After the year we’ve had, we’re ready to dive back into school and a sense of normalcy. But for many students and their families, fine motor skills have taken a back seat for longer than we thought. That’s why I’ve asked Jennifer Morgan, occupational therapist and founder of MOST Kids OT to be on the Diverse Thinking Different Learning Podcast today to help us understand fine motor skills, dysgraphia, and what occupational therapy (OT) assessments and services look like.
Jennifer’s holistic and collaborative approach is not only refreshing to see, but incredibly impactful for the students she sees. In today’s episode, she describes what a session with her and her team looks like and the emphasis she puts on having fun during therapy. She clarifies some of the mysteries surrounding occupational therapy and why children hard at work might look like they are just playing. Not only that, but she offers several tips for parents and caregivers to work on fine motor skills at home and shares some things to look out for that may lead to a child benefitting from services.
[2:02] – Due to distance learning, handwriting, typing, and other fine motor skills took a backseat. Summer time is a good time to revisit these skills.
[3:12] – After the last year, children need to play. Play is important for many skills.
[5:16] – The most common referral for OT with Jennifer is a problem with handwriting. She describes what this looks like.
[6:55] – In the beginning of services, Jennifer describes what she looks for (e.g., observations of a child’s physical movements when writing). A lot of kids have low muscle tone in their hands.
[8:15] – Jennifer describes different grasps that students may use to write.
[9:28] – A standardized test is also used to break apart the motor component of writing.
[10:28] – Another thing that is looked at is sizing and placement of letters in writing.
[11:53] – Some students, depending on their age when starting with Jennifer, have established habits that may be hard to break. Is keyboarding an option for some?
[13:20] – There are so many benefits to brain development when writing.
[14:18] – Even if keyboarding is more efficient for a student, handwriting should still be utilized and worked on.
[16:14] – Dysgraphia and handwriting weakness impacts academic success as well.
[17:10] – Jennifer begins services with encouragement, and she helps students realize that they are not the only ones experiencing the struggle.
[19:08] – Jennifer reflects on the difficulty faced in the last year with her students and “pulling out all the stops.”
[21:09] – Referrals during the last year were low because things went unnoticed. Jennifer explains how she saw increased referrals this spring.
[23:17] – There is so much mystery around occupational therapy. There are underlying skills that are being worked on while appearing to be playing.
[24:19] – Jennifer describes a tool she uses called “theraputty.”
[26:00] – Although every child is different, there is a “bag of tricks” that works with many different skills.
[27:14] – Coloring is a great way to work on fine motor dexterity.
[29:07] – If children experience therapy as fun, they are more engaged. Jennifer prides herself on being quick to build skills because of high engagement.
[30:24] – Jennifer explains how she and the child know when they are done with therapy and know that they are able to continue on without assistance.
[32:10] – Sometimes students will come back for sessions later for refreshers or needs in a different area.
[33:50] – If Jennifer feels that a child needs different help or is better suited for a different type of therapy, she will make the necessary referrals.
[35:34] – OT can boost self-confidence greatly.
[36:45] – Jennifer gives suggestions for parents to help with fine motor skills at home in a very fun way.
About Our Guest:
Jennifer Morgan is a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of MOST Kids OT, a private pediatric occupational therapy practice based in West Los Angeles. Jennifer founded MOST in Malibu, California in 2013, with the goal of providing individualized and holistic OT services to children of all ages and abilities. Jennifer and her team have succeeded in that (despite a few natural disasters), and she specializes in providing local home based and private school based occupational therapy for children to target a wide variety of skills. Jennifer utilizes a whole-child approach in her work, and enjoys collaborating with parents, teachers, and other health professionals to provide the best level of individualized service.
Jennifer’s primary expertise is helping children to develop their fine motor skills (handwriting, keyboarding), and ensuring that her clients make quick progress with lasting results. In 2018, Jennifer expanded her services by instituting the occupational therapy program at Park Century School, an independent school dedicated to providing individualized education to students with learning differences. She is passionate about her work, and this is reflected in her ever expanding involvement in the community. Jennifer is a Board Member for the Malibu Chamber of Commerce and the Boys & Girls Club of Malibu Wellness Advisory Council, and she co-organizes events with THERAsurf, bringing her expertise and exuberance to every interaction she encounters.
Connect with Jennifer Morgan:
- MOST Kids OT Home Page
- Instagram | Facebook
- Email: Jennifer@mostkids.org
- Phone: 310-437-0202
- Making the MOST of It Podcast with Jennifer Morgan
- ChildNEXUS Provider Profile: Jennifer Morgan
Links and Related Resources:
- Episode 9: How Occupational Therapy Helps Kids with Leah Hiller
- Slow Processing Speed: An Overlooked Problem in Children
- Dizziness and Balance Problems Common in U.S. Kids
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The Diverse Thinking Different Learning podcast is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or legal advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Additionally, the views and opinions expressed by the host and guests are not considered treatment and do not necessarily reflect those of ChildNEXUS, Inc or the host, Dr. Karen Wilson.