Four-year-old Ben prefers to play with his toy cars by lining them up and inspecting them from various angles while flapping his hands in excitement. He becomes upset if one of them gets moved and will either scream until it is put back in its place, or become nearly inconsolable if it is not. When he is not lining up his cars, Ben prefers to clutch his cars in his hands as he walks around, making his hands unavailable for grasping and manipulating other objects. Ben hates to touch developmental materials or foods such as play dough, dry beans, bananas, or yogurt. When presented with fine motor activities such as putting in shapes, building with blocks, or stringing beads, Ben prefers to either put the items in his mouth or throw them.
If this scenario is familiar to you, then you NEED to know about this book!
This post contains affiliate links for your convenience (see my full disclosure here).
From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills, by Barbara Smith, OTR/L, has become my new go-to resource for supporting fine motor development in children with autism.
I already consistently reference her previous book, From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills, which was written to help parents and educators foster the early developmental skills children need in order to read and write. You can read my review of From Rattles to Writing by clicking here.
As I’ve been reading through From Flapping to Function, I’ve begun implementing strategies into my own OT practice within the clinic-based setting, and I can honestly say that they are making a BIG DIFFERENCE! I don’t know that I can fully express how grateful I am to Barbara Smith for writing this book and providing me a copy for review here on the blog. She has done such an amazing job at addressing a very challenging issue that parents and therapists of individuals with autism face every day.
If you are a parent of a child with autism, a therapist working with individuals with moderate-to-severe autism (children and adults!), or another valuable person looking to improve your understanding of how to support children with autism, this book is for YOU!
3 IMPORTANT THINGS YOU’LL LEARN IN THIS BOOK
1. You will get a thorough, sensible look at underlying factors that influence hand use and skill development. The author outlines how using the hands efficiently to perform skills requires appropriate sensory processing (particularly as it relates to the sense of touch), visual skills, and executive functioning skills. These three areas are often challenging for children with autism.
2. You will learn how to adapt everyday materials and activities, as well as how to provide appropriate instructional strategies, to help individuals with autism better access and develop their hands for functional use.
Two of my favorite adaptations that have impacted my practice as an OT are the use of vibration in facilitating hand function as well as the use of “take-apart” boxes to help children with autism learn to unscrew (and later screw on) caps from bottles.
1) USE AN ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH TO ADD VIBRATION TO RESISTIVE STRINGING
*Duct tape has been wrapped around the toothbrush head so kids don’t think they are supposed to put in mouth
2) PRACTICE UNSCREWING CAPS WITH THIS “TAKE-APART BOX” (AND LEARN TO SCREW BACK ON)
*Be mindful of cap size and choking hazards with individuals who will try to put them in their mouth
Barbara provides more explanation of how to construct and utilize these and many other therapeutic materials within her book. If you don’t have the book yet, you can take a look at a similar item on one of Barbara’s websites, which she calls a “Manipulation Box“. She also presents several creative strategies for helping children with autism learn how to improve their handwriting skills, which is especially helpful for those of us who are school-based occupational therapy practitioners.
3. You will learn about many, many resources you as an adult can access in order to better support the individuals with autism in your life. This includes adaptive equipment, sensory materials, apps, websites (including blogs and websites with specialized therapy materials), books, and inspirational sources. When I read through the book, I was excited to learn that MamaOT.com had been included in Barbara’s list of recommended child development and therapy websites. WOW. What an incredible honor.
All in all, I feel this book is a must-have for those who care for or work with children and adults with autism.
This quote from page 93 of From Flapping to Function sums up both my approach to therapy as well as the overarching message of this book:
“The most effective teaching strategies are individualized to meet the needs of the learner.”
If we are to make a significant and meaningful difference in the lives of children with autism, we must consider their individual needs, understand what skills need to be acquired, and determine what strategies or adaptations will be needed in order to help them get there.
From Flapping to Function is your roadmap on this journey.
It will help you understand how to support children with autism in more fully developing and accessing their hand skills so they can engage with their environment in a more independent and functional way.
HOW TO ACCESS “FROM FLAPPING TO FUNCTION: A PARENT’S GUIDE TO AUTISM AND HAND SKILLS”
From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills, by Barbara Smith, OTR/L, can be found at this link on Amazon or by clicking the image below.
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