Quick and Simple Solution: A Glove!
Touch screen electronics can be a great learning and communication tool, but if a child has difficulty isolating their index finger, they often inadvertently activate ads on the screen or make mistakes by tapping the wrong place, which can quickly become quite frustrating. Here’s a mom’s simple solution: take a child-sized glove and cut off the end of the index finger. The fabric of the glove will keep the other fingers and the rest of the hand from accidentally activating the screen. We have tried it here at the clinic and it really works. Great idea!
Mancala is an ancient game of strategy, but we love it for the fine motor work it requires. The board consists of two rows of six holes, with two larger goal holes on each side. Four marbles are placed in each of the smaller holes. Play begins when the first player scoops all of the marbles out of a hole on their side of the board, then deposits them one at a time around the board in a counterclockwise fashion. If the last marble lands in that player’s goal, they get to go again. Play continues back and forth until one player’s side is empty. Whoever captures the most marbles wins the game. There are more complex rules for older players, but elementary school aged children can play this basic method with some help. The best part about this game is that while it encourages planning ahead and visual perceptual skills, it is a fun way to address the fine motor skill of translation. The child needs to move the marbles into their palm, then use their thumb and index finger to maneuver the marbles, one at a time, to a pincer grasp before releasing the marble in a hole, all while maintaining grasp of the remaining marbles in the ulnar side of their hand. Translation skills are used for functional tasks such as picking up coins, and the ability to separate the two sides of the hand is important for activities like writing and cutting. Who knew a simple game could work on so much!
Indoor Proprioceptive Activities
With the wintry temperatures and the early sunsets, this time of year can be hard for children who crave proprioceptive input for regulation. Proprioceptive input is provided via activities such as pushing, pulling, dragging, squeezing, jumping, and crashing. Here are some ways to get this input while indoors.
- Helper jobs – have your child push a basket of laundry down the hall, use a push broom in the garage, carry (non-breakable) groceries, move chairs to sweep under the table, drag a blanket with books or toys to move them to another room, etc.
- Indoor obstacle course – create an obstacle course with steps like jumping over a pillow, crawling under a chair, catching a weighted ball, or tossing balled up socks to a target while sitting on a small yoga ball. Feeling stuck for steps? Find objects to go over, under, around and through. Have your child help with the set up and clean up for extra input.
- Mini-trampoline – small trampolines can be a great way of getting both movement and proprioceptive input. There are many trampolines available with handles for extra safety.
- Animal walks – have your child walk like a bear or a crab, jump like a bunny or frog, slither like a snake or even roll like a log.
- Wall push-ups – have your child stand facing the wall with hands on the wall at shoulder level, and bend his elbows to complete a push-up movement. Start with 10 and see if your child wants to do more. Younger children can help “make the rooms bigger” by pushing on the walls.
- Tug-of-War – clear an area of furniture or other objects. Make a line with tape on the floor. Lay a rope across the line so an equal amount of rope is on each side. Have each person grab an end of the rope. At the count of three, begin pulling on the rope. Whoever pulls the most or all of the rope over to his or her side of the halfway line wins the game. You can also use a jump rope, long scarf, old sheet, pillowcase or blanket. Tying knots at the ends of the object may make it easier to hold on.
- Stationary bicycle – older children may benefit from using a stationary bicycle during the winter months. Allow your child to turn the resistance up or down to meet their proprioceptive needs. Be sure to monitor for safety.
Winning and Losing Games
Did your family get any new games during the holiday season? We all like to win games but for children with regulation difficulties, losing can be especially difficult. Here are some tips to help your child learn to lose a game more gracefully.
- Talk about the potential of losing ahead of time. Discuss it in a matter of fact way, “Sometimes we win, sometimes the other person wins. Everyone likes to win, but we’ll be OK if we lose. Games are for fun.”
- Be a good model. Clearly discuss how you reacted when your turn was skipped or your piece was sent back to Start. Identify how you felt disappointed or frustrated, but you took a deep breath to stay calm. Also talk about what you did not do, such as stomp your feet, hide your face or yell at the other player.
- Praise your child for what is going well. “Thanks for telling me I made a good move. That made me feel happy. That was a friendly thing to say.”
- Practice what to say at the end of a game, regardless of who won. For example, “Good game.” or “Thanks for playing, that was fun.”
- Use sports statistics to talk about winning and losing. Talk about how your favorite sports teams lose some of their games, or how specific athletes handle making mistakes or disappointments during a game
- Take a step back if you can see your child beginning to escalate during the game or as an impending loss draws near. Have your child take a deep breath or do some wall push-ups. Remind your child of the winning/losing concepts you discussed before the game. Taking a quick break may help your child gain perspective and avoid becoming dysregulated.
- Try a “Lose to Win” sticker chart. Make a chart with 4-8 boxes. If your child appropriately handles losing a game without escalation, they can place a sticker in one of the boxes. When the chart is full, they can choose a small prize for learning to lose with grace.
On Our Bookshelf: Top Ten Tips: A Survival Guild for Families with Children on the Autism Spectrum, by Teresa Cardon, MA, CCC-SLP
Audience: Parents and caregivers of children with sensory processing disorder or autism
Top Ten Tips: A Survival Guild for Families with Children on the Autism Spectrum is just that: a set of over 50 “Top Ten” lists relating to a wide range of practical, everyday topics. Although the title focuses on children with an ASD, much of the information presented in this book could also be appropriate for a child with sensory processing disorder or other related difficulties. The lists were compiled by Teresa Cardon, MA, CCC-SLP, with contributors including parents and siblings of individuals on the autism spectrum, occupational therapists, special education teachers, speech therapists, social workers and others who interact with individuals with autism. Top Ten Tips is a perfect book for the busy family who does not have the time to sit down and read a long narrative, but is looking for useful ways to manage daily events. The book consists entirely of easy to read lists with tried and true ideas to handle the difficulties that can arise around potty training, winning and losing games, homework, grocery shopping, birthday parties and more.
Available from major booksellers and the Autism Asperger Publishing Company.