While fine motor practice is totally important for all kids, it takes on a new level of importance with disabled kids. A-Man’s dyspraxia makes learning new motor skills extremely difficult for him. Cap’n M has a developmental delay that makes it really difficult for him to reach new milestones. Because of that, it’s super important that we spend plenty of time working on fine motor skills with each of the boys so that they can work towards handwriting, cutting, and other major fine motor milestones. So today in our fine motor fun series, we’re going to chat about fine motor practice in a special needs homeschool.
Fine Motor Practice in a Special Needs Homeschool
Fine motor skills are one thing that moms of typical children tend to take for granted. Their kids naturally develop the pincer grasp as babies when they start feeding themselves Cheerios, and their hand strength naturally develops until they’re holding pencils in kindergarten. With disabled kids, many of those natural developments don’t happen so naturally. That’s why fine motor practice in a special needs homeschool is such a big deal!
Why Fine Motor Practice is So Important for Disabled Kids
When we began therapy for Cap’n M, he was about 15 months old. He couldn’t use his pointer and thumb to pick up Cheerios like other babies could. He couldn’t even use his full hand to pick up and manipulate most baby toys. We spent months in intensive physical and occupational therapy working on both his gross motor and fine motor skills, and his progress has been tremendous. Even now, though, at nearly 4 years old, Cap’n M struggles with certain fine motor skills because his hands are so small for his age and lack the strength needed for most activities.
A-Man’s fine motor struggles are more complicated than Cap’n M’s because they aren’t just a delay or lack of strength. See, dyspraxia is essentially a disconnect between the brain and the muscles, so A-Man has no real “muscle memory”. Every time he picks up a pencil, he has to really think through every muscle movement necessary to pick up that pencil. As you can imagine, that makes it really difficult to master new skills.
While these are just two examples of my disabled kids, there are about a million other ways that disabled children could be struggling with fine motor skills. It’s vital that fine motor practice becomes a regular part of your homeschool to help your kids develop their fine motor skills to the best of their individual ability.
How to Balance Fine Motor Practice with Accommodations
One area where I struggle with fine motor practice in our special needs homeschool is how to balance practicing and improving fine motor skills with allowing accommodations for our disabled kids. I mean, Cap’n M’s hands are just little. There are some fine motor milestones that all of the practice in the world won’t help because his hands just aren’t big enough.
In our homeschool, we focus on a particular fine motor skill to practice regularly and provide accommodations for the rest. With A-Man this year we’re really focusing on his grip. He struggles with handwriting, but there are a bunch of components to improving handwriting. We took it down to a basic skill level. We regularly practice his pencil grasp and work towards that every day. The other parts of handwriting that he struggles with, like pushing hard enough for the pencil to mark clearly, we can accommodate. In that example, we typically allow using markers which don’t take as much strength and force.
We regularly practice his pencil grasp and work towards that every day. The other parts of handwriting that he struggles with, like pushing hard enough for the pencil to mark clearly, we can accommodate. In that example, we typically allow using markers which don’t take as much strength and force.
Fun Ways to Sneak Fine Motor Practice into a Special Needs Homeschool
I pinky promise that fine motor practice in your special needs homeschool doesn’t have to be a battle with your kids. You can sneak in fine motor practice in super fun ways, and your kids won’t even realize they’re practicing such important developmental skills!
We love using our I Can Pound! Kit to practice fine motor skills without the kids realizing that’s what they’re doing. The pegs are shaped to help improve the pencil grasp, and the hammer is weighted to improve hand strength.
We also do a lot of play-doh throughout the week. A-Man and Cap’n M probably use play-doh at the table 2-3 days a week at least. All they know is that they’re playing and making a bunch of snakes, but I know that they’re developing their fine motor skills that will help them long-term. (Hint: We also have them cut with play-doh before they’re ready to cut paper!)
We also talked about a bunch of ways that we work on improving handwriting without writing earlier in the fine motor fun series! There are tons of ways to incorporate fine motor practice in a special needs homeschool. I hope this post gave you some fun ideas to try out!
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