Helping a Child with a Fine-Motor Disorder

My daughter's kindergarten teacher was concerned about the difficulty that she had in using scissors and writing. She referred my child to an occupational therapist, who concluded that my daughter has a fine-motor disorder. This took place the second-to-the-last week of school. What exercises/activities can I do with my daughter to help improve her fine-motor skills? I am concerned that she will have trouble in first grade.

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Fine-motor skills are important in school, no doubt about it. We need to be able to write, draw, use scissors, trace and do a variety of manipulative activities that require fine-motor coordination. Fine-motor coordination is a developmental issue. As children mature and develop, their fine-motor skills also develop. It isn't unusual for a kindergartner to experience great difficulty in using scissors, but there should be progress as the year goes on. I think that your daughter's teacher was probably unsure as to whether or not your daughter's difficulty was developmental in nature, but it's good that she made the referral to an occupational therapist.

Just because your daughter has a fine-motor disorder does not mean that she will have trouble achieving success in first grade. Yes, she will be required to do some writing, coloring, tracing and cutting, but those activities can be modified, if necessary. Her first-grade teacher will be able to work with both of you to accommodate her needs.

There are exercises and activities that you can do at home with your daughter. It may be helpful to meet with the occupational therapist who assessed your daughter. The occupational-therapy department of the school district probably has some literature, and possibly even some videos, on ways to work with your child at home. I assume that since she has a fine-motor disorder that she qualifies for a course of therapy through the school district. If this is not true, inquire with the school district as to how you can go about enrolling her in a program. Ideally, your daughter will receive occupational therapy as prescribed by the therapist, and that will, in turn, be supplemented by home activities suggested by the therapist.

Any activities that require dexterity would probably be good practice for your little girl. Manipulating puzzle pieces, using connecting blocks or stringing beads are all ways in which she can practice her fine-motor skills. Even using the keyboard and mouse on the computer could be beneficial to her progress. If you have questions on specific activities that you should be doing and you have not yet started working with the occupational therapist, consult your daughter's pediatrician for recommendations.

Activities dependent on developed fine-motor skills are just a part of the first-grade curriculum. In addition to working on her fine-motor skills, spend some time working on other skills, such as pre-reading and reading skills, math and problem solving. The confidence that she will gain in other areas will give her the confidence that she needs to work at improving her fine-motor skills.

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