While on the surface it might appear that incorporating handwriting into teletherapy may be a challenge, there are several intervention approaches that can facilitate handwriting success. There are two common factors when it comes to helping your teletherapy client make progress on their handwriting: (1) Consider what motivates your client and (2) Ensure that you have a set-up that allows you to provide effective feedback.
The following are engaging ideas that can be used for clients with a variety of different handwriting goals.
Use a Multisensory Approach
Using a multisensory approach is an evidence-based method of helping your client put together the basic shapes for letters. It is also incredibly flexible and you can adapt it to whatever your client has at home! Challenge your client to make shapes, letters, and simple pictures with the following:
• Salt/flour/rice in a small tray
• Wikki Stix
• Shaving cream
• Kinetic Sand
• A bag of hair gel and food coloring in a sealed plastic bag
• Food like pudding, yogurt, or applesauce
Is your client beginning to master specific handwriting concepts? Allow them to step into the role of teacher and teach you how to make letters or words. If your client is working on aligning their letters on the baseline, make intentional errors and let them check your work and help you fix it. Working on spacing between words? Let your client teach back your own strategies as a way to strengthen their own learning.
Use a Document Camera
A document camera is especially helpful for teaching handwriting. During teletherapy sessions a regular web camera is aimed at the face and upper body of both the therapist and client. A document camera is a second camera that can be aimed at the table or materials that you or your clients are using. When you are teaching handwriting, it is especially helpful if you can demonstrate the sequence and placement of letters on paper. TheraPlatform allows you to connect a document camera to your live session for demonstration purposes. There are several document cameras available on the market but you can also use a simple set up by connecting your cell phone to the session.
Let’s draw is another handwriting game to consider. The activity that addresses visual motor skills and can be easily graded up or down is drawing. This skill is easily taught by breaking down tasks and using a virtual whiteboard. For your youngest clients, work on simple shapes such as circles, intersecting lines, squares and diagonal lines. For clients who have mastered these shapes, work on putting them together to make simple pictures like a person, cat, or teddy bear. For your more advanced client, work together to draw a favorite character from a book or show, their house, or their family and pets. There are several ‘learn to draw’ videos on YouTube that you can also pull up, share, and pause as needed during your session.
This handwriting game has no preparation needed and only requires a pencil and paper (however, it can be beneficial to add in a document camera). Start with writing down one word and taking turns writing down an associated word. For example, “blue” might turn into “sky” and then “moon” then “astronaut.” Your client will be highly amused when the original prompt of “truck” turns into “hamster” and may even request to keep playing!
A-Z handwriting challenge
Another handwriting game that requires only paper and pencil is the A to Z handwriting challenge. Your client is challenged to go through the alphabet and come up with something that fits into a chosen theme for each letter. Popular themes include: Superheroes, names, food, sports, and characters from books but the topic should be meaningful to your client. Due to the length of the alphabet, this activity can be divided into multiple sessions. If you find a theme that your client is excited about, they may come back to the next session with ideas that they are itching to write down!
For your client who is working on writing sentences and paragraphs, story cubes may help them create ideas to initiate writing. Story cubes are dice that have simple pictures on them instead of dots. Roll several at once, check out the outcome, and see if you can find any inspiration among them. If your client doesn’t have any at home, roll yours under your document camera and allow your client to decide which ones to use. If they run out of ideas in the middle of the story, they can decide to roll again for more inspiration.
This handwriting game is pure fun and entertainment! It is also for more advanced writers who are putting sentences together but still working on specific handwriting objectives. Ahead of your session, simply use Google Images to find a picture that is intriguing and has an unknown, yet interesting story behind it. Examples might be an animal shopping for groceries or a mysterious building shaped like a strawberry. Share it on your screen and allow it to prompt writing ideas for your client.
When addressing handwriting skills via teletherapy, it is important to keep your client’s level of skill, interests, and available digital therapy tools in mind. Given both rapport with your client and the appropriate tools, your clients can both make progress and have fun with mastering handwriting. If you need other ideas for occupational therapy, check out our Occupational Therapy Games blog and Teletherapy Fine Motor Activities blogs.
How to conduct the above activities during your teletherapy session? Choose a platform that offers interactive built- in tools. TheraPlatform is all-in-one teleconferencing software plus EMR and contains excellent resources for teaching handwriting. TheraPlatform’s features such as an interactive whiteboard, screen-sharing, the ability to connect a document camera, and so much more. Sign up here for your free 30-day trial to see how TheraPlatform can take your teletherapy sessions to the next level.