While parents want to know all and believe they may know the best for their child, there comes [with a child on the spectrum] a very humbling moment. No matter how much research, learning, listening, and questioning we do there will come a moment.
A moment that you have to trust others. A moment that you realize you don’t know. A moment that you realize that no matter how much you love your child…that someone else knows them better than you. Someone else get them. Someone else knows how to help them.
This is a tough moment – especially for proud parents who do the research, the learning, the listening, and the questioning.
Get to know these folks and open your lives to them. It’s hard…I know.
During my first conversation with Tucker’s Occupational Therapist (OT) I had that moment. It was a strange feeling to feel relieved and a total stress ball all at the same time. I knew all of these things about my child…but I didn’t have the language yet. I didn’t really know how to talk about all of his ‘weirdness.’ But she did…
That’s when it began. His OT wanted to work on his hand strength. It turned out that he was having trouble writing because his fine motor skills were not developing properly. This inhibited his ability to have good penmanship. I knew his writing was awful, but I just figured he would ‘grow out of it.’ Not so, not without some OT AMAZINGNESS.
Her first trick?
“Nikki, do you have an end table? A table that is close to the ground that he can crawl under”
“Here is what I want you to do. Tape a piece of paper to the underside of that table. Give him something to write with. Throw a blanket over the table to turn it into a writing fort [tricky, tricky…trying to make it fun]. Have him crawl under that table with you. Just ask him to draw, to write, to doodle. Anything – it doesn’t really matter what he is drawing, doodling, or writing. The point of this is to increase strength in his hand. Gravity will pull the crayon, pencil, pen out of his hand. He will have to hold on tight and that will increase his strength. In turn…this will help his penmanship.”
So, I did…and it worked…two months later…
“No, I want you to take a can of Pringles – full of chips. Attach it to the short end of a clipboard. Part of the reason Tucker is struggling to write is that he’s using his gross motor skills. That’s the way he has developed – he has compensated and coped to make it work – because he is a smart cookie. He has figured ways around the problem, but now we actually need to work on correcting the problem. Tell him it’s a special ‘treat board.’ Put paper on that clipboard – put his homework – put anything on that clipboard. Just like the writing fort. Use that clipboard every time he writes. Tell him to grab a Pringle whenever he wants – that way he’ll keep using it.”
“Now, what will happen is that when he tries to use gross motor skills his elbow will hit the table. He’s writing like he’s at a chalkboard, moving his entire arm. We have to get him to just move his hand. That’s what this will force him to do.”
Let’s be very honest – no matter how much research, learning, listening, and questioning I would have done. I would have NEVER known to do this.
So, Kris Freitag, wherever you are….God Bless You.
For this… (at age 8)