For a child receiving occupational therapy services, homework involves more than just sitting down and focusing. Your child may have trouble holding his pencil, writing letters with appropriate size and formation, or difficulty copying notes from his textbook.
You may see your child's occupational therapist at IEP meetings or periodically around progress report time. These meetings are typically filled with lots of reports and information from a variety of specialists, and can be overwhelming as you try to take it all in, while still asking the questions you need to ask.
This list of questions tackle some of the important areas of concern for strengthening your child's skills through homework.
What paper should she be writing on? For a student with handwriting challenges, the type of paper she uses is a crucial piece of the homework puzzle. Depending on the size of the letters she is producing, the occupational therapist will choose a paper that supports her current skills. Ask the occupational therapist where to purchase the paper so you can have the same paper on hand at home. Also, ask if there are any modifications - such as highlighting the bottom line to signify to your child to stop.
Does he need a pencil grip?Some students use a pencil grip, which come in a variety of styles and slides on to any pencil, in order to promote an appropriate grasp. As with the paper, ask the occupational therapist where to purchase the correct grip so your child uses the same tools at school and at home. This is crucial to build his muscle memory of the correct position of his fingers.
Does she have difficulty copying notes?If so, you may have to highlight the area for her to copy or write one sentence on paper for her to copy. Ask how far the material can be for her to read and copy successfully. Ask for specific strategies and expectations as far as how much she is capable of writing without becoming overly tired or frustrated.
Should he do hand strengthening exercises?There may be some quick and easy hand strengthening exercises you can do at home with your child. Depending on his fine motor strengths and weaknesses, the occupational therapist may suggest simple activities, like pinching clothes pins, playing with putty, or picking up coins.
Does she need breaks?The occupational therapist should be able to give you an estimate of how much work your child can do before reaching her frustration point. She may become tired or feel stress because these activities are challenging for her.
Should he do any sensory-based activities before sitting down? Depending on your child's sensory needs, the occupational therapist may suggest some activity to address a specific area or need in your child's sensory system. She may suggest brushing, joint compressions, or a body sock. Ask her to show you the specific techniques associated with each, as a wrong move could have the adverse affect on your child's sensory system. You may want to observe her implementing these strategies first to get a sense of the routine.
Consult with your child's occupational therapist often, as her skills and needs will change. Ask her to write down strategies step-by-step if it's easier for you to follow them. Don't forget to observe occupational therapy sessions as well as the general classroom. These skills affect all areas of your child's life and a little bit of practice can go a long way!
Jennifer Cerbasi teaches at a public school for children on the autism spectrum in New Jersey. As a coordinator of Applied Behavioral Analysis programs in the home, she works with parents to create and implement behavioral plans for their children in an environment that fosters both academic and social growth. In addition to her work both in the classroom and at home, she is also a member of the National Association of Special Education Teachers and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Jennifer is an educational consultant who works with families and educators to establish healthy and productive routines in the home and school. Adapting behavior management techniques she implemented for years as a special educator, she helps parents and teachers adopt these tools to fit their unique needs and priorities. Jennifer also speaks to parent and education groups on current topics in education and children's health. Visit www.jennifercerbasi.com