Friday, August 1, 2008

Handwriting program for a 6 year old

Hi- This is a request about a little boy who is almost six years of age, who can write 12 out of 26 letters when he uses his strong interest of Harry Potter, (eg writing Harry & Malfoy) however when writing the alphabet from memory he he can only really write 10 letters, and of these they are mixed between capital and lower case. The letters are not written in correct sequence. It was also noted that this boy has difficulties with attention and overall gross motor skills, immature drawing and social skills.
This boy will not get ongoing GSE help, probably will only get about four visits from a therapist, there is however a RTLB to work in with, mum is supportive, however no teacher aide.

Following is what I recommended off the top of my head to the therapist who requested some assistance. Next week I will resubmitt this posting and add my reasoing behind each suggestion.
Hi, Hmmmmmm, your 6 year old boy. Needs a structured program. Try and use the teachers program first if she has one, however if your feel that it is a bit hap hazard. Suggest her using a commercial one for her class. Possibly if you show her a range she and you could discuss them....pull the RTLB in as well see what she uses with kids.........and choose one that mets her way of teaching.

You could create a handwriting program, but for the amount of time you have, finding a commercial one is probably easier. Go to the education resource shop and see what you can find. Since you are only at the school for a short while, supplying some sort of program that is all there for them may work best. If the teacher does already use a structured program like jolly phonics or whatever, use this as a base.......then get mum doing the same pages for homework at night with one on one feedback, modeling and coaching. For each letter the boy learns, get him to name it eg H is for Harry G is for ghosts, then from there on the mum and teacher could use that word to cue his memory ...I need you to write me a "h" like in harry. ....or "it starts with the same letter as ghost starts with , what letter is that"?

Use a reward system, working with good effort and attention with mum at night equals = something important to him, eg mum reading some of Harry Potter or watching ten minutes of Harry Potter........or after five nights of really trying hard with handwriting -watching the DVD of Harry. Use the whole sticker chart motivation thing......

Another way of approaching handwriting is through spelling. At six he needs to learn some basic spelling words. So handwriting and spelling could be done together. His handwriting could be copying spelling words, learning the letter names within a word and how to spell them. Work through the first core reading words, and use these as his spelling words. Let me know if you need a list.

He could learn three words a week, focusing on one word each night, then Thursday night review all of the words. Writing the word out with mums hand over hand support if needed ten times, saying the letters as he writes them (block practice) Learning letters through words would help give him something more concrete to pin his memory onto. At the end of learning the spelling word he could use it in a sentence about Harry Potter in which mum writes down, and he reads back to her. eg spelling word is 'is'. The boy may come up with the sentence. Harry is making a spell with his wand. His mum writes it down. They then read it together pointing to each word as they read. Mum then asks the boy to circle the word is. The boy circles the word is, and then mum says how do you spell is. With mums support the boys says I S. Randomly during the next day the teacher asks the boy to spell his word, or to say the letters within the word. The teacher is aware of the word as mum has written it on his hand. If the boy needs to look at his hand during the spelling and reading of the word that is ok. As they move through the day they encourage the boy to spell it verbally or in writing without looking at the model on his hand. That night mum teaches a new word, then reviews the old word and then finishes the session with the new word.

Time his concentration for handwriting tasks. If it is a minute get mom to do the handwriting page, one minute at a time then go do something else like play with lego of hand skills activities, and then come back and do another minutes work, with the plan to build up his sustained concentration for 5 minutes.

Attention, try and work out what distracts him the most during tasks. Modify the environment, seating place etc. Does the teacher move closer to him when she is giving directions, standing closer to someone can help increase there attention. Attention is a skill that can be influenced by teaching the skill of attention, Find out his understanding about this task of attending. Explicitly teach him what to do, eg stop look and listen. What did the teacher say to do? Can you tell it back to me, if you haven't heard what the teacher said, what else can we do to work out what we need to do?
Reinforcing attending skills may be something the RTLB can follow up with?

As he is a bit socially challenged, it is highly likely that he doesn't work life out by watching others. He needs someone to spell it out for him. Set routines and rules are probably or possibly helpful for this boy. Consider visual schedule type of supports?

Hand skills.........
A very simple hand skills task is coloring on the wall, holding a small coin in his fourth and fifth fingers, while holding the paper still with his stabilizing hand. Do this at eye level hight. Us a small piece of tape in the center of the paper to hold it to the wall, This helps encourage the child to hold the paper as it moves if they don't stabilize with the other hand. Colouring in Harry Potter pictures, can get some off internet. .

See what the RTLB is working on, work in with her. As he is almost six he may be able to get reading recovery - if there school does this, they also work on writing skills.

Plant sprayer in the bath at bath time is another easy one, kids love it.

An obvious suggestions, but have you had his eyes tested?


~Jess~ said...

Hi Rita

Seems like motivation, and working collaboratively with mum and teacher is the key!
Interested -the differences in writing from memory vs writing harry potter words!!

Talk about some intense work the therapist has to do within the short time frame...
Concerns me how children might go if there parents wernt as supportive as this boy's??

Liked how you lead the therapist to use the teachers programmes if possible first - get a good working relatinship that way i guess.

Its a nice account of how you incororate all of the strategies and intervention techniques into a case.

Glad most of it make sense to me! Reinforces how complex cases can be tho!

~Jess~ said...

Another note...prehaps everyone could think of the rationale for your decisions for advice. ??

Rita said...

Hi Jess, motivation is definitely one key.
Opportunity, that is structured and logical, and based on sound teaching learning principles are others. Actually when I think about it, many keys are needed to open the door for kids struggling with handwriting and literacy learning.

I think that using a child's interests like Harry Potter does two things, firstly the motivation thing, which then affects attention, and then allows what is being learnt to be practiced enough to get stored into the long term memory. Another way of thinking about it is that using the boys strong interest in Harry Potter, enables a road into his memory that is already formed, so in many ways I'm hoping that by using this interest area the letter knowledge of form, shape and sound will catch a ride into the long term memory.

Take care Rita

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