Tag Archives: fine motor

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Using Schoodles School Fine Motor Assessment (SFMA) as Part of a Strengths-Based Assessment

What does a ‘strengths-based’ assessment mean to you? In the past, it may have simply
involved listing a student’s strengths and then moving on to their needs. However, a
strengths-based assessment can be a powerful tool for promoting self-confidence,
motivation, and independence. This type of assessment highlights areas for growth and
improvement, while simultaneously showcasing a student’s positive attributes. By utilizing
a strengths-based approach, parents, staff, and students can all view the student in a
different, more positive light.

Using a criterion-reference tool like Schoodles, you can more effectively locate areas where
a student excels, as well as areas that require further support. Unlike standardized tools,
Schoodles offers the flexibility to provide verbal prompts, visual demonstrations, task
grading, or other aids to help students complete challenging tasks.
Here are some strengths/needs we can observe during testing:

  • Good attention to task/ may need support to move from activity to activity
  • Demonstrates interest and curiosity about all of the materials/may need a limited amount of materials in front of him to work to his potential
  • Highly sociable/may need some social time before beginning hands-on tasks
  • Quick learner/excellent candidate for 6-10  week burst of service to improve skills
  • Easily understands and follows visual versus verbal directions/may benefit from visual supports to move through the day
  • Loves to use his hands/ may benefit from fidgets or may need to be presented with one task at a time and given extra time to explore hands-on activities.

To effectively support students, we must shift our attention from their limitations to their capabilities. It is a common misconception that a strengths-based focus disregards a student’s challenges. We can describe a student’s skills in neutral or positive terms, highlighting attributes that help them succeed. While we do not ignore struggles or weaknesses, we strive to reframe them in a constructive manner.

You could start by reviewing your previous documentation to initiate a shift toward strengths. Highlight all the positive statements in green, all neutral statements in yellow, and all negative statements in red. By doing this, you can aim to minimize negative statements and ultimately eliminate them altogether.

When writing reports, it’s important to provide a positive summary of your data while still including any challenges. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Place all test scores at the bottom of your report.
  • Use positive or neutral descriptive language only.
  • Focus on what the student CAN do.
  • Reframe subjective language into objective language.
  • Highlight areas of potential growth.

By using Schoodles‘ SFMA alone or in combination with other tools, you can gain valuable
information about student strengths in a relatively short amount of time. Focusing on
student strengths during information gathering, report writing, and sharing will help
facilitate a sense of student efficacy in the students, their parents, and staff.

Guest Blogger Marie Frank OTR/L, Schoodles Co-Owner

Meet Therapro’s Occupational Therapy Authors & Creators

Therapro is celebrating its occupational therapy authors and creators during Occupational Therapy Month. Read on to learn more about these great occupational therapists and their creations!

Letter Treasure Hunt

Jenny L. Clark, OTR/L, BCP is the creator of the “Learn to Move” curriculum and Therapro’s Letter Treasure Hunt. Jenny has helped children over the past 25 years as a licensed pediatric occupational therapist working as a speaker, consultant, private practitioner at her own clinic (Jenny’s Kids, Inc.), school-based occupational therapist, independent contractor for early intervention services, author, and inventor. Jenny’s creation, Letter Treasure Hunt, is a fun and engaging game that targets handwriting skills while weaving in fun gross motor activities.

The functionalhand

Linda Merry, OTR is the co-creator of the functionalhand. She has many years’ experience and extensive knowledge working with children and adults who have disabilities and teaching on a variety of topics. She is a senior therapists at Easter Seals DuPage & the Fox Valley Region in Villa Park, IL and co-owner of Thera-Solutions which designs programs, coaches’ professionals and develops products for therapists, educators and caregivers. Her creation, the functionalhand is an innovative tool to assist with grasping objects for everyday fun and function!

Polly Benson OTR/L is the creator of LegiLiners, “the patent pending, cool little tool to quickly draw handwriting lines”. Polly is a school based occupational therapists with many years experience working with students of all ages. The idea for LegiLiners grew from her love for helping students with functional handwriting. LegiLiners are available in in a variety of styles to help learners of all ages.

Barbara Smith, MS, OTR/L is the author of From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills. Barbara has been  an occupational therapist for over 40 years working primarily with children and adults with developmental disabilities.  Barbara’s book From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills is a groundbreaking guide that describes the songs, games, toys, activities, and adaptations that help children develop the visual-perceptual skills needed to read and the eye-hand coordination to write.

Jayne Berry, OTR/L is the author of Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom and creator of the Therapro Hand Tool Kit. Jane was a pediatric therapist who worked extensively with preschoolers and school aged children. The Therapro Hand Tool Kit contains all your “hand tools” in a convenient kit! Fine Motor Skills in the Classroom  is a hand skills program developed as a tool to facilitate consultation in the classroom.


Diane Long, EdD, MOTR/L is the creator of the game Trunks. Dr. Diane Long is an associate professor and serves as the Chair of Occupational Therapy at Ithaca College.  Trunks is an innovative game that targets working memory; players move their bodies, make sounds and perform actions from memory!

Carolyn Murray-Slutsky, MS OTR, C/NDT, FAOTA has co-authored many publications including: Is it Sensory or is it Behavior? 2nd Edition (2022), Autism Interventions: Exploring the Spectrum of Autism, Developing Visual Motor Integration, and the Sensory Modulation Laminated Card Series. Carolyn is certified in sensory integration (SI) and neurodevelopmental treatment (NDT) for pediatrics, infants, and adults and director of Rehabilitation for Children, Inc, a pediatric private practice.  Her latest publication, Is it Sensory or is it Behavior? 2nd Edition (2022)  answers many questions about the relationship between sensory and behavior.

Fine Motor Olympics

Marcia Bridgeman, MHA, OTR/L is the author of Fine Motor Olympics. Marcia has been a pediatric occupational therapist since 1977, specializing in school based services for students from preschool through 22. Fine Motor Olympics is a program designed for an occupational therapist to provide inclusive and consultative services to teachers, volunteers, parents, and staff.

Activities That Build Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are vital for many functional activities like zippering our coats, writing our name, and opening lunch containers. In this post we will take a dive into fine motor skill development and explore toys and activities that are appropriate for every skill level.  

Level 1

Fine motor skill development begins with the simplest hand movements; reaching, swiping, and gross grasp. As development progresses things like visually guided reach, purposeful release, and a better ability to hold medium and small sized objects develops. Poking, pointing, and the ability to use the thumb and first fingers to hold small objects are major milestones during this period. For children at this developmental stage activities that support the growth of the proximal muscles (core and shoulders) are important because it is these muscles that will support later fine motor skills. Activities that are done while on the tummy and activities that involve pushing and pulling are great choices at this stage.

Level 2

The next stage of fine motor development is marked by the ability to begin to use simple tools like crayons, scissors, and spoons. Activities like the Smartmax games and Lock Boxes are still great choices but now simple arts and crafts, lacing, and building activities can also be enjoyed. These increasingly more complex activities will lend to the development of the hand skills that are needed for greater independence with self care activities like feeding and dressing.

Level 3

The next stage of development is marked by the ability to complete tasks that require the separation of the two sides of the hand; the ‘power side’ and the ‘skilled side’. The power side of the hand is what we use when we engage in activities that require strength like opening a jar; actions like squeezing a toy or playing in putty or playdough are great ways to develop these muscles.  The skilled side of the hand is what we use when we engage in activities that require refined movements like writing, tying, or fastening a button.  To develop these muscles we must engage in activities that predominantly require the use of the thumb and first two or three fingers; actions like winding the small knob on a wind up toy, using the first fingers to grab, grasp or manipulate objects, and using one finger to push a button or lever are all great ways to develop these muscle. The development of the separation of the two sides of the hands is important for academic and self care tasks.

Level 4

Hallmarks of this stage of fine motor skill development include the skilled coordination between the two sides of the body and a mature pencil grasp. Games like Froggy Feeding Fun and activities with Wikki Stix or Playdough are still great but now activities that require refined skill can also be introduced.

Choosing activities that are developmentally appropriate will ensure not only engagement but will also promote continued fine motor skill development.