learning disablities

  • Hiring a Tutor for a Child with ADHD

    Therapy is great for children with learning disabilities, but what happens when they no longer need therapy but still need […]

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  • Heads, Tummies, & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters



    Tummies & Tails: A Smart Guide to Printing Lowercase Letters was developed to improve the handwriting of children by providing therapeutic techniques to assist in their learning. One of the
    most common errors that occur with children’s handwriting is the alignment of
    letters.  This refers to how the letters
    are placed in relation to each other and also the lines used to assist with
    maintaining the letters in a straight line.  
    Unlike uppercase letters, which are all drawn from the top and fit
    inside the same space, lowercase letters vary more and, as a result, are more

    In this book, lowercase letters are separated into three groups to help children
    relate the letters to the lines on which they were writing. In addition, ten action word phrases are used to help a child memorize how to form individual letters. This provides a multisensory approach as the child feels the motion of the pencil, hears the words, and sees the strokes as they are being formed into letters. In addition, there is a helpful mascot cheering along as a child works his or her way through the book.  

    workbook was created to help parents, educators, and occupational therapists. Its concept is smart and effective and should be
    introduced around 5 years of age when children typically begin
    learning lowercase letters. It is intended to be completed after its companion workbook for uppercase letters. The separation of uppercase and lowercase letters leads to greater success. 


    The 26
    lowercase letters of the alphabet are separated into three alignment groups: Heads,
    Tummies, & Tails

    Lowercase letters that
    ascend or “touch the top line” are in the Heads group. These are
    the following 7 letters: b d f h k l t. Ask Your
    Child:  Which letters touch the top line
    like the monkey’s head?

    Lowercase letters that
    remain at the middle or “mark the middle line” are in the Tummies group.

    These are the following 14
    letters: a c e i m n o r s u v w x z. Ask Your Child:  Which letters stay in the middle like the
    monkey’s tummy?

    Lowercase letters that
    descend or “break through the bottom line” are in the Tails group.

    These are the following 5
    letters: g j p q y.
    Ask Your Child:  Which letters break through the bottom line
    like the monkey’s tail? 




    The 26 uppercase letters of the alphabet can be formed using ten simple phrases called Action Words: Add a Dot, Break Through, Curve Around, Make an Ear, Make a Hook Down, Make a Hook Up, Slide Down, Slide Up, Zip Down, and Zoom Across.



    First introduce the Action Words pages. They are used to introduce the language used for the formation of the curved and straight lines. The Coloring Pages are then used as introductions to the different groups. The groups do not need to be completed in the order they are presented.


    Next, each letter will have a page within a group. Action words printed in bold should be said aloud to guide the child. Using a character voice makes it more fun and encourages the child to say the words as well. There are also alignment circles on these pages that match the placement of the monkey’s head, tummy and tail. They help to encourage proper placement of letters.


    Lastly, there are additional pages including reviews of the groups, copying words, and activity pages. The workbook also includes a visual chart and a guide with all the action words for the 26 letters on one page.


    Visit www.playapy.com to purchase the award-winning Heads, Tummies, & Tails and its companion workbook Treasure C.H.E.S.T.: A Smart Guide to Printing Uppercase Letters.


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  • Keeping Cursive Current


    As the creator of
    a handwriting program, people outside of my profession often ask me if I think
    handwriting will soon be a thing of the past due to the advancement of
    technology. They usually reconsider when I remind them of all the daily
    activities we don’t think of that require handwriting like writing checks,
    filling out applications, signing contracts, etc. What fascinates them,
    however, is hearing all the benefits particularly when it comes to cursive
    handwriting. Since many schools have stopped requiring the instruction of
    cursive, it has become a lost art to many. So much so that National Handwriting
    , January 23rd, was created to promote the skill and help to keep
    it current.

    The benefits of
    handwriting extend beyond the obvious improvements in fine motor skills, hand
    strength, and hand dexterity. Research shows that handwriting verses tracing or
    typing of letters is important for the early recruitment in letter processing
    of three brain regions known to support successful reading. Therefore, handwriting
    may facilitate reading acquisition in young children.1 In fact,
    research has shown children that learn to write letters from memory
    automatically and quickly may increase the probability that they will become
    skilled writers in terms of composition.2
    This is because there is better access to thoughts and information
    when handwriting flows more naturally. Cursive has been known to be a faster and
    more efficient method for handwriting, but research also shows that it is better
    for learning as well. A 2014 study compared the notes taken by college students
    with one group writing in cursive and the other group typing. The students that
    used longhand demonstrated better understanding and retention of their notes
    despite writing less than the typing students whom recorded more words
    verbatim.3 Lastly, cursive
    handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and
    right hemispheres, something absent from printing or typing.

    The many benefits
    of cursive handwriting create a strong argument in support of its continued
    instruction in schools. Keeping it current is not only helpful to children and
    adults as readers and writers but as learners overall. Maintain a cursive
    practice and reap the rewards.

    I hope you find
    this helpful. If your child struggles with handwriting tasks, talk to your
    pediatrician about consulting with an occupational therapist. Have a playful

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational
    therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more
    information about Playapy services and products, visit
    www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.


    James, K. and Engelhardt, L. (2012). The effects of
    handwriting experience on functional brain development in pre-literate
    children. Trends in Neuroscience and education. 1 (1), 32-42.

    2 Berninger, V.W., et al.
    (1997). Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers: Transfer from
    handwriting to composition. Journal of
    Educational Psychology
    , 89, 652-666.

    P.A., and Oppenheimer, D. M. (2104). The pen is mightier than the keyboard:
    Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science. 23
    April. DOI: 10.1177/0956797614524581.

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  • October is National Dyslexia Awareness Month

    Dyslexia is a learning disability that is commonly known but poorly understood. Most people associate dyslexia with reading letters backwards, but that is only one possible symptom of many.  Generally speaking, dyslexia is a specific learning disability for reading.  It is often characterized by difficulty with word recognition, decoding, or spelling. This can lead to difficulty with reading comprehension and could slow down vocabulary growth resulting in struggles with reading, writing, and sometimes speaking. Against popular belief, dyslexia is not caused by poor instruction, poor intelligence, laziness, or impaired vision. It is a result of a neurological condition and can also be genetic. It is also something which can be overcome with help and support leading most to good reading and writing skills overall.

    It is important to detect dyslexia as early as possible because reading and writing are such an integral part of learning in the classroom. Some signs of dyslexia in young children include having trouble with recognizing letters, matching letters to sounds, learning new words, learning the alphabet or numbers, rhyming words, or remembering word sequences like the days of the week.  Some signs of dyslexia in older children include poor handwriting, reading or writing reversed letters like b or d, mastering spelling rules, following a set of directions, or remembering facts or rules. 

    I hope you find this information helpful. If you feel your child may have multiple signs of dyslexia, you should consult with your doctor about having an occupational therapist or speech therapist conduct an evaluation and create a treatment plan if deemed necessary. Have a playful day!

    Amy Baez, OTR/L, The Smart Play Curator

    Amy Baez is a pediatric occupational therapist, award-winning handwriting author, and founder of Playapy. For more information, visit www.playapy.com or email info@playapy.com.

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