As members of the Physical and Occupational Therapy Department at Marie Huie Special Education Center, we consider ourselves as the motivators of movement. Whether a student is active on their own or requires assistance, movement in itself is a crucial part of learning, exploring the environment, and acquiring new functional skills. As Physical and Occupational Therapists, our greatest reward is encouraging our students to become as functionally independent as best they are able.
Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy
Our primary focus includes Physical Therapy, which encompasses gross motor, balance, and functional mobility, and Occupational Therapy, which includes fine motor-upper body functioning, school tasks, and activities of daily living. It is our goal to work with parents and teachers to encourage functional independence through movement opportunities in all settings. These can include basics such as climbing on a playground or participating in household chores for functional strengthening.
Representatives from our department recently had the privilege of meeting with parents who were members of the FUSE Organization (Families and Educators United for Special Education Services) as part of an informal parent training focused on incorporating movement in the home. We were able to share a large variety of strategies and methods to include movement opportunities as a learning experience within the general family routine. We have included activities that encourage exposure to movement and it is our desire to get your student outside playing, involved in recreational sports or just general family fun that builds up muscle strength, endurance and acquisition of functional tasks.
Incorporating more physical movement in your student’s schedule will better prepare his upper body/hands for fine motor skills, such as writing and fun on the computer or iPad. We hope you enjoy these MOVES!!!!
Working on Gross Movement
1. The playground is a great place for kids to explore gross movement challenges. Encourage your child to go up and down the steps, climb ladders, swing, walk across bridges.
2. Ball activities are a great way to strengthen your child’s trunk. Have your child throw a lightweight medium sized ball from overhead.
- Bounce-pass a playground ball to improve eye-hand coordination. If this is easy, try bouncing the ball off the wall and catch it.
- Use a balloon to slow down the speed
- Try different positions for playing ball, sitting criss-cross, sitting in a chair, or standing.
- Try kicking a stationary ball first, then work up to kicking a rolling ball
3. Balance and jumping are great ways to develop leg strength.
- Jump in place first holding hands, then without holding hands.
- Try jumping off a step
- Stand on one foot 10 seconds, then try it with eyes closed
- Place a wide piece of tape on the floor and work on walking forwards and sideways without stepping off. Teach vocabulary like over, forward, and sideways.
4. Crawling on all floors helps develop shoulder and trunk muscles.
This skill also works on reciprocal movement, having both sides of the body work together, but doing different things. Without proper shoulder strength children may have difficulty with fine motor tasks.
- Have a race crawling! Try the bear crawl, up on your hands and toes. Try crab walking, stomach up on all fours. Crawl under tables or other furniture. Use play tunnels.
- Wheelbarrow walking holding your child’s ankles, all weight is transferred to the arms. If this is too difficult try holding their knees or hips.
Working on Fine Motor Skills
- Here are some awesome activities to build your child’s fine motor skills:
- Roll play dough into balls, hotdogs, or making pancakes & use stencils to cut out shapes
- Cutting play dough with a plastic knife or with a pizza wheel.
- Tearing newspaper into strips and then crumpling them into balls then toss into waste basket
- Using a plant sprayer to spray plants (indoors, outdoors)
- Picking up objects using large tweezers such as those found in the “Bedbugs” game. This can be adapted by picking up Cheerios, small cubes, small marshmallows, pennies, etc., in counting games.
- Lacing and sewing activities such as stringing beads, Cheerios, macaroni, etc.
- Watching TV, reading a book while lying on the stomach, weight-bearing into elbows
- Turning over cards, coins, checkers, or buttons, without bringing them to the edge of the table.
- Making pictures using stickers
- Using vertical surfaces for writing, painting or coloring requires the whole arm
Depending on your students’ motor functioning you may need to give them support or provide hand over hand assistance.
Remember, whether a student is active on their own or requires assistance, movement in itself is a crucial part of learning, exploring the environment, and acquiring new functional skills. Try the above exercises and let us know how it goes.
Written by Anita Shepherd