DEVELOPING SKILLFUL HANDS
By: Carmen Willings
All students need to develop strength and dexterity to complete everyday tasks. This is especially important for future braille learners in order to be able to use the braillewriter and slate and stylus. Remember the Occupational Therapist can be a great resource for activities to develop these skills. The Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) has a great list of motor activities to encourage pre-braille skills.
Importance of Fine Motor Skills
The development of fine motor skills is important for all students to develop, but is especially important for students who are visually impaired and blind as they rely on their hands to learn about their world. Fine motor skills include palmar grasp, grasp with thumb and fingers, pincer grasp, release, rotary motion, finger isolation, bilateral hand use, hand and finger strength, proper finger position, light touch, and tactual tracking skills. It is important to play with and manipulate a variety of toys and materials that are tactually interesting and to talk to the student about what they are feeling. Fine motor skills become refined through practice and participating in activities that require manipulation of hands and fingers. Learn more about development of fine motor skills on the Developing Skillful Hands page of this website.
Finger Strength & Grip
Developing finger strength and grip are important skills for all students, particularly for students who will be braille readers/writers. The following are age-neutral activities to help develop finger strength and grip.
Once students begin exploring objects, encourage them to begin to manipulate the objects by banging, shaking, squeezing, poking, pushing, pulling, and moving various parts. Provide a variety of shaped and sized containers for the students to explore. Place toys/objects inside and encourage the student to reach in and pull them out as well as put them back in. Give the student objects that can be put together and pulled apart. Provide toys and objects that are wrapped and have the students unwrap them. Encourage the students to use two hands in an organized manner to manipulate objects (e.g., grasp/release, twist/turn, rotate and examine, open/close, stack, nest). Demonstrate how to perform different actions with the objects to help expand their play skills.
Developing Skillful Hands
Developing skillful hands is important skills for all students, especially for students who will be braille readers/writers. The following are age-neutral activities to help develop finger strength and grip.Students can also explore items to take apart and examine such as old toasters, flashlights or radios.
TVI's Guide to Teaching the ECC: An Activities Based Curriculum for Teaching Students who are Blind and Visually Impaired. 32 Thematic Units and over 450 age neutral ECC activities in one book! Available as a pdf digital download.
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Due to the nationwide shortage of vision professionals, it can be challenging to locate personnel. Announce a job vacancy on the Job Exchange of Teaching Students with Visual Impairments, an online listing of jobs specific to the visual impairment field.
Motor Activities to Develop Pre-Braille Skills
You are welcome to print and use this list of motor activities that can help develop tactual skills and pre-braille skills.
Resources from APH
Hands On Kit: Functional Activities for Visually Impaired Preschoolers This kit, available from APH, provides suggestions on helping children develop skills such as concentration and hand and visual coordination. The work-play trays help define the work space.