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Five Ways to Keep Occupational Therapy Going Over School Breaks

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School occupational therapists often work to help children with fine motor delays get caught up with skills like drawing and writing and cutting, and that's all well and good -- for whenever school's in session. But during school breaks, or breaks in the availability of therapists, those abilities may be left to lag. To keep your child moving forward, try these five ideas for at-home occupational therapy. Strengthening fine-motor skills is well within your ability.

1. Have arts-and-crafts time.

Many of the skills that occupational therapists target are taught through art. Your child may learn to copy shapes, hold a writing utensil or use a scissors without even realizing it's therapy. Fun art projects are something that's easy for you to replicate at home. Try our inspirations for reluctant artists for some ideas that even the most art-fearing kid can enjoy, and check the first page of our Five Fun Things to Do feature for crafts simple enough to engage kids with fine motor delays.

2. Work on writing.

Printing or cursive can be a huge chore for kids with fine motor delays, and improving control of those skills is a major OT goal. Work on your child's penmanship at home with a program like Handwriting Without Tears that offers books and tools for making writing more natural and comfortable, or just incorporate writing into fun activities by having your child form letters or words on a piece of butcher paper taped to the wall, or by running a finger through shaving cream or fingerpaints.

3. Read the IEP.

If your child has an IEP, read it over again -- just as you'd expect any therapist working with your youngster to do. Review the occupational therapy goals, along with any techniques or yardsticks that are listed with them. Review academic and behavioral goals, too, and think about how your child's OT challenges impact these. Use what you've read to choose the things you want to work on with your child, whether they're specifically what the therapist targeted or not.

4. Order some professional equipment.

Occupational-therapy catalogs like Abilitations, Therapro and Southpaw Enterprises allow you to order the same equipment that school occupational therapists use. These tools are not cheap, but may give you a springboard to starting fun sessions with your child and seeing what you can improvise along the same lines. See our listings of Special-Needs School Tools for a few goodies to start with.

5. Play with your child.

Since the business of childhood is play, most games of early childhood have an occupational therapy component. Simply throwing a ball with your child can improve eye-hand coordination, patience, and balance. Jumprope, Ring Around the Rosie, London Bridge, bean-bag toss, hopscotch, calisthenics, swinging, playground activities -- all can provide an OT workout without your child even knowing it. Having fun together is always the best kind of therapy.
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