Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fine Motor Skills.

When Seth first arrived in Canada, his fine motor skills were utterly lacking:  He had no idea what a pair of scissors was (and no ability to use them); couldn't hold a pen for more than a minute or two because he didn't have strength in his fingers; couldn't button a shirt; and could not imitate what he saw someone else draw or write into a creation of his own.

All he could really do was draw/write o- and u-shaped figures on paper:  Columns and columns, pages and pages, of o- and u-shaped markings.  When I tried to teach him how to draw a simple stick person, he loved it and tried to copy it; he would draw yet another u- or o-shape on the paper in front of him and present it to me with a smile of exultation that meant that he thought he'd drawn the same thing as me.

It was a little shocking, given that I was so accustomed to seeing children in our culture having decent or even great fine motor skills from a pretty early age.  By the time kids are five (virtually six, as in Seth's case when he arrived in Canada) they are usually very competent when it concerns fine motor skills.
Just a few of dozens and dozens of papers filled with Seth's drawings.

As a result, fine motor skills were a pretty concentrated area of attention for us over the past year.  Seth has spent many hours during the past year's school days working on fine motor skills:
  • colouring (learning how to use crayons; markers; pencil crayons); 
  • drawing; 
  • lacing shoelaces through laminated pictures of animals and objects; 
  • weaving ribbons of various widths through cookie cooling racks; 
  • sorting beads and pom poms into bowls using large tweezers or tongs; 
  • threading string through beads in colour and shape patterns that I drew; 
  • twisting nuts onto bolts; 
  • using scissors to cut along wild lines that I drew all over construction paper; 
  • doing countless pre-writing exercises with crayons, markers, and pencils; 
  • building lego creations; 
  • working on mosaic pictures; 
  • creating do-a-dot pictures; 
  • looping keys together onto metal rings; 
  • completing puzzles (even large 2-piece puzzles were difficult for his hands to coordinate at first); 
  • pouring things from one container to another; 
  • drawing in sand; 
  • modelling with play dough; 
  • plugging things into peg boards; 
  • punching toothpicks to punch out picture outlines; 
  • applying stickers to paper; 
  • making designs on light brite; 
  • etc etc.  
The list is endless as to the kinds and varieties of things that I worked with him on to stimulate those fine motor skills.

He's made such progress:  He can button his own shirts; loves to draw and colour and do crafts; he can use scissors pretty darn well; completes 200 piece puzzles; and competently completes pretty much everything else on the list above.

Maybe the most striking difference is his ability to imitate someone else's drawings or writing; for example, he can now imitate ABC printing if he can copy someone else's letters - he may not yet understand what letter it is or the sound that it makes, but the fact that he can make the lines and shapes in the correct way is huge when it comes to his fine motor skills because previously his brain simply couldn't see the differences between what someone else wrote and what he produced.  Long gone are the days of covering paper after paper with u- and o-shapes.  Here are just a few of his recent successes:

In preparation for Geoff's birthday at the end of July, Seth asked me to write out the words "HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD" and "I HOPE YOU HAVE A FUN DAY" and then painstakingly and methodically copied those letters (without understanding them) onto a paper and homemade envelope for his Dad.  He was very proud to give them to Geoff.

Similarly for my Dad's birthday, Seth asked me to write out "HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRANDPA" so that he could copy it...look at the delight on his face as he presents his card and picture to his beloved Grandpa.

Two weeks ago, he drew pictures of our family and put their initials (and, in my case, the word "MOM") above each person/character.  I'm not sure why he drew himself and me as cats (lol), and why he made his Dad look like a pig, but I think these pictures are pretty remarkable given what he was (not) able to do just months ago.

For me, this next one is the most remarkable.  This is the boy who, five weeks ago, was simply unable to retain memory of any letter or number.  And now he's starting to identify his ABCs and has learned the numbers 0-8...and can write them!
When he learned to write the number "3" on the whiteboard just a few short weeks ago, it was still so difficult for him to form the shapes that it took us about three hours of concentrated effort for him to be able to learn to make those two half-moon shapes one overtop the other.  He groaned (loudly) with the effort it took to write the number "3."  Even last week, as he proudly wrote the numbers 0-7, he groaned with the exertion it required of him.  I'm so proud of his efforts.  Can you see the look of accomplishment in his eyes, and also when he learned to write the number "8" a few days ago?

I don't know what this kid's future holds, but one thing I know for sure about Seth is this:  he has got such grit and determination that there is nothing he won't be able to do.


  1. I actually laughed out loud at those pictures of little circles...our kids (mostly Elijah) did that when they first got home too! It was all he could "draw" or write. I don't know why they teach them that but your pictures brought back that memory vividly!

    Seth has come leaps and bounds. You must be nearly as proud of him as he is of himself! He is not a quitter... a quality that will take him far in life.

  2. Goodness gracious, such progress in such a short time. Goes to show what some faith, some perseverance, and a whole lot of love from a wonderful family can do! That is one bright boy you have!

  3. I love that he drew you as a cat :)

  4. Thanks guys...and yeah, I'm a proud mama. :)


  5. You and Seth are 2 cats...I believe attachment is well underway! He still needs you to be set apart for him (you are his). Also, he's the only one on your left side. Perhaps he feels different from everyone else? Or maybe he feels he's special! I love kds' drawings.

  6. Hmm Joanne, love the way your mind works...whether you're right or wrong, it sure makes me feel special when you put it that way!!