Pencil Grasp Trick from Fine Motor Skills ABC Activities

Today, I’m excited to share a fine motor skills book written by a fellow Occupational Therapist.  Fine Motor ABC is a book full of alphabet themed activities that are designed to strengthen fine motor skills that are needed for functional tasks such as handwriting.  We tried one of the activities and found a great way to encourage a tripod grasp on the pencil when writing with this super simple pencil grasp trick.  This would be a great addition to our post on creative ways to improve pencil grasp with fine motor skills.
Super simple pencil grasp trick using a keychain keyring loop that works to separate the two sides of the hand and encourage a tripod grasp while writing.
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Fine Motor Skills ABC Activities

 Fine Motor ABC book

Fine Motor ABC is a great book for Occupational Therapists, teachers, and parents or anyone who works with kids.  This book is a resource of engaging activities that are designed to target the necessary skills needed for childhood functional tasks.  Each letter of the alphabet addresses a fine motor skill with a quick and easy description of the task.  There are big, bright images and corresponding hand signs for kids to copy.  The engaging description of the activities really had my kids interested in reading through the book.  

Following each lettered fine motor activity are through descriptions of the therapeutic reasoning for completing the task.  Fine Motor ABC is a book that would be well-used in any home, classroom, or therapy clinic.  

Stacie Erfle is an Occupational Therapist who has put creative ideas to work in her book and I’m excited to read the upcoming books on gross motor skills and sensory activities.  Read more about the books on the Skill Builder site.

Fine motor ABC activities for kids and designed for therapists, parents, and teachers for developing fine motor skills in kids.
Great ways to use Fine Motor ABC in therapeutic development of fine motor skills in the OT clinic, classroom, or home:
  • Use the alphabet-themed fine motor activities in order from A-Z.
  • Complete only a few of the letters, by spelling a word and completing those corresponding fine motor activities.
  • Spell out the child’s name by completing the fine motor activities that correspond with the letters in the child’s name.
  • Follow the sign language images at the top of each page.  Ask the child to copy the hand signs.  Don’t forget to ask the child to carefully turn the pages of the book to see the next sign!
  • Create a customized therapy home program using the themed fine motor tasks.
  • Act out the activities without using manipulatives for a different way to practice the fine motor skills.
  • Work through the book by doing the activities that have a purple border (or blue or orange border!) Next time do a different color.


There are so many ways to use this resource activity book with kids!

Super simple pencil grasp trick using a keychain keyring loop that works to separate the two sides of the hand and encourage a tripod grasp while writing.

Easy Pencil Grasp Trick

One of my favorite ideas from Fine Motor ABC is this super simple tripod grasp idea.  We tried a version using a keychain keyring loop to work on encouraging a tripod grasp.  What a simple pencil grasp trick!

Using the keyring loop is a fantastic way to separate the two sides of the hand with a tactile cue.  To use the tool, simply shoe kids how to position the loop right over the ring finger and pinky finger.  They can then tuck the keyring loop over the fingers or simply hold it in place in their palm.  This tactile cue allows them to curve their fingers into the palm while stabilizing the ulnar side of the hand.  The middle finger, index finger, and thumb are then free to manipulate the pencil with the precision side of the hand.  
Super simple pencil grasp trick using a keychain keyring loop that works to separate the two sides of the hand and encourage a tripod grasp while writing.

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More fine motor activities that you will love:

 in-hand manipulation

Vision Problems You Can Not “See”

This post describes visual processing and visual efficiency problems that might not be obvious vision problems in kids.




A child struggles with handwriting.  They work hard in school and can verbalize answers to spelling tests or spout off vocabulary meanings and math facts.  But when it comes to reading assignments, creative writing tasks, or writing a list of words on a spelling test, you notice it.


This child seems distracted in the classroom.  They resist homework.  In-class assignments are not completed on time and when he needs to silently read a passage and recall the details, he seems distrait.


Sometimes, these learning problems are an indication of a vision problem. Sometimes, the child is not complaining of trouble seeing and they have passed vision tests, yet there might be a hidden vision problem.


Visual processing and visual efficiency are hidden eye problems that might not seem obvious when a child goes about his day. A child who needs glasses for acuity will squint his eyes of complain about headaches or blurry words on the page.  A child with visual processing or visual efficiency difficulties may slip through the fuzzy visual cracks.


Visual perceptual skills are needed for so many functional skills. You’ll find easy and fun ways to work on visual perceptual skills through play here. 


Visual processing, visual efficiency, and learning including how vision is related to reading and writing.





What are Visual Processing and Visual Efficiency and why can’t you “see” these vision problems?



Visual Processing
Visual processing is a large way to describe many visual skills. When a child has a problems with visual processing, they have difficulty taking in information and processing that visual information in order to make sense of it. Visual processing includes visual tasks such as laterality, directionality, form perception, visual memory, visual closure, and visual motor integration. These are the kids who have trouble with letter reversals, difficulty learning the letters of the alphabet, has poor comprehension skills, has poor recall of visual information, has trouble with writing spelling words and vocabulary, or has sloppy handwriting.


Visual scanning can be one of these processing skills impacting the retrieval of visual information.


Visual Efficiency
Visual efficiency refers to the ability to effectively view visual information.  While visual efficiency refers to nearsightedness and farsightedness, it also includes problems with focusing, tracking, and eye teaming.  These are the types of problem areas that present later in the elementary school years or when students are required to read a significant amount of information.  Visual efficiency problems may present as squinting, complaints of blurred vision, inattention, looses place when reading, poor reading comprehension, moving head when reading, or skipping lines when reading.


Visual processing, visual efficiency, and learning including how vision is related to reading and writing.


What should be done to help kids with problems with visual processing or visual efficiency?

If a child is suspected of having problems in these areas, it is important to have them tested by an optometrist who is qualified to treat learning related vision problems.  Kids can overcome problems with visual processing and visual efficiency through help, tutoring, adaptations, modifications, and corrected vision problems.





Here is more information about strategies to address visual perceptual skills and handwriting.


Here are some fun ways to help with visual processing concerns:

Visual Motor Integration Bilateral Coordination Activity


Eye-hand coordination activity with letters


DIY Lacing Cards for Bilateral Coordination


Visual Closure Bug Worksheets


Scooping Eye-Hand Coordination Activity






You will find MANY more visual processing activities on our Visual Processing Page.

Here are some fun ways to help with visual efficiency concerns:






Visual processing, visual efficiency, and learning including how vision is related to reading and writing.

These Visual Processing and Visual Efficiency tools are perfect for building skills that are needed in reading, writing, and learning tasks: (These are affiliate links.)

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How to Teach Cursive Letters

You might have noticed a few cursive handwriting activities on the blog recently. I have a new third grader who learned cursive letters last year in second grade and is excited to write more in cursive handwriting this year in third grade.  I loved teaching kids to write in cursive as a school-based Occupational Therapist. 



Cursive handwriting can be a struggle for many kids.  Many times, it is the lack of practice time that impacts legibility.  When schools are cutting or limiting cursive handwriting instruction from the daily curriculum, children just don’t get the practice time they need for fluid pencil strokes, cursive letter connectors, and appropriate letter formation in formal instruction time.  Consider the increased use of screens and technology as a means of written expression and cursive handwriting may fall even further in the lineup of importance.  


At home, parents may be limited in time when it comes to homework help, after school activities, work requirements, dinner preparation, evening activities, and bedtime preparation.  When the daily schedule is filled to the brim, there may not be time to work on handwriting. 



There are a lot of handwriting resources here on the site.  The cursive handwriting strategies are increasing as well.  Adding cursive handwriting practice into play in creative and playful manners can help kids improve letter formation and letter strokes when time is limited for addressing how to teach cursive letters



I loved teaching motor planning to form letters, line and size awareness to keep the letters on the lines, and re-trace with the cursive swoops and loops to help make written work legible.  


So, with my own kiddo being so excited to improve her cursive, I decided to work through the alphabet and share tips and tricks to help parents and teachers teach cursive letters.  There are many school districts that are cutting cursive instruction from their curriculum. For parents who have students in those many school districts, it can be overwhelming to teach their kids cursive letters and written work.  


On this page, you’ll find links to all of the cursive letter posts as they are created.  Be sure to bookmark this page and come back often as we go through the cursive letters of the alphabet.  


You’ll notice that the cursive letters are not being done in alphabetical order. There is a reason for the cursive letter order that we’re doing.  


How to teach cursive letters to kids and students with creative tricks and tips
It’s important to mention that there is a lot of talk and debate about schools cutting cursive instruction from the learning day.  There is even a push to teach cursive handwriting before manuscript. Whatever your thoughts, it might be of interest to teach or supplement your child’s cursive handwriting instruction with creative, hands-on learning styles.  Parents can use these tips to teach kids cursive handwriting at home.  Teachers can use these tips and tools in the classroom. And therapists can use these ideas in the clinic setting.

How to teach each of the cursive letters:

   
You’ll find lots of creative ways to practice these cursive letters here: 
Cursive letter orderLearn cursive writing with this cursive handwriting activity to learn cursive letters, lines, and connecting lines on the window.




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A Complete Guide to School Day Functions for Kids

A child has a huge job as he manages a day at school. The classroom includes distractions, multi-step directions, multi-sensory challenges and many tasks that require fine motor skills, gross motor skills, transitions, and appropriate positioning.  This month’s post in the Functional Skills for Kids series is all about the important tasks that happens during a day in the classroom.  
 
Ten Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists bring you a valuable resource for success in school day functions and tasks that occur in the school classroom or home school environment. 
 
Read through the links below in this complete guide to school day functions and tasks needed for success during the school day:
 


A complete guide to school day tasks and functional skills occurring naturally in the classroom or homeschool environment with tips and strategies from Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists.
 

Functional skills and strategies for success in school: 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A complete guide to school day tasks and functional skills occurring naturally in the classroom or homeschool environment with tips and strategies from Occupational Therapists and Physical Therapists.
 
 
 

How to Make Letter C in Cursive

Cursive handwriting can be a difficult thing to teach kids.  Today, I’m starting a new series on how to teach cursive letters in fun and creative ways.  First up is how to make letter c in cursive.  This series will most definitely not be in alphabetical order for many reasons, mainly because the cursive writing alphabet is typically not taught in alphabetical order.  So, if you are teaching cursive letters, be sure to stop back often.  For now, here are some great tips and strategies for helping kids learn to make cursive letter c:


Looking for more information on teaching cursive? You’ll love our 31 day series on how to teach cursive handwriting.





Teach kids how to make letter c in cursive with the tips in this cursive letter writing series, perfect for kids who are working on their handwriting.



How to Teach Letter c in Cursive:



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Letter “c” is one of the first letters that kids are taught when learning cursive. The letter is directly related to it’s printed counterpart.  The curve of the letter is one of the most basic pre-cursive strokes that are made and helps to build several other cursive letters (a, d, g, q, and o).  

The beginning upstroke of the beginning lines in cursive “c” can be practiced in creative ways in order to help with re-trace when forming the curve of the letter.

Tips and ideas for teaching kids how to write in cursive and learn to make letter c in cursive.

There is research that shows teaching the cursive letter c like a cursive “i” with a hooked top, the carryover of legibility is better.  

After forming the up-stroke of the letter, the curved top, and the re-trace back to the bottom of the letter, it is helpful to work on sliding the pencil along the baseline of the paper to develop letter connectors and to improve legibility.  

Teach kids how to make letter c in cursive with the tips in this cursive letter writing series, perfect for kids who are working on their handwriting.

Tips for helping kids stop at the baseline when writing the letter “c”: 
Use a verbal prompt to bump the bottom line.
Trace the baseline with a highlighter for a visual prompt. 



More tips for helping kids to learn letter c:
The Handwriting Without Tears program  promotes forming letter c without the starting stroke, making formation easier for most kids.   


Use sensory textures to teach letter c and the strokes needed to make the letter. 


You’ll find many more ways to teach cursive letters here!

Try practicing cursive handwriting and more cursive letter c practice with these creative cursive handwriting ideas:




Anxiety and Sensory-Based Coping Skills for Kids

Sensory based coping skills is an effective way to help kids deal with feelings of anxiety.  There is a reason that most of us deal with an uncomfortable situation by cracking our knuckles or cope with anger by punching a pillow.  Sensory based anxiety coping strategies can help kids deal with stress and feelings of anxiety for long term success and social emotional development.


When a difficult situation comes up in school or other social situation, kids can cope with the stress in that very moment.  Teaching these skills to kids requires a little preparation and frequent practice but can be a huge help when kids are feeling completely overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety.


Kids should understand that their body may react in a certain way when they are in a difficult salutation.  Feelings of stress and anxiety can be confusing to kids and can even make them feel more overwhelmed and out of control.


Anxiety in kids can arise for many reasons, including sensory-based causes, difficulty organizing oneself, social reasons, behavioral reasons, or nervousness in new or scary situations.  Kids should know that their body can give them clues  about stress in these tricky situations and that they can understand and use those clues to feel more in control.


Feelings of anxiety might begin during or before anticipated situations that cause the child to feel overwhelmed, nervous, frustrated, or angry.  Then, when they start feeling those clues, they start to feel even more overwhelmed.


What a scary thing for a child to feel!

Anxiety and sensory based coping skills that will help kids overcome their feelings of stress and anxiety

Anxiety and Sensory Based Coping Skills to Help Kids



Imagine the signs that a child might feel when experiencing anxiety:

  • Sweaty palms
  • Fast breathing
  • Upset stomach
  • Sweating 
  • Feeling hot
  • Negative thoughts
  • Feeling angry
  • Wanting to run away
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling that the situation is dumb
  • Tense muscles
  • Wanting to wiggle or move
  • Feeling itchy
  • Sore muscles
  • Trouble focusing
It is important to remember that every child is different and how important it is to talk with your child to discuss his or her personal stress signals.  Talk about when they might feel these signals and what happens in the environment that might lead up to their feelings of stress and anxiety.
 
Once you and your kiddo have the clues of anxiety figured out, it is helpful to come up with strategies to cope with anxiety.  


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Try these sensory activities and tools to help kids with anxiety.


Sensory Based Coping Skills for Kids

Try these sensory-based anxiety coping strategies for helping kids deal with stress:


Proprioception-based Coping Strategies

Knee tapping
Chew gum
Muscle squeezes-Tense the whole body like a rock and hold the position for 10 seconds. Then release with “no muscles”.  Repeat this technique three times.
hand clenches- Squeeze the hands into fists and hold them for 10 seconds.  Release and repeat three times.
Stress ball- (Try this homemade stress ball OR a store bought one)
Punch a pillow


Vestibular-based Coping Strategies

Run in place
Head bend down with deep breaths
 


Oral-based Sensory Coping Strategies

Suck a lollipop
Blow up a balloon
Deep belly breaths and blowing out through “duck lips”
Hum low and “under your breath”
 


Olfactory-based Coping Strategies

Smell calming scents
 


Tactile-based Coping Strategies

Sensory touch bar for desks.  Sticky back velcro is a great cost-effective version of this strategy.
 

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Vision-based Coping Strategies

 
 

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Anxiety and sensory based coping skills that will help kids overcome their feelings of stress and anxiety



Teaching kids to use these sensory based coping strategies to deal with anxiety or stress requires thoughtful discussion with your child and practice to prepare for unknown situations.  Try role playing situations where overwhelming feelings have previously presented themselves.  Talk about what led up to those feelings and clues and how the child can use different sensory based strategies to beat the anxiety next time. 

Anxiety and sensory based coping skills that will help kids overcome their feelings of stress and anxiety

Fine Motor Strengthening Apple Activity

Fine motor strengthening is a hot topic when it comes to back-to-school time.  Kids go back into the classroom and need to get back up to speed on all of the fine motor requirements in the classroom.  What better way to work on fine motor strength than with a Fall apple theme? This apple themed fine motor activity adds a bit of math, too and it’s super easy to create for hands-on play, learning, and fine motor work.


Kids will love this fine motor strengthening apple activity this fall.

Fine Motor Strengthening Activity

This apple tree activity is a fun way to build the intrinsic muscle strength of the hands as well as gross grasp strength.  It’s an easy activity to throw together, and the steps of the activity help to build strength of the hands, too.

Materials needed to make this apple tree activity:

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Scissors

Kids will love this fine motor strengthening apple activity this fall.
To create the apple tree, cut the green felt into a tree-ish shape.  Cutting felt is a complex scissor task, so older kids can help with this part.  If you are able to use stiff felt, cutting through the material is a strengthening exercise in itself. 

Next, cut the brown felt into a trunk shape, by simply cutting strait lines. Consider allowing the child to cut the trunk shape as cutting strait lines on a material such as felt is easier, yet the flimsy material makes it difficult to cut.  A stiffer material would work well for this part as well.

Use strips of paper to build hand strength
Next, cut the red cardstock into small, thin strips of paper.  This is not necessary for the end result of the activity, however there is a fine motor benefit to the extra step.  Kids can hold the thin strips of paper with a pincer grasp using their non-dominant, helper hand.  Using the small strips of paper requires precision. Kids will then be required to slow down while using the hole punch so that they don’t cut the holes over the edge of the strip of the paper.  

Need a hole punch that requires less effort for younger kids or those who need to build their gross muscle grip strength?  Try this one.

Use the brown cardstock to make a small apple barrel shape. This can be used in the math part of this activity.

A slower cut with the hole punch allows for the muscles of the hands to exercise with prolonged tension and increases blood flow.  Using the hole punch with slow repetitions builds gross grasp strength.

Once the apple tree and apples are created, kids can place them on the tree. The cardstock will not stick permanently to the felt, but they will stay in place for temporary play.  Scatter the red cardstock circles, (those are your apples!) onto the table.  Show your child or student how to pick up the apples and place them onto the apple tree.  Picking up the small cardstock circles is a real workout for the intrinsic muscles of the hand. 

To make this activity easier, place the cardstock circles on a piece of felt.

Apple Math and Fine Motor Activity


Add a bit of math to this activity with a pair of dice.  Show your child how to roll the dice and then count the number of dots on the dice.  They can then add and count the number of apples and place them on the tree.  

There are several ways to build on this activity:
Use the dice to add apples.
Subtract by taking away apples from the tree. 
Create multiple step math problems by adding and them subtracting the numbers on the dice to put on and then remove apples.

Apple fine motor strengthening activity and fall math with hands-on learning.
Looking for more apple activities?  Try these:
Apple learning activities

FROM LEFT TO RIGHT:
Apple Lacing Fine Motor Bag // Coffee Cups and Crayons
Apple Life Cycle Printable Book // Stay at Home Educator
Apple Number Match // A Dab of Glue Will Do
Apple Life Cycle Hat // The STEM Laboratory
Apple Tree Counting Puzzles // The Kindergarten Connection
Oatmeal Apple Crisp: A Recipe for Kids // Liz’s Early Learning Spot
Apple Play Dough Surprise Activity // Play & Learn Every Day
Apple Counting Book // Fun-A-Day
Balancing Apples Up on Top // Sara J Creations
Apple Seed Counting Busy Bag // Powerful Mothering
Apple Alphabet Puzzles // The Letters of Literacy
Apple Subitizing Cards // The Simplified Classroom
Apple Tree Busy Box // Teach Me Mommy
Apple Ten Frames // Still Playing School
CVC Spelling Mats // Fairy Poppins
Apple Color Matching Activity // Frogs Snails and Puppy Dog Tails

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School Based OT and Getting Organized Tips

The school based-Occupational Therapist is getting ready to head back into the school year this Fall.  Getting organized can be one of the hardest parts of school-based OT.  These tips and tricks are some that I’ve used during my years as an Occupational Therapist working in the schools.  

Tips for helping the school-based occupational therapist get organized in the schools



One of the tell-tale signs of a school based OT is the suitcase on wheels that is pulled around from school to school.  Some school-based OTs pull a bin or carry a large bag, but whatever the means of dragging around that bag of OT tricks, it needs to be organized and it needs to be all in one place.  


The OT who works in schools might see kids from Kindergarten on up through high school age in the same day.  They could be travelling from school to school within a single school day and have a work day that includes visits to classrooms, scheduled IEP meetings, make parent phone calls, and complete annual reports.  


In order to avoid feelings of overwhelming disorganization, the school-based OT needs to be organized!


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School-Based Occupational Therapy Organization Tips



These are some of the ways that I maintained order while working as an Occupational Therapist in the schools:

More School-based Occupational Therapy organization ideas:

  • Take time to observe students in their natural environment.  Plan on “pushing in” to the classroom with treatment occurring right at the student’s work space.  Making adaptations and accommodations can happen with the tasks the student is working on at that moment. 
  • I love the tips shared by fellow OT blogger, Mama OT.  
  • Make time to get to know the “helpers” and staff in your school.  The school principal, secretary, custodian, and teacher’s assistants can be a great help.
  • Keep extra pens, post-it notes, and highlighters in your bag.





I am hopeful that these tips will help with organizing a successful start to the school year.  An organization system can be so helpful in improving productivity, maximizing time management, and reducing feelings of overwhelming stress due to paperwork and disorganization.


school-based-ot-tips-for-organization