Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Put Your Arms In The Air Like You Just Don't Care!

In an effort to make this blog more informative for my readers, I am going to begin sharing interesting and helpful blog posts that I stumble upon.  For some reason, it hadn't occurred to me until just today that if I found these articles helpful, that my readers would also feel the same way.  The internet is a wonderful resource, especially when working with children. There is a ridiculous (in the best way possible) amount of information out there to be shared with everyone.  However,trying to sift through all the information can be exhausting and time-consuming.  So thanks to Kristin, here is my first article share blog post!

Today, the mom of one of my clients sent me a great article that talked about the importance of working on a vertical surface.  It was written by Lauren Drobjnak, a pediatric therapist and mother who began The Inspired Treehouse with her colleagues in order to share playful activities for children that promote development and wellness.  Their belief is that if kids are given a little help, they can build strong and healthy bodies and minds through play and exploration.  Do yourself a favor and check out and subscribe to their blog here...I promise you won't be disappointed by their emails.

Motor Skills and More!  Working on a Vertical Surface is a quick, easy and informative read about
what can be achieved by working on a vertical surface.  Some of you may be asking "What is a vertical surface!?!?".  Simply put, a vertical surface is a chalkboard or an easel... a surface that is on an incline that requires a child to have to raise their arms in order to write on it.  It is something that requires upper body strength and endurance.  When I was growing up, there was a chalkboard in every classroom I entered.  Daily, I was asked to go up and answer a math question or write the answer to a teacher's question on that board.  I never would have imagined that that simple task, something that seems so "normal" to so many of us, would be something that isn't really part of a kid's school routine these days.  Nowadays, we have the SmartBoard or a dry erase board in classrooms.  You may not sneeze because of all the dust from the chalk, but it will serve the same purpose in writing on a raised surface and sharing information with your classmates.

Whenever I am asked by parents about what can be done at home to help support our work in therapy, one of the first things I suggest is to get an easel.  Living in NYC, some parents worry that they don't have the space for a large and bulky object...space is limited and we all know that kids come needing a lot of things to keep them busy!  For those parents, I suggest that they get a chalkboard or a dry erase board that can be mounted to the back of a door or the wall of a bedroom.

Working on a vertical surface can be beneficial for children of all ages, especially those who need to work on increasing core strength and postural stability.  Depending on the height of the working surface, you can have a child kneel, stand or sit on a therapy ball to draw, paint or write.  Another great thing about working on the vertical is that it is ideal for working on improving bilateral coordination skills.  I have kids hold a piece of paper up with one hand while using their other to hold the writing instrument.  This article talks about playing with stencils to also work on developing skills.  Please click here to learn about all the other benefits of working on the vertical that Lauren Drobjnak talks about.  

Fort those of you wondering what kind of vertical surfaces would be good for you and your home, I have provided a few suggestions below.
Chalkboard Wallie (Extra Large)-these extra large panels can easily be repositioned and placed wherever is most convenient/space allows.  Hang on the refrigerator, the back of a door or in a playroom.  I have one of their smaller versions hanging in my kitchen and my daughter has loved drawing pictures and practicing writing her letters on it.  They are easy to clean and can be used with any kind of chalk.  Be sure to hang them up in a way that makes your child have to have their arms extended in order to work on increasing upper body strength.

Dry Erase Board-there are a lot of dry erase boards to choose from that will work on all of the things mentioned in Motor Skills and More!  Working on a Vertical Surface.  I have always been partial to this one by The Container Store simply because it takes up no room at all and is easy to hang up.  It can go on the back of a door, inside a closet or wherever you happen to have the space for.   Also, another important thing, it is very reasonably priced!

Artist's Portrait Easel-if you happen to have the real estate in your apartment for a real deal easel, don't look any further than this one by Land Of Nod.  When my mother asked me what she could get my daughter for a Christmas gift one year, this was the one and only thing that came to mind.  It's been a favorite of Quinn's for years and has gotten so much use since it was gifted to her.  My favorite thing about this easel is that while it is large, it isn't bulky.  It can be folded up and set against a wall without taking up too much space.  Another great feature is that it is double-sided and can be used for many things.  One side has a chalkboard while the other has a dry-erase board.  That's not all...at the top you will find a place to hold a roll of paper for drawing with crayons or markers or paintbrush or finger-painting.  A bonus factor.....it's modern and sleek looking.

Backpack Slant Board-Fun and Function, one of my favorite therapeutic catalogues, has a variety of slant boards to choose from.  I recommend slant boards for many of the older kids I work with for homework time.  Slant boards are great because they don't take up a lot of room.  This one I have
suggested is even better because it can easily fold up and fit into a child's backpack making it easy for them to transport back and forth with them.  The most important thing about using a slant board for kids with graphomotor difficulties is that the design of a slant board automatically puts the wrist in an extended position, thus encouraging hand stabilization for greater ease in controlling writing instruments.  I don't only use this for handwriting/grasphomotor activities...when using an iPad in therapy, I will put the iPad on it to accomplish the same thing.

Thank you to The Inspired Treehouse for this wonderful and informative article!  I hope you all find this as helpful as I did!

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