If summer vacation means that your child has the summer off from Occupational Therapy (or if you just think he/she could use a little work-out for those growing muscles), here are some of my favorite ways to improve grasp and hand strength. Improved hand strength can translate to improved handwriting, better endurance while writing and cutting, and better fine motor and self-care skills. These are fun ways to improve skills (without it feeling like “work”).
Playdoh, Clay, or Silly Putty
• A good clay is Crayola Model Magic. Squeezing with the whole hand to soften the dough increases overall hand strength. Be sure to switch back and forth between hands. Hide “treasures” that the child has to find.
• Roll the dough on a table to make snakes, using one hand and then the other, and then both together.
• Practice pinching off pieces of the snake, using thumb and index finger. Roll dough into a ball, then squish it flat like a pizza between fingers and thumb. Poke holes in the dough using index finger.
• Wrap a rubber band or silly putty around the student’s flexed fingers. As he straightens them, have him spread them apart against the resistance.
Tennis Ball “Monkey”
Parents can use a knife to cut a 2-inch slit in a tennis ball for the mouth and draw eyes with permanent marker. Then, have the child use one hand to squeeze and hold the mouth open, and the other hand to feed monkey pennies, beads, small buttons, etc.
• Doing gross motor play while weight-bearing the hands is great for strengthening the shoulder, wrists and hands. Some suggestions are: wheelbarrow walking, tug-o-war (with a towel or blanket), crawling through a tunnel, sustaining a grasp while hanging from monkey bars, climbing ladders/playground structures, and rock climbing walls. Even biking and scooters can help with hand strength.
• Squirt guns are great for strengthening fingers.
• Plastic turkey basters are good for strengthening the whole hand.
• Squeeze sponges or squeeze out a wet washcloth.
• Don’t Break the Ice
• Lite Bright
• Tear paper into little pieces (as part of a craft project) and/or wad paper into balls.
• Cut thick paper (e.g. cardboard, index cards, several sheets of construction paper).
• Coloring in a confined space (the smaller the space, the harder it is and the more strengthening it is).
• Color with small pieces of crayon (broken crayons are great for this). Put the paper on a vertical or inclined surface (tape to a wall, use an easel, or attach to a large 3-ring binder to make a “slant desk”). Together, the incline and the small crayons will encourage a child to use a finger grasp and hand muscles, instead of relying on using the whole arm to color.
Lynn-Marie Herlihy is an Occupational Therapist in private practice in Park Slope, Brooklyn. She has over 12 years experience treating children from birth to school-age, with a variety of sensory and motor deficits, developmental delays, and learning issues. You can also visit her website at http://www.ParkSlopeOT.com/.
Tags: Brooklyn, child occupational therapy, Fine motor dexterity and coordination in children, fine motor skills, games, hand strength, handwriting, Occupational Therapist, occupational therapy, self-care skills, summer vacation, writing skills
The beginning of the school year is an ideal time to consider a neuropsychological evaluation for your child if he/she is struggling. Please contact her directly for further information. Dr. Whitman offers a free 30 min. consultation by phone or by e-mail: [email protected] & 347-560-1399
Dr. Lindsay Whitman conducts neuropsychological assessments with children and adolescents. A neuropsychological evaluation is most helpful to parents who suspect their child or teen may have a learning disability, developmental delay, attentional problem, or who is displaying behavioral or psychological difficulties (anxiety, depression) that may be interfering with their cognitive or academic functioning. This type of evaluation is best for parents who desire to truly understand why a child or teenager may be struggling to meet developmental, academic, or social milestones. A neuropsychological evaluation identifies which kinds of interventional or supportive services would best support a child or teen through these challenges.
Dr. Whitman has evaluated children and adults with a variety of developmental and learning risk factors including developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), traumatic brain injury, and psychiatric/mood difficulties. At New York University, she obtained specialized expertise in the cognitive assessment of individuals with seizures/epilepsy. Dr. Whitman has presented empirical research at national and international neuropsychology conferences and has published peer-reviewed articles on issues related to cognitive functioning in individuals with epilepsy and aspects of adolescent personality development. She is a certified coach for Cogmed, evidence-based, computerized, non-pharmacological intervention designed to strengthen attention and working memory skills in children, adolescents, and adults. This fun and engaging program was developed by Swedish neuroscientists, is easily completed in your home, and is an excellent alternative to medication for individuals struggling with attentional difficulties.
Dr. Whitman is a licensed clinical psychologist in the state of New York. She completed a PhD in clinical psychology/neuropsychology at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science/The Chicago Medical School. She completed clinical internship at West Virginia University School of Medicine and a two-year postdoctoral fellowship in neuropsychology at New York University Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. She also holds a masters degree in early childhood risk and development from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. Dr. Whitman has met the education and training requirements of the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology to become board certified in clinical neuropsychology. She is currently in the process of obtaining board certification.
What would I learn about my child from a neuropsychological evaluation?
*General intellectual functioning (IQ)
*Academic achievement skills (word reading and phonetic decoding skills, mathematics, spelling, reading comprehension, writing skills; ability to apply academic knowledge or perform in a timely manner)
*Attention (auditory, visual, ability to sustain skills over time)
*Executive functioning (working memory, planning, problem solving, and organizational skills; ability to reason, inhibit responses when needed, and/or be behaviorally “flexible”)
*Learning and memory (verbal and visual)
*Language (expressive/receptive, naming, verbal fluency)
*Fine motor dexterity and coordination (handwriting, pencil grip, ability to complete written tasks in a timely and efficient manner)
*Psychological and Emotional Functioning (parent, teacher, self-report)
Contact: [email protected], 347-560-1399 www.lindsaywhitmanphd.com
PAYMENT: Private pay only. Dr. Whitman does not accept insurance but is happy to provide a receipt for out-of-network reimbursement. Cash or check accepted.
HOURS: Wednesday & Friday 9AM-5PM
LOCATION: One Grand Central Place, 60 E. 42nd Street New York, NY.
TYPE OF SERVICES: Neuropsychological evaluations for children and adolescents. Dr. Whitman is also able to conduct neuropsychological evaluations with adults.
EXPERTISE: Dr. Whitman is trained in the evaluation of children and adults with learning disabilities, developmental delay, intellectual disabilities, and all other clinical conditions associated with cognitive difficulties (e.g., AD/HD, autism spectrum disorder). She is trained to evaluate children and adolescents with medical conditions such as epilepsy/seizures, traumatic brain injury/concussion, and perinatal toxic exposure (e.g., alcohol, lead).
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