Bucks IU Gets Creative in Support of the Development of Student’s Fine Motor Skills

In the begin­ning of the 2019–2020 aca­d­e­m­ic year, the Special Education Division of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit was award­ed a gen­er­ous $10,000 grant from Foundations Community Partnership to be used towards pro­grams sup­port­ing the devel­op­ment of fine motor skill in stu­dents.  Fine motor skills involve the use of the small­er mus­cle of the hands, used com­mon­ly in activ­i­ties such as hold­ing and using a pen­cil, doing up but­tons, tying a shoe, or open­ing a clasp on a box.  Efficient fine motor skills require sev­er­al inde­pen­dent skills to be devel­oped and worked togeth­er to appro­pri­ate­ly manip­u­late the object or per­form the task.  When the grant was orig­i­nal­ly sub­mit­ted for, the Bucks IU Occupational Therapy Team had care­ful­ly detailed and planned teacher edu­ca­tion, class­room kits, and ‘Family Fun Nights’ all designed to sup­port teach­ers and fam­i­lies help chil­dren devel­op fine motor skills through play-based activities.

The pro­gram began with a free in-service day pro­gram for edu­ca­tors.  The sold-out group heard pre­sen­ta­tions from Fine Motor Boot Camp with train­ing on how to effec­tive­ly incor­po­rate fun activ­i­ties into the fine motor skill
devel­op­ment process. 

At this time, all our Bucks IU ear­ly child­hood pro­gram class­es received 5 kits of items and instruc­tions to be used on var­i­ous activ­i­ties, as well as some school age class­es, for a total of approx­i­mate­ly 300 kits being dis­trib­uted. Videos, acces­si­ble through a QR code link, detailed how to use the kits for a spe­cif­ic skill activ­i­ty and were pro­vid­ed each week. Bucks IU Occupational Therapists, work­ing with­in some school district’s kinder­garten class­es, were so excit­ed about this pro­gram that they went out of their way to make their own kits so they could take advan­tage of the activ­i­ties this pro­gram was utilizing. 

Fire AND a Pandemic

The class­room kits were so suc­cess­ful, that a sec­ond set of kits were start­ed on.  Sadly, a January 2020 fire in the facil­i­ty where they were being worked on, destroyed all the mate­ri­als.  Insurance would cov­er every­thing, but time would be lost while those funds were received and then replace­ment items purchased. 

Then in the mid­dle of March, COVID-19 forced schools to turn to remote learn­ing pro­grams, requir­ing the orig­i­nal projects planned for the student’s fine motor skill devel­op­ment with class­room kits to no longer be viable.  It also forced the can­cel­la­tion of the Family Fun Nights that had been sched­uled for loca­tions in upper, mid­dle, and low­er Bucks County. 

We Won’t Be Stopped!

Undaunted, the Bucks IU Occupational Therapist (OT) Team went to work to find fun and engag­ing ways for kids, fam­i­lies, and their edu­ca­tors to con­tin­ue to work togeth­er to achieve their goals while at home. As the class­room kits had been so suc­cess­ful, the idea emerged to pro­vide indi­vid­ual stu­dent kits, that would con­tain items that stu­dents could eas­i­ly use at home with their fam­i­ly.  Occupational Therapists rep­re­sent­ing stu­dents in preschool and ele­men­tary school worked togeth­er to devel­op age appro­pri­ate activ­i­ties that would uti­lize a vari­ety of fine motor manip­u­la­tives that would be able to be sent home in the kits.  Kit items select­ed were things like mod­el­ing clay, pipe clean­ers, items requir­ing fin­ger pump­ing and flex­ing action, and things that would enhance select­ing and pick­ing up. 

The next hur­dle was get­ting the kits home to the stu­dents.  Preschool stu­dents who were com­ing to pick-up an iPad to use at home, were giv­en their kits at that time.  For school aged stu­dents, a deliv­ery pro­gram was worked out through their indi­vid­ual school or dis­trict. In total, 125 at-home kits were dis­trib­uted to Bucks IU preschool and kinder­garten stu­dents, and 25 kits were done for school aged students. 

Moving Forward

Additional fine motor skill teacher in-service train­ings are being offered begin­ning in January 2021.  Each train­ing ses­sion top­ic will be sup­port­ed with activ­i­ty kits spe­cial­ly designed to help stu­dents fur­ther devel­op their fine motor skills in the tar­get­ed sub­ject area.  Upwards of one hun­dred more kits each will be made for class­rooms and use by stu­dents at home to accom­mo­date the var­i­ous learn­ing struc­tures (100% vir­tu­al, hybrid, and in-person) of the Bucks County School Districts county-wide.  Special learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for fam­i­lies will also be imple­ment­ed in 2021 to allow for them to prac­tice hands-on learn­ing in fun and cre­ative ways they can use in sup­port of their child’s fine motor skill development.