Sunday, 8 November 2009

Improving Fine Motor Skills - In General and for Left Handers

One of our readers was interested in how to improve fine motor skills for a left handed person. Most of the techniques, games etc for improving fine motor skills are the same for both left and right dominance, however the focus and positioning of items for a task are in accordance with the appropriate dominance. The important items to think of are:

  • The pair of scissors must be for the correct dominance
  • A can opener must be for the correct dominance
  • Other tools such as a knife, must be appropriate for the dominance of the person using it.

All utensils or tools for cutting; be they a knife, pair of scissor, can opener or other implement, are specifically designed so that the cutting edge faces one or other direction. If you force a left handed person to cut with a right handed pair of scissors, often they can learn to do so, however you run the risk of causing strain on their hand as it will obviously require a lot more muscle strength in order to enable the blade to work in the opposite direction.

When it comes to strengthening fine motor skills, there are many factors to keep in mind.

  1. Is the person an adult or a child - ie what is their stage of development?
  2. Are you improving fine motor skills as a new skill in a child, according to the stage of development or after an injury?
  3. What is the persons gross motor like? This is important as the hand works as part of the whole person. If someone is not yet able to sit adequately and stabilize his or her arm to free the hand for fine motor tasks, then one needs to begin with strengthening the trunk and shoulder girdle.
  4. If you are working with a child and the main focus is purely fine motor, there are many games and crafts that will help to strengthen the hand, including the fine motor skills.
The first rule in improving the function of the hand, whether to enable a person to be able to manage all the grasps of the hand, or to isolate finger movements or to strengthen the small muscles of the hand or for another reason, the hand, like other muscles, is strengthened by using it. The more you do and the more you use the hand in a variety of tasks, the more chance the person has of increasing their level of function. So, for example, a child who spends most of his or her time watching TV shows will understandably have difficulty with fine motor skills as they don't use their hands very much.

Most arts and crafts will improve hand function. It is important to capture the interest of the child as you are then more likely to have their motivation to assist when tasks are difficult. This can be making pictures with e.g. placing glue in certain pre-drawn shapes and having the child sprinkle stones of different sizes or coloured sand. If you visit your local craft store you will find all manner of other items to stick onto cardboard or paper to make up something creative and improve the hand function at the same time.

Building models, playing with lego, baking, paper mache activities, knitting, sewing, pottery or play dough or plasticine, beaded items (taking into consideration the appropriate sized bead for the age, safety and level of ability) all lend themselves to improving all aspects of the hand.

Children's games such as tiddly winks, marbles, pick up sticks, card games, finger puppets and more, also are wonderful to improve the function in the hand.

There are various children's games that require both assembling and pulling pieces apart such as lego, duplo and other games of this nature. These are wonderful to build up strengthen in the fingers.

There really are so many tasks and activities that help to improve hand function and fine motor skills. Even typing a letter or article can help.

Since the hand is rather complex, it is recommended for those looking to improve hand function to liaise with an experienced occupational therapist, to ensure that all that is needed is indeed fine motor skills.

If you would like a consultation, either online or in person, with Shoshanah Shear, experienced Occupational Therapist, please contact her either via email or website to schedule an appointment.


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