I went shopping yesterday and found a solution that I had been looking for and wasn’t sure I’d ever find it. I was in a big national retail store shopping through the $1 and $3 section and found this chalkboard stand for $3. To anyone else, it might not have come across as a solution for teaching handwriting. I thought I’d share with you in case you are in the same need as me.
I don’t know what your experience has been with your child and fine motor tasks, but mine has been challenging. Children with low muscle tone, as most with Down syndrome have, creates and bit of harder work accomplishing what we with regular muscle tone take for granted. My son is now 6 years old and entering first grade. Ever since I can remember, fine motor tasks that would have been considered fun, have lasted mere minutes or seconds, kneading dough, playing play doh, even coloring. My son enjoys being more physically active and that is where his strength is.
After last year’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) meeting where I was asking for additional support and having to change his end of year goals, I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. Not only did I not get the additional occupational therapy support I was asking for, I felt that his goals were then reduced to lower expectations which made me very uncomfortable. Needless to say, that discomfort lit a fire inside me to make sure that no matter what, my son and I would somehow work on fine motor, especially handwriting over the summer.
The wonderful thing is that with today’s technology, there are apps for handwriting. Because we use the iPad as a reward system, we needed to look at a more tangible way for him to practice handwriting and limit his electronic usage.
We had been introduced to the Handwriting without Tears (1) methodology a couple years ago by an occupational therapist though the school system. I tried it with Jack last summer, but he wasn’t motivated to try it nor was I consistent.
As I have written about before, sleep has been a major concern within our household. Because that was a major focus to get resolved this summer, whenever Jack would awaken early and refuse to go back to sleep, it gave me an indirect incentive to get him to either choose “ go back to sleep or practice handwriting, your choice.”
What I needed to do to make the chalkboard stand easier for him to use is to remove the backing to it that helped it be propped to stand. It was rather simple and only took a flat head screwdriver and hammer. Then the back was completely flat and with it turned upside down, he used the tray holder as a way to hold onto it while he wrote.
This morning after an uninterrupted night’s sleep but an early morning start, of 5:30 it was time to try it out. With hand over hand instruction, Jack was quickly able to follow the edges to make a capital L. After 10 attempts on the small chalkboard, I asked him to do it independently on his easel. It was the clearest L he had written!