Legible Writing, Sensory Integration Help Students

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As an occupational therapy provider, Kay Miles works with a variety of students in the Payson Unified School District. She helps students improve their motor skills and socialization.

The ability to write legibly is an example of a fine motor skill. Gross motor skills relate to moving your hands, legs and whole body.

"With our special needs kids, depending on the disability and how severe it is affects their education," Miles said.

Exercises that improve fine motor skills enable children to do handwriting and to be able to function in the classroom using a paper and pencil.

"Fine motor skills start with stabilization of the shoulder all the way down the arm and to your fingers," Miles said.

How you hold your pencil matters.

"There is a lot more to the mechanics of handwriting than just picking up a pencil and writing. We take so much for granted," she said.

Does a child have the strength and stamina to hold a pencil in the right position while keeping their arm down on the table? Does the child need to use their other hand to hold the paper still?

"When you start cursive, you have to go in a continuous motion. When you are printing, you make a letter and you stop."

Students generally print in first grade and write in cursive in third.

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"I like handwriting, especially with her (Kay Miles)," said Star Oldeschulte, a third grader at Frontier Elementary School. She finds it easier to write on paper or a white board than a chalk board. Oldeschulte, Tyler Duhamell and L.A. Jacquez use Handwriting Without Tears workbooks their teacher received though a Rotary grant.

Some students taking a spelling test might concentrate more on the formation of the letter than they do the content of the word.

They can get lost and behind. That leads to frustration, so Miles' elementary students practice letter formation.

Being able to write is not the only thing a child needs to be able to do comfortably.

In the sensory integration program at Julia Randall Elementary, Miles gently teaches students through play.

Students who have a problem with sensory overload spend an hour a week with Miles working on the areas where they have issues.

"We did a sensory activity where we made gak (out of water, white glue and Borax laundry detergent)."

"One of the little guys was hesitant about it ... he slowly got his hand in there and then he thought it was really cool. The other one just wouldn't touch it," she said. He was more excited about the sports page she put under the messy project.

Miles keeps introducing sensory activities until a student can at least tolerate them.

That tolerance allows them to be attentive to their other teachers.

Tierney Phillips and Patricia Miles laughed and grinned while they bounced balloons into the air with a brightly colored parachute.

"We collect the balloons, we collect the balloons," Patricia sang as she and her friend batted the balloons into the center of the room as Miles had requested.

Miles had them cover the balloons with the parachute then crawl under and pick out a balloon of a certain color.

That particular exercise provides a very tactile and energetic motion experience for them like swinging, spinning and crawling said Barbara Sturlin. She is Patricia and Tierney's teacher.

After the hour with Kay, "they can have more appropriate behaviors if they become upset or over-anxious," Sturlin said. "If their routine is interrupted, they are able to cope appropriately and less stressfully with everyday issues that may come up."

The sensory integration and perception deficits program at JRE is in its fourth year.

As student training works more on the foundations that Miles has developed, sensory integration goes over into the rest of her students' days, said Sturlin.

They might not sit completely still at their desks, but they are able to stay on track at their desks.

"For these children, that is awesome," Sturlin said.

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