DC Phone: 202-544-5439
VA Phone: 703-243-4601
Fax: 202-379-1797

Welcome to our October 2017 Newsletter! As always, we are so glad to share good information related to Occupational Therapy that might be of interest to you, your kids, or anybody that you know.

For our featured body part of the month, we continue discussing other important parts of the hand such as the FINGERS ("PHALANGES") , which ar e highly significant to fine motor skill development.

October is ADHD Awareness Month! So, we would like to feature a particular toy that builds one's concentration and relaxation - the "WEIGHTED PAD". It is a stuffed object that provides a calming effect through deep pressure and sensory integration. Also, we advance in our series about " Fine Motor Exercises" . For this month, we focus on Pencil Grasp and Finger Strengthening Activities to enhance hand function.

Enjoy reading!


Kristen Masci and the SOTH Staff

Newsletter October 2017 Issue
The Dynamic Tripod Grasp

Handwriting is influenced by the development of appropriate sensorimotor, perceptual and cognitive skills. One of the most common problems occupational therapists in the school are consulted about is improper pencil grasp. While the most efficient way to hold a pencil is the dynamic tripod grasp (figure 1) many other patterns are commonly seen in children and it does not always require intervention or modification. In the dynamic tripod grasp, the pencil is held between the thumb and index finger, with the pencil resting on the middle finger.

There are a variety of reasons why children hold their pencils in patterns other than the dynamic tripod. One common reason is that children are participating in a lot of writing before their hands are developmentally ready for this activity. This is becoming more and more common as parents and teachers try to start preparing children for school using writing activities at an earlier stage. 
Hand Development & Efficient Pencil Grasp

It is important to try to modify the pencil grasp as early as possible, since many students seem to have developed bad habits even before entering kindergarten. Adaptive pencil grips may be helpful in teaching students to modify their grasp and are used to facilitate an optimal pencil grasp. There are many different types of grips available. For a pencil grip to be effective, the student needs to be involved in choosing the grip and to understand the importance of using it.

The most optimal position for writing includes the ankle, knee and hip at right (90 degrees) angles with the forearms resting on the desk. The top of the desk should be approximately 2 inches above the elbows when the arms are at the student's side.
Playing jumping rope.
Volleyball-type activities where hands, paddles, or rackets are in a palm-up position
Squirt bottles.
Slinky-shift back and forth with palm up.
Bead stringing/lacing with tip of finger against thumb.
Practice screw and unscrew lids.
Pouring from small pitcher to specific level in clear glass. Increase size of pitcher as strength increases.
Pinch a pencil or chopstick positioned in tripod grasp toward and away from palm. The shaft should rest in open web space.
Pop bubble wrap
Play dough/silly putty activities
"Starting a Conversation with your OT"
"Finger Strengthening Exercises"
"What is the web space?"

 The web space refers to the circle that forms with the tip of the index finger and the thumb touching.  

"Why is the web space important? "

It is important to maintain this space for holding a pencil or crayon correctly. This allows for greater precision and stability on the writing utensil, and therefore more accurate handwriting. When you write with the correct grasp and keep an open web space, your hand will not tire as easily. Also, you need an open web space for grasping and pinching objects.
"How can I promote development of the web space?"           
  • Roll pieces of tissue paper into balls and glue onto paper to make pictures
  • Pop plastic packing bubbles
  • Play with wind-up toys that have a knob
  • Write with a broken pencil or crayon
  • Open/close zip lock bags
  • Spin tops
  • Use tweezers to pick up small objects
  • String beads onto a pipe cleaner or string
  • Make pictures by mixing food coloring with water. Pinch an eye dropper with thumb, index and middle fingers and drip the colored water onto paper towels
"Weighted Lap Pads"

  • Weighted lap pads are therapeutic materials good for proprioceptive input/ body awareness - a calming strategy to promote self-regulation (arousal, attention, etc.)
  • It can be used on lap, neck, or back while seated or laying down during nearly any activity such as listening, reading, or writing at a desk or floor.
  • This additional proprioceptive input may help to promote sustained attention and provide our sensory system with the input that it craves in order to be more functionally independent. 
  • To learn more options for making an easy weighted lap pad, check out this site: https://therapyfunzone.net/blog/make-weighted-lap-pads/

(Credits to Alexis Kimmelman, OTR/L)
Materials required:

  • Standard Size Pillow Case
  • Duct Tape
  • 2-Cup Measuring Cup
  • 8 Cups Birdseed, Dry Rice, or Polyethylene Pellets (Bean Bag Fill Pellets)
  • Large Mouth Funnel
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Marker or Chalk
  • Glue Gun (2 -3 Sticks of Glue)

*If you sew, you can use stitching wherever the instructions mention “glue”.

  1. Measure out about 12 inches from closed end and draw a line. You can adjust this for smaller or larger laps! Make sure you are giving extra length beyond the lap size so that you can fold over the edge and seal. 
  2. Cut across the line. You can use the left over fabric to make bean bags or another lap pad if you seal the other end.
  3. Turn the pillow case inside out and draw three or more straight lines. This will help you form “tunnels” and will help to even out where the filling goes. It is not absolutely necessary, but it does help to even out the distribution of the weight.
  4. Turn the pillow case back (right side out) and quickly form a thick line of glue onto the drawn line and press down to seal the two sides together. Continue this with the rest of the lines. You may need to have someone help to keep the pillow case open while you are doing this.
  5. Fill each tube with 1-2 cups of filling that you chose depending upon how heavy you want the final product to be.
  6. Seal across with glue, fold over the fabric and seal again, being careful to seal to the ends so filling does not leak from corners (you can fold over and glue the corners here to help with that).
  7. Fold over one more time and seal with decorative duct tape.

(Source: http://www.ebshealthcare.com/blogs/ot/2016/diy-weighted-lap-pad)
SOTH gives back to the community

Skills on the Hill strongly supports " Eli's Heart" , a non-profit organization that help families confronted by overwhelming medical bills and related expenses. Donations are accepted and distributed to families who are in dire need.

Check out their website and learn how you can help!


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Thank you parents and families! We appreciate your support.

Kristen Masci 
(202) 544 5439 / (703) 243 4601
Capitol Hill Office
405 8th St, NE
Washington, DC 20002

Arlington Office
3508 Lee Hwy
Arlington, VA 22207