch ball
  • Stepping stone
  • Rockerboard
  • Wobbleboard
  • Balance cushion
  • Gymnic disc ‘o’ sit
  • Gymnic physio peanut roll
  • Gymnic Raffy
  • Gymnic Hop
  • Stabilo 3 in 1 pencil pack
  • Some people recommend the game ‘Twister’ but we have found this too hard for our children who avoid participation.

BALANCE GAMES and activities

  • Scooterboard
  • Fine motor tricky tree peg game
  • Balance beam *FAVOURITE*
  • Gymnic Rody Max Space Hopper
  • Stepping stones
  • Rockerboard
  • Wobbleboard
  • Balance cushion
  • Gymnic Disc ‘o’ sit
  • Gymnic Physio peanut roll
  • Gymnic Raffy
  • Gymnic Hop
High quality weighted bean bag scarf makes throwing and catching a positive experience for children with dyspraxia. Just missed the bean ball ? Catch the scarf instead!
Easy catch bean bag scarf makes throwing and catching a positive experience for children with dyspraxia.
Rainbow comet makes catching a ball easy - gross motor skill and hand eye coordination play for increased ball-catching confidence.
Rainbow comet easy catch ball  – gross motor skill and hand eye coordination play for increased ball-catching confidence.
Super soft lightweight 16cm ball is easy to catch. Maliable and easily self inflated rewards children for their puff with some gross motor play!
Puff and play super soft easy catch ball.
High quality balance beam stimulates child's balance and co-ordination.
High quality balance beam stimulates child’s balance and co-ordination. *FAVOURITE*
Moulded cushion gives excellent grip due to raised sensory surface. Sit, stand or kneel - will improve co-ordination, balance and posture.
Balance cushion . Sit, stand or kneel – will improve co-ordination, balance and posture.
Scooter board for gross motor and balance skills.
Scooter board / floor surfer for gross motor and balance skills. We love this board – ergonomically perfect and very comfortable *FAVOURITE*
An 11cm diameter ball with a raised sensory surface makes this a softer ball to teach touch and texture. Inflatable using a needle pump. Ideal for gentle massage too.
Easy catch sensory ball – a raised sensory surface makes this a softer ball to teach touch and texture. Ideal for gentle massage too.
Stepping stones encourage movement, gross motor skills, balance and motor planning.
Stepping stones encourage movement, gross motor skills, balance and motor planning.
Quality heavy duty moulded plastic scooter board with handles and non-marking wheels. Scootering is great for developing balance and coordination and conditions shoulder muscles and upper body for handwriting effectiveness.
Quality heavy duty moulded plastic scooter board with handles and non-marking wheels. Scootering is great for developing balance and coordination and conditions shoulder muscles and upper body for handwriting effectiveness. *FAVOURITE*
Add 2 scooter board hockey sticks to your purchase for purposeful therapy play and longer adherence. Fun for you too!
Add scooter board hockey sticks to your scooter boards for fun therapy play *FAVOURITE*
Soft sensory rubber ball which is easy to catch and grasp. Encouraging all ability participation and confidence. Improves gross motor confidence and hand eye coordination skills.
Soft sensory easy to catch and grasp ball. Encouraging all ability participation and confidence.
Gentle to the touch yet provides a good grip. Can be re-inflated by an adult using a needle pump. Adjustable inflation and sensory bumps make the surface easier to hold onto and catch. Quality made Gymnic product. Suitable for massage, hand therapy, reflexology and relaxation exercises.
Gymnic sensory soft touch ball. Gentle to the touch yet provides a good grip. 
Adjustable inflation and sensory bumps make the surface easier to hold onto and catch. Quality made Gymnic product. Suitable for massage, hand therapy, reflexology and relaxation exercises.
Alpha Catch Phonics Game with added bonus of developing some Gross Motor Skills and Hand-Eye coordination! The best way for Dyspraxic kids to learn is to make it fun and memorable - this set is just brilliant for this. Includes loads of fun ideas for active learning.
Alpha Catch Phonics Game with added bonus of developing some Gross Motor Skills and Hand-Eye coordination for Dyspraxic Kids. The best way for Dyspraxic kids to learn is to make it fun and memorable – this set is just brilliant for this. Includes loads of fun ideas for active learning.
Gymnic Rody Junior Cavallo ride on bouncy horse for ages 3-5. A fun dynamic toy that helps children with dyspraxia to develop balance, coordination, movement and motor planning skills safely and independently.
Gymnic Rody Junior Cavallo ride on bouncy horse for ages 3-5. Develop balance, coordination, movement and motor planning skills safely and independently.
Gymnic physio activity roll for gross motor skills work - ideal for children with dyspraxia. Really fun peanut ball that children will be fascinated by and will want to exercise with.
Gymnic physio activity roll for gross motor skills work – ideal for children with dyspraxia. Really fun peanut ball that children will be fascinated by and will want to exercise with.
Gymnic Disc O Sit balance cushion
Gymnic Disc O Sit balance cushion
Gymnic Rody Max - safe 'hopping' fun
Gymnic Rody Max – safe ‘hopping’ fun.
Wobble balance board
Wobble balance board

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We hope you have found this summary of Dyspraxia games helpful, please send in your suggestions about the games you have found to be successful with your children. Of course, not every game has to be bought, there are lots of ways to stimulate these skills. Hopefully this selection will add a few more options to your Dyspraxia play box.

Rocker balance board
Rocker balance board

Do you have visual stress? A visual stress checklist. Overlays and reading rulers: What are they? How to use them and how to care for them.

Do you have visual stress?

A visual stress quick checklist:

Do you or your child:

  • Tire quickly when working with text?
  • Have difficulty copying from the board?
  • Seem to experience increased difficulty reading after an initial period of about 10 minutes?
  • Keep adjusting their head or body position, or moving nearer or further away from the page?
  • Read slowly and without fluency?
  • Track the text with their finger?
  • Yawn whilst reading?
Coloured A4 reading overlays made by Crossbow Education. Relieve visual stress and increase reading speed for many children and adults. Reduce light / contrast sensitivity often experienced by children with dyspraxia and dyslexia. Packs of 5 or 10.
Coloured A4 reading overlays made by Crossbow Education. Relieve visual stress and increase reading speed for many children and adults. Reduce light / contrast sensitivity often experienced by children with dyspraxia and dyslexia. Available in packs of 5 or 10.

If any of these points are noticeable it is likely that trying a tinted overlay may improve you or your child’s speed of reading. The most affordable way to do this is to purchase a pack of the plain reading rulers, lay them side by side in turn on a piece of text, if the text seems clearer or reading is more comfortable with one of them, choose that one to read with. Once you have tested the different coloured tints and have ascertained which colour is right for you, use the one you prefer for a few weeks. You will have a good idea after that if you have the right colour and if you wish to buy any other items: plain and duo reading rulers, coloured overlays and monitor overlays.

Some questions that may be helpful to ask your child:

  • “Do the letters stay still or do they move?”
  • “Are the letters clear or are they fuzzy/blurred?”
  • “Is the page too bright, not bright enough or just about right?” 
  •  “Does it hurt your eyes to look at the page or is it OK?”.
  • “After you have been reading for a while, do the words or letters do anything different?

Reports of movement, blurring and glare are more likely in children who would benefit from overlays

We would always stress that you should see a school vision practitioner (www.schoolvision.org.uk) should you find that a colour works particularly well for you or your child, they are familiar with the use of coloured lenses and will check there are no underlying eye problems.

There is a Society for Coloured Lens Providers: They provide a list of recommended practitioners following an agreed code of conduct.
Web: http://www.s4clp.org

What is visual stress?

Describing visual stress to a non-sufferer is a little difficult: sometimes you may notice that someone is wearing a really stripy top and it feels uncomfortable to look at and might make your eyes go ‘a little bit funny’. Many individuals with visual stress experience similar feelings when they look at text. Visual stress describes the discomfort some people feel when looking at text for long periods. Our tolerances for repeating shapes, high contrasts and brightness are each slightly different. Visual stress refers to discomfort and print distortion brought about by pattern glare. It is also known as visual dyslexia and scotopic sensitivity.

The term visual stress is sometimes used to refer to the collection of symptoms and signs of visual fatigue when reading that are reduced when colour is used as therapy.

Visual Stress might not be seen as a serious problem until it comes to coping with small black text on a white background or volumes of reading. Many children who suffer from visual stress are unaware that they see the page differently to others.

What are the symptoms of visual stress?

Below are some symptoms that may indicate visual stress. (This list is for guidance only, and is not proof of visual stress)

  • Words or letters may appear to move or jump on the page, letters may have a back to front appearance, may shimmer or shake
  • Words or letters may fade or blur, often going out of focus, become darker or flash
  • Letters may seem to change size
  • Patterns may appear in the dark print or the white spaces
  • You may feel tiredness during and after reading, dizzy or even nauseous
  • Headaches, often frequent, may occur from reading. Regular migraines (especially when working at a computer)
  • You may find it easier to read large, widely spaced print, than small and closely printed text.
  • Words or letters may break into two and appear as double.
  • You might experience difficulty with tracking across the page, losing your place
  • You  may feel uncomfortable in the bright daylight, sunlight or under fluorescent lighting conditions
  • Glare on the page might be upsetting to you, most noticeably with black print on bright white paper
  • You might experience sore eyes when reading, often rubbing them during or after reading, experiencing eye strain
  • You might blink excessively

In some cases any of these symptoms can significantly affect a persons ability to read. It can also make reading very tiring. Note: A child may not recognise what they see as a problem, as this is how they have always seen text.

Research has shown that around 20% of the population suffer, to varying degrees, from visual stress (around 5% of the population are severely affected). Reading through an overlay of the right colour can reduce the symptoms or remove them altogether. Overlays enable more fluent reading with less discomfort and fewer headaches.

Recent studies indicate that visual stress is more prevalent in people with dyslexia than in the rest of the population

The symptoms of physical stress can be similar to those caused by other physical eye conditions e.g. undiagnosed short or long sight or binocular vision problems. Therefore, any person experiencing visual stress should be examined by an optometrist. Nonetheless, visual stress can remain, despite correction of refractive error and treatment of binocular problems.

Why does colour work?

Research indicates that the discomfort when looking at the print and the related symptoms of visual stress in reading difficulties are due to a hyper-excitability of neurones in the visual cortex. Some of the cells in the brain that process visual information work too fast and don’t respond in the way they should.

Some cells in the visual cortex are colour sensitive and so, by placing a colour in front of the eye; the pattern of excitation can be changed: the colour helps to slow and calm these cells thereby quietening the pattern and reducing the visual stress.

The colour needed to reduce this hyper-excitability is individual to each person.

Statistical data from recent studies has shown that 5% of children in mainstream schools read at least 25% more quickly with coloured overlays (Wilkins, 2002). 

Visual stress products include:

Our visual stress products are made by Crossbow Education. Their products are designed using the findings of the research from the Department of Psychology at Essex University. They are the visual stress products most commonly chosen by UK schools.

They are made from transparent PET and enable you to read longer and with less stress. All our visual stress products are available in the same colour range which include: Yellow, Celery, Grass, Jade, Aqua, Sky, Purple, Magenta, Pink, Orange and NEW Grey (only available in the A4 overlays and virtual type-thru monitor overlays at present).

Reading rulers: There are two types of reading rulers: Duo window reading rulers and Plain window reading rulers.

Crossbow duo eye level reading rulers reduce visual stress and increase reading speed for many children and adults. Pack of 10 colours.
Crossbow duo eye level tinted reading rulers reduce visual stress and increase reading speed for many children and adults. Pack of 10 colours.

Duo reading rulers: are divided into a narrow reading window and a wide reading window by an opaque strip. People who have difficulties keeping their focus on the line being read find this design useful. Focus can be further confined by taping paper over the wide transparent window a quarter of an inch below the opaque part of the ruler, so that all words except the present line are completely blocked out. The rulers can be trimmed to fit in books or even cut in half to keep in a small dictionary.

The Eye Level Reading Ruler is a coloured overlay filter and text highlighter about the size of an eight-inch ruler. It is discreet and professional-looking and can be kept in a book as a bookmark for easy storage.

The Duo reading ruler is made of a combination of opaque and transparent plastic that both underlines the text and highlights it in a coloured tint. Simply read the text through either of the tinted plastic strips of your selected colour, and track down the page: broad strip for paragraphs; narrow strip for single lines.

Crossbow plain eye level reading rulers, text overlay for relief of visual stress and light sensitivity for faster reading speed
Crossbow plain eye level coloured reading rulers, text overlay for relief of visual stress and light sensitivity for faster reading speed

Plain window reading rulers: are the same size, price and colours as the Duo Window reading rulers, but with only one window and a tracking line half an inch from the edge. They have no opaque strip in the middle. Confident readers who struggle with visual stress often prefer plain because there is no interruption to the flow of text, allowing them to read ahead easily.

 

Coloured A4 reading overlays made by Crossbow Education. Relieve visual stress and increase reading speed for many children and adults. Reduce light / contrast sensitivity often experienced by children with dyspraxia and dyslexia. Packs of 5 or 10.
Coloured A4 reading overlays made by Crossbow Education. Relieve visual stress and increase reading speed for many children and adults. Reduce light / contrast sensitivity often experienced by children with dyspraxia and dyslexia. Available in packs of 5 or 10.

Page overlays: Full sized coloured overlays can be useful; in an exam or revision, and research where you are glancing around the page and going back and forth to the same page. It can just be left in place over the whole page. Other useful applications are for reading sheet music and machining patterns. Overlays can be easily cut in half to use with smaller pages or to keep in dictionaries and other reference books. In the workplace,  page overlays are perfect for invoices and copy typing.

Monitor overlays: You can change the background colour in your windows preferences, but you can’t change the background colour of a web page, such as the “google” page. Monitor overlays deal with this, and also the glare from the surface of the screen itself. Crossbow monitor overlays simply stick to the screen by static electricity, effectively reducing the glare, allowing you to work comfortable for much longer periods of time.

Virtual coloured overlay for pc. Select your perfect tint, unrestricted by the 10 colour plastic overlay choices for screens. Convenient, easy to use visual stress and reading support product.
Virtual coloured overlay for pc. Select your perfect tint, unrestricted by the 10 colour plastic overlay choices for screens. Convenient, easy to use visual stress and reading support product.

Virtual Type-Thru Overlays: The virtual overlay will tint the screen of the monitor any colour you like from 2 million colours. It will not deal with the surface glare like  a monitor overlay does but it does give flexibility if more than one person uses the computer. Many people find it sufficient for their needs. You also don’t need to worry about scratching your monitor overlays.

 

 

Visual Stress Assessment Pack by Crossbow Education - School Edition - Revised. Help your students or child reach their full potential - eliminate visual stress in the classroom. Suitable for all schools and children ages 6-18. Visual Stress assessment should be carried out for all weak readers by the end of key stage one. The visual stress assessment pack is the ideal tool, as the assessment can be carried out by non-specialists and will identify the children (5%, or around ten in every average-sized primary school), whose reading is severely impeded by distorted print or other symptoms. The children who just need a reading ruler or coloured overlay to increase their reading speed by 25% or more can be quickly identified with the Visual Stress Assessment Pack.
Visual Stress Assessment Pack by Crossbow Education – School Edition – Revised. Help your students or child reach their full potential – eliminate visual stress in the classroom. Visual Stress assessment should be carried out for all weak readers by the end of key stage one. 

Crossbow Education Visual Stress Assessment pack – School Edition: Suitable for all schools and children aged 6-18. A complete guide to testing for visual stress in schools: contains full instructions for testing for visual stress. No prior experience needed. Contains directions on how to deal with the results and where to get help. Contains 2 sets of A5 Crossbow overlays to do the test, photocopiable  leaflets for parents, classrooms, staff rooms etc.

 

 

How should an overlay be used?

  • Simply place the sheet over the page, when reading. You may want to cut your overlay down to A5 size if you normally use if for reading books.
  • Try both the matt and the glossy side to see which side you prefer, and use the side you like best.
  • Position the text to avoid reflections from the surfaces of the overlay caused by lighting
  • The overlays can be used as often as you like, wherever it is helpful
  • You can touch the overlay in order to point when reading
  • There may not be a difference straight away as the improvement may only show after 10 minutes or so of reading, when fatigue would normally have set in. Your experience will vary depending on lighting conditions, style and size of print etc.

Care of your coloured overlays and reading rulers: 

  • Coloured overlays can scratch and the colours wear off and so care should be taken. Don’t slide them across the table as they may pick up a small piece of grit underneath which may damage the surface.
  • Keep your overlay free from creases, being careful how you pick it up, don’t let it flap around.
  • Keep your overlay in a sturdy envelope when not in use.
  • Use a soft, clean glasses lens cloth to clean your overlay, using just soapy water. Do not use window cleaner, methylated spirit or any chemicals on your coloured overlay.

References: Wilkins, A.J. (2002). Coloured overlays and their effects on reading speed: A review. Ophthalmic and Psychological. Crossbow Education (2015). What is visual stress, and How can you reduce it?

Copyright. Fantastic Dyspraxic, 2015. Author: Lisa Bochenek.

 

 

 

10 ideas for using sandtimers with children to teach the concept of time and positive behaviours

Sand timers are ideal for teaching the concept of time:

  • Time is a very complex concept for our children to understand. Lay firm time concept foundations in their early years through regular use of sand timers in your activities.  “How long do you think it will take to….?” encourages estimation skills and understanding of how long things take: the concept of time.
  • The 5 minute sand timer is particularly good for helping them to understand the clock. Point out that it takes 5 minutes for the long hand to travel from one number to the next, use your sand timer to demonstrate it and find other things that take 5 minutes to complete.

    Quality Sand Timer Pack. 1 Each of 30sec 1 2 3 & 5 Minute Timers. Perfect for improving transitions, encouraging turn taking, managing time and teaching time concepts. Especially good for children with Dyspraxia or ADHD who benefit from the visual sense of time that these timers provide.
    Quality Sand Timer Pack. 1 Each of 30sec 1 2 3 & 5 Minute Timers. Perfect for improving transitions, encouraging turn taking, managing time and teaching time concepts. Especially good for children with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia or ADHD who benefit from the visual sense of time that these timers provide. Available in our shop, simply click on the image to go to the item in the shop.
  • Sand timers provide a strong visual understanding of the concept of time as they watch the sand running down as time passes.
  • Helping children to manage their own time – create a habit of using the sand timer for cleaning up after getting their toys out or messy play. “Turn the timer, let’s see if we can do it faster than 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes.” “let’s see if we can clean up before the sand runs out..”
  • Not relevant to sand timers but something I want to share with you that was really successful for me with my son: A good way of teaching time is to draw a clock face on your home trampoline, ask them to bounce clock-wise, anti-clockwise, get them to be the long hand and you be the short hand and shout times out for you to bounce to the relevant numbers – a really fun way to learn time.
  • If you are using the sand timers to teach time ensure all the clocks around your child are analogue: play room, their bedroom, where they eat and where they watch television. Point out to them that they have half an hour to eat and show them where the hands will be when time is up. Plenty of this repetition will really help them to understand time concepts and organise themselves.

Sandtimers can be used to help manage positive behaviours:

  • Encouraging turn taking especially if they have a friend over and they both want to play with the same toy. “I see that you are playing with that car right now, when this 3 minute sand timer is done it will be your friends turn”. Encourage turn taking at home, “Oh, you are playing with the spade and there’s only one, you enjoy that and in 3 minutes mummy can have a go and turn the timer…” Make sure you carry out your turn…
  • Sand timers can prevent meltdowns; “I see you are busy playing with your Lego. It’s time to go to school. Would you like to put your school shoes on now or in 1 minute? After saying this you should flip the sand timer over and stand back to be amazed at how well your child can make the transition for themselves.
  • Helping your child to make choices – “Would you like to do that in one minute, or two?” Then turn the sand timer.
  • They can be used as positive reinforcers. If your child is demanding your attention and you’re on the phone, use the sand timer to communicate to them that they need to wait for 5 minutes. You might offer to read to them for a quick 5 minutes etc.
  • Happy transitions – “We are going to read a book once the sand runs out”, “5 minutes of play and then we’re going shopping…”, “Come downstairs when the sand runs out…” You’ll be amazed how well they respond to this.

How to introduce a sand timer effectively:

  • Plan time to introduce your sand timers, and don’t expect overnight results. Children need to be taught their purpose and the benefits. Introducing them when you can be consistent in using them is essential, such as school holidays or even a weekend when you don’t have too many time restrictions.
  • The adult must have control of the situation and the timer to ensure that the child fully understands the meaning and benefits.
  • Teach your child the rules of using timers: not turning them over once that have started, not moving them etc.
  • Teach your child how the sand timer works
  • Use sand timers according to your child’s age or development: Use a 2 min sand timer for a child between 18 months to 2 years, a 3-min timer for 3 year olds and a 5-min timer for 4 years old and up.

Please ‘like’ us if you get chance so that other parents and children can find the article and benefit from it – thanks. Lisa & Oli.

Dyspraxia shop to help people with dyspraxia, DCD, Dysgraphia and dyslexia
Dyspraxia shop to help people with dyspraxia, DCD, Dysgraphia and dyslexia

 

Tweezer activities for children to develop fine motor skills for handwriting

Children’s Tweezer Activities To Develop Fine Motor Skills for handwriting.

Tweezers are valuable tools for developing fine motor skills in the fingers, hands and wrists. Their use should be encouraged from a young age alongside other fine motor development activities. This will support your child’s progression towards the effective tripod pencil grip taught throughout schools in the UK. I like to combine the use of tweezers with maths skills for an easy 2 in 1.

Children's Gator Grabber Tweezers strengthen muscles in the hands, developing the pincer grasp for school readiness.
Children’s Gator Grabber Tweezers strengthen muscles in the hands, developing the pincer grasp for school readiness.

For older children or as your child progresses with the tweezers move on to picking up smaller and smaller items.  Use a variety of tongues and tweezers to add interest and to increase levels of dexterity.

WARNING! When using tweezers, many of the activities involve small pieces which present a choking hazard and should not be performed by children under 3 years of age. Older children should be fully supervised by an adult. We would advise that everything gets counted out and counted back in again to ensure no small pieces are left around that could cause choking after the activity.

Activity 1. Stuck in the swamp! Swamp rescue!

Get a little character (Lego person for example), fill a bowl with cocoa pops and stick your little characters just in sight. Use your tweezers to rescue your characters from the swamp and transfer them into a bowl.

Activity 2. Fruity stack ’em up…

Play vegetable or fruit stack ’em up. Cut cuboids of fruit and place them in a bowl. Grab a plate and take it in turns to use your tweezers to transfer a shape to the plate, piling one shape upon another until the pile falls down to end the game. You could remove the competitive element and build a wall of fruit using your tongs, each taking it in turns to add a fruit brick; see how high or long you can build your wall.

Activity 3. Ted’s got spots!

Get some red felt and cut out some small circles or you could use red beads. Place them around Ted’s tummy. ‘Oh no! Ted’s got spots!’ Ask your child if they can be Doctor and remove Ted’s spots into a bowl using their tweezers to make Ted feel better.

Activity 4. Ant escape!

Buy some of those small plastic ants (careful of choking – sorry, I have to say that.) and place them in a long line from the back door through the house. Using your tweezers capture the ants and transfer them to a jar – happy fun!

Activity 5. Sand snakes. Cut up some pipe cleaners into 5cm lengths (your snakes) and fill a tray with play sand. Stick the ‘snakes’ into the sand so that they are just peeking out. Have your child pull them out and pop them in a jar using their tweezers. You can count as you do it.

Activity 6. Pom Pom beat the clock. Place 2 bowls at opposite ends of the room, fill one with pompoms and leave the other empty. Using a sandtimer see how many pompoms they can transfer in 2 minutes. Alternatively. You could both have a bowl at either end of the room and in the centre of the room place a bowl full of pompoms and the sandtimer. Running back and forth collecting a pompom in your tweezers and filling up your bowl have a race to see who can get the most pompoms in their bowl by the time the sand timer runs out.

Activity 7. Nature tweezer trail. How many different items can you collect using your tweezers from around the garden?

Activity 8. Santa’s dropped his bells! Great for Christmas – get a handful of the coloured jingly bells from your local craft shop. Write Santa’s address on an envelope. Tell your child you discovered a lot of bells lying all around the house, Santa must have been checking to see if you were good. ‘Let’s post them back to Santa as he must really need them’. Using the tweezers have your child transfer the bells one by one into the envelope that you can hold open for your child. You can repeat this at least once a week to let them know that Santa’s watching! Exciting… You could do it with Santa’s buttons, pom poms from his hat.

Activity 9. Look for every opportunity to use tweezers. Whilst playing board games use tweezers to move the pieces instead of using the fingers. Use serving tongues at the dinner table for salads and vegetables etc. and ask your child to serve a little to each of you or you could all have a pair of tweezers at the dinner table – even more fun!

Activity 10. Remove the spikes. Make a large playdoh hedgehog without spikes, push some large buttons or large coins into it for the spikes. Use the tweezers to pull out the spikes. You could do a ladybird one with black buttons sticking out too. This adds some resistance to the activity for more advanced tweezer users.

Activity 11. All mixed up! Purchase a bag of mixed nuts or seeds and have your child use their tweezers to sort them according to type into separate bowls.

Activity 12. Feed the frog. Get a cardboard box. Draw and colour a frog with a very large mouth on one side of the box. Cut out the mouth. Have your child feed pom poms or a mixture of small sized foods to the frog using their tweezers.

Activity 13. Pompom muffin tray sorter. Cut out some coloured circles and place 1 of each colour into a separate compartment of the muffin tray. Take some coloured pompoms and using the tweezers match and transfer the pompoms to the correct colour, in the tray. You could also label an egg carton 1 through to 12, get out the dried beans or dried macaroni and tweezer across the right number of beans or macaroni pieces per compartment. Old ice cube trays work really well for transferring beads and marbles into using your tweezers too.

More fine motor skills solutions available in our shop. Just click on the photo for further information:

8 Crayon Rocks in a muslin bag
8 Crayon Rocks® in a muslin bag – the perfect natural start towards developing a strong tripod grip for efficient handwriting in later years.
Fine motor skills dyspraxia toolset for strengthening the fine motor skills. Fun scissor scoop for pre-scissor skills development. Endless play possibilities. Can be used at bath time too.
Fine motor skills dyspraxia toolset for strengthening the fine motor skills. Fun scissor scoop for pre-scissor skills development. Endless play possibilities. Can be used at bath time too.
Ideal game for children with dyspraxia and fine motor skill difficulties. The Avalanche fruit stand game. Comes with 2 jumbo tweezers that you can use for other fine motor skills activities.
Ideal game for children with dyspraxia and fine motor skill difficulties. The Avalanche fruit stand game. Comes with 2 jumbo tweezers that you can use for other fine motor skills activities.

What is a quad grip? What pencil grip should I choose to correct a quad-grip? Should I correct a quadrupod grasp?

What is a quadrupod pencil grasp?

  • This grasp is characterised by the pencil being pinched between the thumb, index and middle finger, with the pencil resting on the ring finger.

Should I correct a quad-grip?

  • If the thumb is wrapping itself across the top of the pencil in the quad-grip and the web space (the web is the thin skin found between thumb and index finger) is closed,  then this will cause stamina and speed problems with their handwriting as they get older and should be addressed.
  • Not all quad grips are ineffective but if your child’s stamina and speed is poor you may want to look at moving them towards a dynamic tripod grip.
  • Just to throw another thought in, some evidence is beginning to suggest that the focus be on handwriting speed and letter formation and not in fact, the grip. You may want to consider the Lois Addy Speed Up! handwriting programme for ages 8+ or the Write From The Start programme, for the younger years or even follow one of these programmes alongside the grip changes.

What pencil grip should I choose for an inefficient quad-grip?

  • It may take a while to feel comfortable with a pencil grip when moving from a quad grip. Consider a reward system, as often it will take some time to adjust, especially if they are a little older.

    Quadrupod pencil grip and grasp pack. For children and adults with an inefficient quadrupod pencil grip seeking to re-train to a more dynamic tripod pencil grip. Suitable for left and right handers. Includes crayon rocks, penagain twist 'n write pencil, faber castell grip pencil with eraser and 6 of the best tripod pencil grips.
    Quadrupod pencil grip and grasp pack. For children and adults with an inefficient quadrupod pencil grip seeking to re-train to a more dynamic tripod pencil grip. Suitable for left and right handers.
  • Combine the use of pencil grips with the Twist ‘n Write or Penagain pens and pencils in this instance, as it encourages a more natural and comfortable tripod grip. The Twist ‘n Write pencil is great for correcting a thumb overlap grip. Children who have a thumb overlap grip will get by in pre-school and KS1. Once the writing demand increases at KS2 these students will start to complain of hand fatigue and pain. Low tone and decreased strength are also addressed effectively using this pencil over the more traditional pencil grips. The Twist ‘n Write pencil is often the choice for occupational therapists correcting inefficient pencil grips in children.

    The Penagain Twist 'N Write Pencils are perfect for correcting an inefficient pencil grip, thumb wrap grip, quadrupod grip and for supporting low muscle tone - related handwriting difficulties.
    The Penagain Twist ‘N Write Pencils are perfect for correcting an inefficient pencil grip, thumb wrap grip, quadrupod grip and for supporting low muscle tone – related handwriting difficulties.
  • I would also recommend the tripod finger activities detailed in the help with handwriting blog.
  • Definitely plan lots of activities with the amazing Crayon Rocks® – no matter what age they are – these can only be held in a tripod grip, practise sweeping swathes of colour across the page with these to stimulate and develop the muscles needed for an effective tripod grip. Another tip is to break some chalks into smaller pieces, these will not give room to accommodate the quad-grip and so the tripod grip would be used to hold them instead. Plan plenty of variety in your activities.

    Crayon Rocks® are the best crayon you can buy to encourage the tripod grip in your child's early handwriting development
    Crayon Rocks® the best crayon you can buy to encourage the tripod grip for handwriting development
  • Shorten the pencils: I recommend the Faber Castell Grip pencils, the only downside is they don’t do a shorter version. The solution is to sharpen them down to just above the size of a golf pencil – this pencil will now offer them the grip they need but not enough room to cram that quadrupod grip onto. A shorter pencil offers the child more control too, trying to write with the weight of an adult-sized pencil is not easy for everyone. Worth a try…
  • Try the Grotto Grip when the pencil is held with the thumb wrapped tightly over the index finger or tucked under, both limit more efficient movements of the thumb and tend to fatigue the muscles in the forearm.
  • Spend some time each day with your child practising the tripod grip with these supports and ensure a little is done each day practising the tripod grip without the support tools too. Plenty of reinforcing praise. Practise shape formations: crosses, circles (clockwise and anti-clockwise), triangles, squares.
  • Sometimes children place all their fingers on the pencil because they find it challenging to separate the pinky (ulnar) side from the thumb (radial) side of the hand.  Train their muscles by getting  them to hold a pom-pom or marble or small object in their ring and pinky fingers against the palm while holding the pencil with their three free fingers – instant tripod!
  • You may find our page on how to choose the correct pencil grip helpful alongside our page on help with handwriting.

We always recommend consulting with an occupational therapist if you have any concerns about the efficiency of your child’s handwriting. They are skilled in identifying the exact causes and best steps to follow.

If you would like to visit us or simply have a question, please call 01572 737100.

Dyspraxia shop to help people with dyspraxia, DCD, Dysgraphia and dyslexia
Dyspraxia shop to help people with Dyspraxia, DCD, Dysgraphia and Dyslexia.

What is the best handwriting pencil for my child to learn to write with?

Without doubt the best pencil for a child to learn to write with is the Yoropen mini-pencil.

The best handwriting pencil for children learning to write - the Yoropen Mini Pencil
The best handwriting pencil for children learning to write – the Yoropen Mini Pencil

Why?

  • The ‘Z’ neck design allows your child to see the letters much more clearly as they write, aiding letter formation, visual memory of the letter formation and improvement to their posture whilst writing. (Many children hold their heads at an angle when writing trying to see how, what and where they are writing which twists their backs and often leads to one eye becoming stronger than another due to the angle of the eyes when the head is held at such an angle. This can have longer term implications on their whole visual system)
  • Dyslexic children in particular, will benefit greatly from the extra visual field these pencils give them as they get a better reinforcement of the letter formation as they write, boosting their visual memory.
  • It is specifically designed for children aged between 3-8.
  • The pencil is shorter than a standard pencil by almost 6cm reflecting the smaller size of children’s hands at this age. Imagine writing with a pencil 1 and a half times longer than the one you currently use? The shorter pencil can have immediate benefits to the quality of your child’s handwriting. It gives them far better control.

    The difference in size between the Yoropen mini-pencil (ages 3-8) and the larger Yoropen Pencil (ages 8+)
    The difference in size between the Yoropen mini-pencil (ages 3-8) and the larger Yoropen Pencil (ages 8+)
  • The Yoropen provides a very comfortable tripod grip, encouraging the tripod grip from a very early age.
  • The gap between the pencil tip on the Yoropen Mini-Pencil and the Yoropen Pencil for ages 8+ is also shorter keeping your child’s fingers at the perfect height above the paper. This is hugely important as often children will raise their wrists from the surface when they write leading to vastly reduced pencil control.

    How the tip to grip distance is altered on the Yoropen Mini Pencil compared to the larger Yoropen Pencil to fit smaller hands perfectly.
    How the tip to grip distance is altered on the Yoropen Mini Pencil compared to the larger Yoropen Pencil to fit small hands perfectly.
  • Each pencil has 2B lead requiring less effort to write making the early years of writing much more pleasurable
  • The extra field of vision provided by the ‘z’ neck helps your child to keep their writing on the line.
  • The finger support system requires far less pressure to grip the pen reducing writing strain and allowing more focus on handwriting, spelling and content. The comfort grip neck on the pencil holds your grip firmly in place preventing your child’s hand from sliding down towards the nib.
  • The tripod grip rotates to accommodate your child’s preferred writing position. Ideal for left and right handers.
  • Yoropen provide a natural pen and pencil progression path onto the Yoropen HB pencil and the Yoropen Superior ballpoint pen range. Ideal from ages 6-8+ through to adult.
  • It’s no wonder that the Yoropen is the number 1 choice for children with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and any child with difficulties controlling a pencil.
  • Affordable at a little over £2 per mini-pencil, is really long-lasting requiring future purchases year after year of a refill pack costing just 99p – cheaper than a good quality pencil.
  • If you are reading this article it is because you take your child’s handwriting seriously. We also have a children’s ergonomic handwriting pack to help you find the perfect pencil to encourage the tripod grip from the earliest years.
  • Dyspraxia pencil pack ages 3-8, blue barrels
    Children’s ergonomic pencil pack for learning to write and encouraging the tripod grip. Blue and pink variances available.

Not suitable for children under 36 months due to small parts and risk of choking.

NB. If you can’t stretch to a Yoropen, I would advise you to cut down one of your children’s pencils by around 6cm and witness the effect. I have had children who refuse to pass the pencil back to me because it suits them so well after they have struggled for years with a standard pencil. If you do this and it works for you please ‘like’ the article on Facebook so that more parents and children will be able to come across it on a google search. Thanks