To add to the list of commercially-available products on the market to support the development of skills needed for producing written output and specialty products designed to serve as writing supports through varied design and/or strategies for use, there are times when it works just as well or sometimes even better to adapt items from around the house to use to support individuals who have difficulty with producing written work.
Here are some ideas for repurposing things:
*Pencil and crayon “stubs” – when kids (including my own) head towards the trash can with worn-down pencils and crayons, I volunteer to take the remnants off their hands. Those little leftover pieces are perfect for facilitating a tripod grasp pattern – and they are easier for little hands to manage. Cost: $0
*Wrap a rubber band around the pencil about one inch up from the pencil point and have the child place his fingers on the rubber band to give him a point of reference for where to grasp the pencil and to reduce slippage. Cost: $0
*Coban wrap – create a pencil grip for use on any writing implement with Coban, which is a self-adherent elastic wrap that functions like a tape but sticks only to itself, available in first aid sections of stores. The wrap comes in several different colors and widths; I bought a roll of 3″ width in red because the color works for boys and girls and the width allows me to cut it in half and get double the use out of one roll. As a bonus, I’ve found that some kids with sensory processing differences do better at maintaining a grasp that is both good in form and in the amount of pressure applied when using this material. If the child tends to write using too much or too little pressure on a pencil, try wrapping the Coban a little less tightly around the pencil – that makes it feel more “cushiony” when gives greater tactile feedback to the fingers. Cost: $5 for a 5-yard long roll
*A piece of chunky thera-tubing can be placed over a pencil or other writing tool to increase size of barrel. In case you’re not familiar with thera-tubing, it is stretchy latex tubing that is used in rehab, usually as a resistance band for strengthening. It comes in different resistances and diameters which are identified by color. To repurpose this material for use to support the production of written output, I recommend purchasing one of the larger (chunkier) widths, which is usually blue, gray, or black in color depending on the manufacturer. Cost: $3 for a roll that is one yard in length.
*A pool noodle cut into a cross-section like a doughnut can be used to increase the width of a writing tool for people who have trouble with grasping; you can use Coban to secure the noodle/pencil to the person’s hand if she is unable to maintain the grasp for an appropriate amount of time. Like thera-tubing, pool noodles come in several colors and with holes of different widths. I use a carving knife to for cutting this type of material. Cost: $3 for one noodle which can be used for several noodle-supports.
*The sponge part of a foam roller like the old-fashioned pink sponge rollers for hair can be placed over the barrel of a marker or other writing tool to lessen the grasping requirement and to provide additional sensory input if needed. These come in narrow or wide overall sizes, but the inner hole tends to be the same width in both varieties. Cost: package of 14 for $2
*A racquetball, a tennis ball, or another type of ball that is firm in structure can be used over a pencil or other writing tool as a grasping aid when a cross-cut in placed in the top and bottom so the pencil can be slid completely through the ball. I use scissors to make an X on the top and the underside. I actually found a dog toy (that glows in the dark!) that works for this as well. It came with a hole in it that was just a little too big to keep the pencil from slipping, and so I put first aid adhesive tape around the barrel of the pencil to make sure it would hold tightly within the ball when in use. Cost: $2-$3
And last, but not least, …
*A small plastic bottle such as an empty pill bottle, a trial sized shampoo bottle, or – like I used in the photo below – an empty bottle of eye drops can be used to support grasp on a writing implement if the lid is removed and a cross-cut is made in the bottom of the bottle. I used scissors to pry off the dropper end of the bottle and then used a small knife to cut an “X” into the opposite end of the bottle of eye drops. Cost: free
I will finish up this series of posts about supporting challenges in written output with Part 5 which will focus on ideas for using upcycled materials.