One Step Forward….

June 15, 2008 at 8:49 pm 10 comments

     C has been in occupational therapy since he was 9 months old, for both fine motor (hand) skills and sensory issues. Lately, however, I’ve been hearing rumblings that perhaps he doesn’t need OT anymore. Why, then, has he just learned to tie his shoes, and why did it take 9 months to teach him? Why does he struggle so to button and zip his pants? As it turns out, motor planning issues (getting messages from the brain to the places they need to go) have likely taken over from fine motor skills in terms of causing C trouble. The fine motor issues are still a bit behind, but he’s finally closing the gap. We’ve been waiting for this. He’s always made progress, but he just never caught up. He’s close now, very close.

     Yet the biggest issue remains. Why does he seem so challenged by handwriting? He is capable of writing neatly, nicely, but he mostly doesn’t. He forms some of his letters strangely, which has resulted in handwriting that just has not improved. Enter a group of highly specialized occupational therapists who deal only with handwriting issues. Partway through the evaluation, the OT had checked the “mastered” box on many of the tasks C was required to perform, with only a few “improvement needed” scattered throughout. Was I crazy? Was his handwriting fine?

     No, not even close. First, the joint in his thumb is very loose and floppy, which we’ve known for years. His thumb doesn’t have the strength and stability to help him write well. What we didn’t know is that something could be done for it. A bright blue thumb splint is on it’s way to our house in the mail. Second, he actually forms over half his letters incorrectly. He is writing half his letters from the top, half from the bottom, which is very difficult to do. It’s a perfect explanation for why, when he tries hard and takes his time, he can write fairly well. When he speeds up, however, it deteriorates. The answer? A week long handwriting camp, which actually seems quite fun, that will retrain him to write letters correctly. 

     Third, and perhaps the most troubling, relates to his vision. There is something going on with his eyes. It’s not the usual eye issues that a regular old eye doc handles. This requires a special kind of optometrist, one who specializes in developmental eye issues. C will likely need vision therapy, a series of appointments that will retrain his eyes to work properly together, which they are probably not doing at the moment.

     Here we are again; about to embark on yet another therapy. We’ll drop one to make room for another, always leaving time for C to just be a kid. As I read up on vision therapy, I am astounded how little I knew before and once again find myself wishing I had known about this sooner. Yet, like everything else, this therapy is probably falling into C’s life when he needs it most, when it has the chance of helping him the most.     

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Weekend Warrior Link Where did everybody go???

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Carole Rule  |  June 15, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    It’s as frustrating to the parent as it is to the children isn’t it. My daughter wore what the dr called prism lenses for awhile but it did help her. Keep the faith and know you are not alone.

    I’m hoping the vision therapy is as “fun” and “interesting” for him as the handwriting camp looks to be, because once therapies stop being fun for him is when we usually go another route. But I get the feeling this one will be really important, so unless it feels completely off we’ll probably push through it as I know in the long run it will be for the greater good. Thanks for stopping by!

  • 2. lastcrazyhorn  |  June 15, 2008 at 11:59 pm

    Check it out. I’m surprised that you don’t read her already.


    As for me, I recently changed the way I hold a pencil. I put it between my index and middle fingers now when I write and then place my thumb at the bottom to form a sort of 3 fingered fulcrum (to steal a percussionist term).

    My handwriting’s neater now.

    You know, I had seen the name of that blog around, but didn’t realize who it was. Cool! Thanks for sharing it with me!

    It’s funny – part of me wants to say the heck with it, and let him write however he writes. At the same time, when there are real issues (as in the joint mobility) playing out, I want to help him with those issues so that there’s one less thing he has to struggle with. I think any parent would do so. It’s hard, however, when there’s lots of issues to know how to prioritize, and I always want to make sure C has lots and lots of time to just be a kid. I guess I’m pretty happy that OT might be phasing out somewhat (except for the SI piece, of course), and that vision therapy has a beginning and an end instead of it being ongoing. It feels like maybe we’re getting somewhere, and that feels good.

  • 3. lastcrazyhorn  |  June 16, 2008 at 12:14 am

    It is pretty interesting how many people do that top and bottom thing. What I hear in much of what they are saying is the “stigma” that was attached to it for them – people telling them they are stupid for writing that way and such. While I guess we’ll never know for sure until he grows up, I tend to think Husband and I (and everyone else in C’s life) do a really great job of making sure C doesn’t feel that way (especially because no one around him feels that way about him). He certainly notices that he has a hard time with writing sometimes, and we’ve talked to him about how this camp will help make it easier for him, and how the splint will help his hand not hurt (which he complains about constantly at home) when he writes. We haven’t tackled the vision thing yet with him, but at the moment, he’s begging for glasses because several of his classmates have them, and he’s green with envy. So we’ll probably go that route when trying to make vision therapy sound fun.

  • 4. T$  |  June 16, 2008 at 5:35 am

    geez, it’s never ending…

    True, but I’m pretty psyched that he’s sort of moving on from something. I, of course, always think that each newly discovered “issue” or “concern” will be the last and of course it never is! But after reading more about vision therapy, I see a lot of areas that it might help C with. One parent talked about having “catch a ball” written into his child’s IEP for YEARS (as it has been on C’s), and it wasn’t until he had vision therapy that he all of a sudden seemed more coordinated athletically. So we shall see….I have high hopes that it might really help some things he struggles with.

  • 5. jesch30  |  June 16, 2008 at 7:39 am

    I know some adults who could use a trip to handwriting camp…

    I know…it actually looked quite fun, one was going on while we were there and C was just dying to get out there and join in. I guess they have to make these things entertaining otherwise no one would do it!

  • 6. Dominick M. Maino, OD, MEd, FAAO, FCOVD-A  |  June 16, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Optometric Vision Therapy has been available for decades and is suported by research and NEI sponsored clinical trials. I would suggest that you go to for more information and to find a doctor near you. Good luck.

    Dominick M. Maino, OD, MEd, FAAO, FCOVD-A
    Professor of Pediatrics/Binocular Vision
    Illinois College of Optometry/Illinois Eye Institute

    Thanks, doc. I now know it has been around for a long time – just wish I had known about it sooner. Ah, well, hindsight is 20/20. Hah hah! But seriously, thanks. We’re looking forward to getting started!

  • 7. Pam Happ  |  June 17, 2008 at 6:38 am

    I too am amazed at how so little is known about vision therapy. I am the executive director of a group of optometrists and vision therapists who specialize in vision therapy. I joined them two years ago and prior to that I had never heard of vision therapy. We’re trying to help spread the word but we’re a small organization (in existence since 1971) and can only do so much with the funds we have available. It’s parents like you that are helping to spread the word. As parents learn more, they begin demanding better optometric care.

    It’s amazing, once you hear about something, it seems like it everywhere. All of a sudden I’m hearing about vision therapy from all sorts of people. Go figure. We just set our appointment today for the eval and I can’t wait!

  • 8. awalkabout  |  June 17, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    Hahaha tying shoes….I remember a particularly strained time when Captain Oblivious was about 4 or 5 and just COULDN’T tie his shoes. COULDN’T. So we practiced and practiced and practiced. And practiced. And finally one day he was sitting on the floor of my office and he gave this HUGE sigh, and he said, “Tying your shoes is one of the hardest things in the world. Just like finding an army.”
    Beats the hell out of me. So I got him velcro-fastened shoes. Because I was afraid of that Army appearing out of nowhere.*nod*

    That is pretty funny! Love the army comment…it’s so perfectly random. I did do velcro shoes for a long time. I think velcro on shoes is the best thing ever. Yet like so many things C wants to do these days, it’s all about what the other kids are doing…and dang, his deskmate could tie her shoes in mere seconds, so he had to figure out how to copy her! At the moment, I’m loving peer pressure. Not sure down the road, however. 😉

  • 9. LoisR  |  June 17, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    I am always amazed at the number of kids who ‘draw’ their letters and numbers…any which way but right. Having taught 4th grade for soooooo many years, I always blamed the K-3 teachers ahead of me for not correcting the way the kids held their pencils and formed their letters.
    I’d like to know more about this handwriting program C will attend…and if it really helps him.

    I will let you know – they are quite successful in terms of being busy and booked, so that’s a good sign. He goes the week of July 7th for a couple of hours each morning, so I’ll keep you posted!

  • 10. Ms. Mc  |  June 19, 2008 at 1:19 am

    You’d be surprised that even by 1st grade it is nearly impossible to get kids to change the way they hold a pencil or make letters. Many children struggle with this. Hopefully it will help him. Let me know how it works as it might be a good resource for others in the future. Good luck with the vision therapy – sounds interesting.

    Hey, there teacher who seems to be hiding somewhere this summer! We search for you at the grocery store and library every time we go. C said yesterday he was worried that he wouldn’t see you next year. Ahh, true love! Mrs. R was asking this morning about the handwriting camp too – I’ll be sure to let you both know how it goes! It can’t hurt, anyway.


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