Category Archives: Handwriting

Saturday Seminar: Analyzing Activities for Improving Student Hand Function

Not even an anticipated nor’easter kept 30 hardy New Englanders from attending last Saturday’s seminar at Therapro, Analyzing Activities for Improving Student Hand Function! Marcia Bridgeman, MHA, OTR/L presented an interesting, well paced seminar that engaged her audience fully as she seamlessly mapped hand development from birth to elementary school age, linking the development of hands to functional skills.

Marcia is the author of the newly revised Fine Motor Olympics (2016) that includes a Manual and 64 beautiful color photo cards of children’s hands performing fine motor tasks with instructions on the reverse side of the cards. A Guide to Hand Function, Quick Screening Form, Fine Motor Observation Checklist, Record Form, and In-Service Training Program are included in the Manual. She currently has a private practice through which she provides consultation and direct service to several Massachusetts school systems.

Interspersed within a comprehensive review of motor development and hand function from newborn to age 6, Marcia discussed functional fine motor activities expected at the corresponding developmental stages. For example, around the age of 7 months, many essential new fine motor skills are emerging including finger isolation, open web space, opposition, and thumb isolation.  She matched simple activities to this developmental level, such as tearing paper, turning knobs on an Etch-a-Sketch, and spinning a top, to name a few!

Seminar attendees thoroughly enjoyed breaking into groups and trying out 8 original fine motor activities that Marcia created that are not included in the 64 activity cards included in Fine Motor Olympics.  The activities included activities like creating a spider web in a plastic basket and moving the spider in the web, using a variety of tongs to hunt tiny dinosaurs, balancing marbles on golf tees, and threading straws into toilet paper cardboard rolls punched with holes. The groups engaged in activity analysis and shared their comments with the rest of the group.  Attendees took away new, inexpensive ideas to engage the entire classroom and facilitate development of hand musculature and arches of the hand for optimal function. In addition to the new activities Marcia introduced today, she highlighted a number of fine motor Therapro products she loved, including Wacky Web, Hide ‘n Slide, Froggy Feeding Fun, Wind Up Walking Robots, Boinks, Tall Stacker Pegboard Set, Get A Grip Pegboard, and Magnetic Marbles.  She discussed conventional uses for the materials and also adapted the materials creatively and adeptly to help develop muscles of the hand. Some activities incorporated use of intrinsic muscles in translation activities, for example: moving a small single object fingers to the palm (1.5 – 2 years) and from palm to fingers (2.0 – 2.4).

We couldn’t think of a more fun way of spending a snowy Saturday morning than analyzing both innovative and familiar fine motor activities, and sharing thoughts on how to help develop better hand function in the classroom setting in a fun way.

Take a look at the glowing comments Marcia’s seminar generated:

“Great combination of visuals, interactive experiences & developmental stages. Great workshop for OT rookies or vets!” Karen D., Occupational Therapist

“As a teacher, I’m certainly not an expert on OT issues students may be experiencing. This seminar helped to raise my awareness and sensitivity to these issues. Great suggestions for how I can help these students in easy, quick, fun ways.”  Maura M., Teacher

“This seminar revisited & reviewed a lot of what I learned in school (great refresher) however I’ve had colleagues who did not have pediatric courses regarding this!”  Kelly V., Occupational Therapist

“Very informative; great to be interactive & experience/explore activities!”  Caitlyn D. COTA

“Such meaty well organized info on hand development, screening, and activities to help hand function.”  Alice T., Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Marcia!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L

Saturday Seminar: OT Rubrics for Fine Motor, Visual Motor and Handwriting Skills

Valorie_ToddWhen a group of OTs get together to brainstorm, there’s bound to be some exciting “stuff” that is the outcome. Valorie Todd, MA, OTR/L and her school-based practice colleagues in the New York and New Jersey vicinity had a goal in mind. They wanted to devise a way to monitor quarterly progress in performance skills they identified as “OT goals” or “Areas of Need” on the IEP that was based on normative data. Valorie discussed the rubrics her group developed during her Therapro Saturday Seminar Series workshop on August 22, 2015 entitled:  OT Rubrics for Fine Motor, Visual Motor and Handwriting Skills.

This seminar was the kick-off for the Fall Saturday Seminar Series and attracted about 60 attendees who listened closely, commented freely, and shared thoughts. Valorie and her colleagues were determined to conceive a way to assess a student’s performance against predetermined criteria, in which a student is measured against his own performance.

Valorie’s group identified 7 areas for assessment including:

  • Postural Control
  • Sensory Modulation
  • Ocular Motor Skills
  • Object Manipulation: Fine Motor/Hand Skills
  • Controlled Tool Use: Color, Trace, Cut
  • Design Copy: Graphics/Objects, and
  • Handwriting.

In her seminar, Valorie discussed Object Manipulation, Controlled Tool Use, Design Copy, and Handwriting. Rubrics for Kindergarten and Grade 1 were identified.

Valorie offered a thoroughly researched plan on how to assess function and address the skill through worksheets that acknowledged how a student was expected to progress sequentially in each area.  She made clear distinctions in skills expected of a kindergartner versus a first grader.  For example, when assessing “Tracing,” specifically Pencil Control:

kindergartner would receive a score of 4 if he:

  • “Controls lines with min. errors 90-100%”
  • “Stops/turns at corners (angles/arcs)”

A first grader would receive a score of 4 if he

  • “Has good control within/on lines in all directions (90-100%)”
  • “Starts/stops on dots with 1-2 errors”

Valorie’s rubrics were well-defined and can be easily replicated. She was very enthused about sharing her work, including worksheets, and encouraged therapists to use her rubrics and provide her with feedback so that the rubrics can further be developed with input and use over time. As a result, a meaningful assessment of quarterly progress can be obtained and insufficient areas can be addressed systematically and meaningfully before the student is due for the next standardized evaluation.

Attendees comments were very positive and encouraging:

“It was excellent! So much info, well related to school based OTs. This will be helpful in writing goals, tracking progress, presenting at meetings, and for my Teachpoint eval.”  Amanda B., Occupational Therapist

“It helps so much to have these rubrics to support our clinical observations when IEPs are moving toward data driven/measurable goals and objectives. It will help with tracking and also guide thinking when working on skills.”  Anonymous, Occupational Therapist

“Love the practicality of the Rubrics.  Anything we can take away & use is terrific!”  Amanda H., Occupational Therapist

“Looks at detail of task performance and observation of foundational skills which students have or need to build on.”  Anonymous,  Occupational Therapist

“I would recommend this seminar to a colleague because it was well researched and the information was very comprehensive.  The material is very current and I can readily apply this information.”  Anonymous, Occupational Therapist

Thank you, Val!

Filomena Connor, MS, OTR/L

Thank You for the Wonderful Reviews

We recently received the following reviews on Amazon. Thank you for the kind words!

Therapro Stage Rite Raised-Line Paper

Buy on Amazon |

“I have (very) low vision and bought this paper to help me take notes when I go to a meeting or such and need to record details. The wide raised dark lines help me write more legibly so that when I get my notes home I have a better chance of being able to decipher what I wrote when put under my CCTV. I am going to try the next smaller stage next time I order as I think I am getting better at writing this way! I am so pleased with my progress. I thought without the money to buy a tablet and with a crummy memory, I was stuck, but I am pleased to have struck upon my creative solution to my problem! I cannot wait to report back at the next meeting at the Support Group I attend for those of us who are adjusting to our new lives.” – Anne M

Wide Lined Raised Paper

Buy on Amazon |

“Great tool for students who need to feel the lines to stay in them. I am a teacher and use this paper for my special needs students in my classroom. I would definitely recommend it.” – Litter of Pups