By Kate Hunger
This December marked the 23rd time occupational therapy students have traveled to Del Rio to perform handwriting screenings for children enrolled in a Head Start program and to offer a school readiness in-service for their teachers and parents.
Forty-one MOT II students made the 12-hour trip on Dec. 6. The students were accompanied by Karin Barnes, Ph.D., OTR, occupational therapy associate professor; Kimatha Oxford Grice, OTD, OTR, CHT, associate professor; and Azalya Hernandez, MOT III.
The students screened 30 children on a range of skills, including scissors skills and pre-handwriting skills. The 20-minute screenings yielded important information, MOT II student Andrea Hernandez said.
“ In that short amount of time we were able to observe and evaluate the student's pencil grip, hand manipulation skills, and fine motor skills while using a pencil, crayons, and scissors,” she said. “Any deficits in these areas often go unnoticed this early in childhood. It is important to identify handwriting challenges before they affect the student's academic performance once they reach elementary school.”
The experience offered valuable practice, said Stephanie Nicole Pena, MOT II.
“Just being able to get to sit down and interact with a child is great,” Pena reflected. “Hands-on practice such as this allows me to build on my confidence as I prepare for my fieldwork rotations coming up.”
The MOT students also prepared an in-service packed with information on how to help children get ready for kindergarten, including how to pay attention in school, how to self-calm, and how to work on both small hand activities and big hand activities such as catching balls. Students delivered the in-service presentation in both English and Spanish.
The trip served as a capstone for the students’ final pediatric course.
“I notice the (OT) students gain a lot of self-confidence,” from the experience, Barnes said. “I am always so impressed with them.”