QUESTION:

I recently attended your workshop and wanted to start by letting you know how much I enjoyed your presentation! I am an OT currently treating a 12-year-old girl for handwriting speed-and-legibility difficulties. Her sensory processing issues include toe walking and poor body awareness in general. What therapeutic activities would be beneficial to her?

GWEN’S ANSWER:

Here’s how I would structure a typical treatment session with this 12 year old:

  • Start with activities that involve a prone position and require “heavy work” (proprioceptive input): on tummy on a scooter using hands to move herself, prone over a therapy ball to do a puzzle, etc. Toe walking is an indicator that she needs a lot of proprioceptive input, and these types of activities are best for developing body awareness.
  • Next, tackle handwriting. If she’s primarily struggling with speed and legibility, it is likely that she never developed automatic handwriting. Try this:
    • Have her stand in front of a chalkboard and print a sentence at eye level. Make sure she prints large enough, so she has to use shoulder and elbow movements. The more joints involved, the better the information is processed.
    • Ask her to write the same sentence in a way that provides tactile feedback, such as using her finger to write in a sand tray or in shaving cream.
    • Next, have her write the sentence again on unlined paper then one more time—now on lined paper.
    • If she’s doing well, finish with her writing the sentence for the last time on unlined paper.

These strategies will help her handwriting to become more automatic and fluid.

For additional input to increase body awareness, she could complete the above activities while wearing ankle and wrist weights.

On the home front, I would recommend a sensory diet that includes a trampoline and LOTS of gross motor play in general (biking, jumping rope, swinging, etc.).

Best Wishes,
Gwen