Occupational therapy in grade 1?
“My son is normal and active and reached all his milestones on time. He’s in Grade 1 and the teacher wants him to go to occupational therapy. She says he has poor fine motor control and his pencil grip isn’t good. His handwriting is a bit untidy, but surely that’s to be expected in Grade 1? Lots of kids in his class are in some form of therapy. Do you think it’s necessary?”
Boy in school

There are many reasons for problems around fine motor development, which influence things like pencil grip. More boys than girls appear to have delays in this area. We can attribute some of these delays to modern lifestyles.

In this age of T-shirts, Velcro and takkies, TV, DVDs and computers, children have fewer opportunities to practice fine motor skills in activities such as drawing, painting, cutting, gluing, moulding, threading, weaving, tying, building blocks or doing puzzles. Your child needs opportunities to increase the strength of the small muscles of the hand and fingers.

The activities mentioned above will help in this regard. Another idea is to make a workshop board full of nuts, bolts, screws and keys to turn, and allow him to fiddle with discarded appliances such as clocks and watches. All these activities help in the strengthening of his small muscles; which is what is being referred to when we talk of fine motor development.

Accompanying fine motor development is gross motor development which refers to the development of the large muscles. In this regard outdoor play is vital: climbing, swinging and playing with sand and water. Developmental milestones aren’t always rigidly chronological, and it’s unfortunate that if a child’s pencil grip isn’t perfect to begin with it’s sometimes seen as a case for therapy rather than for less formal intervention.

It’s true that a lot of children in Grade 1 have untidy handwriting, although “Untidy” in itself is a subjective assessment. Allowing this to be the dominant focus at this time could have an impact on his love of learning and his self esteem.

Don’t rush into therapy, rather discuss other approaches with his teacher, things that can be done in and out of school that encourage fine motor development, and then reassess his development later in the year. 

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