From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L

From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L

The team at Special Needs Book Review has a new guide book to tell you about. From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills  by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L. is primarily for parents of children and adults on the autism spectrum but educators, new therapists as well as seasoned therapists will also find a wealth of information to help autistic individuals.

In our interview with Barbara Smith, she explained the following: “While working in the public schools I observed that many preschooler and kindergarten children were referred for occupational therapy because they had difficulties with fine motor skills due to lack of early experiences. I recommend activities in my reports that developed sensory awareness, strength and coordination and the parent’s often said “I never thought of that!”

This is exactly why we love the practical strategies and The Recycling Occupational Therapist: Hundreds of Simple Therapy Materials You Can Make : developmental activities Barbara Smith introduces in her books, videos, and on her social media sites…they are “oh-so-simple” but “oh-so-effective”! AND Barbara shows you how to make great teaching-therapy tools by using easily found household items you can recycle!

Smith not only offers practical strategies to encourage children with autism to use their hands for functional tasks, she provides information and techniques to promote improved sensory processing, the development of visual skills, and much more. Here is what you will learn from reading this book:

• How do I reinforce positive behavior?

• What is a strategy that I can use to get my child to make eye contact with others?

• How do I get my child to cross midline or use both hands together?

• What is a visual schedule?

• How do sensory processing challenges impact development?

• What are some effective strategies to promote writing skills?

• How can computer apps be used as teaching tools?

We have already reviewed two of Ms. Smith’s wonderful books and her Weaveable Toys: Basic Shapes and links to these reviews and where to buy them are at the end of this post.

Our Special Needs Book Review teams is very grateful that Barbara found time to write a guest post introducing her latest book!

Guest Post by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L

From Flapping to Function:

A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills

About the Book:

Parents may wonder why their children flap their hands, spin or line up cars.  Children on the autism spectrum often find these types of repetitive motions calming, especially when over-stimulated. There is nothing wrong with what is called “stereotypies”. However, it is a problem when children engage in them to the exclusion of playing and manipulating objects to learn skills such as drawing pictures, cutting shapes, throwing a ball toward a target or dressing.

I wrote From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills to provide a one-stop resource that explains the challenges that impact developing hand skills and the strategies that help children to reach their potentials.  These challenges may include difficulties with

  • sensory processing
  • functional vision
  • executive functioning
  • behaviors that interfere with learning

Parents, teachers and other caregivers can create environments and adapt activities for children with autism and other developmental disabilities that help them to  reach their potentials. Many of these strategies are simple, inexpensive and easy to implement.

The Author’s Goals:

There have been many books written about autism with the focus on improving social and communication skills, sensory processing and decreasing maladaptive behaviors such as head banging or hand biting. From Flapping to Function is the only comprehensive guide that explains the developmental differences children with autism experience that impact hand skills and the strategies that address them.

Some parents view their child’s fine-motor skills as a relative strength because he or she can manipulate tiny objects such as beads or complete complex puzzles. However, as these children grow older, they often struggle to meet the higher demands to learn complex fine-motor tasks such as hand writing or tying shoes. This book will help children of all developmental levels whether they are learning to visually attend to grasp a spoon or write their name. The strategies described in this book help parents, teachers and others to implement strategies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week whether at school, home or in the community. I wrote this book so that caregivers can provide effective and consistent interventions across settings.

Target Audience:

The target audience is primarily parents of children and adults on the autism spectrum and some strategies can be implemented soon after birth. My own baby was extremely sensitive, requiring calming strategies that met his sensory needs in order to eat and sleep. Although children do not typically receive an autism diagnosis until older, From Flapping to Function enables parents to identify red flags, especially if older siblings have been diagnosed with a developmental disorder.

Many of the strategies described in this book should also be very helpful for educators, new therapists as well as seasoned therapists with limited experience working with this population. Educators may be especially interested to learn about Apps designed to promote dexterity and strategies to develop handwriting skills.

Since this book is written primarily for an audience that may be new to autism spectrum disorders and the related terms and concepts, each chapter ends with a bulleted summary of key points and the book ends with an extensive glossary, resources and Do-It-Yourself tips.

*Excerpts or quotes so we know what it is like

From Flapping to Function is packed with photographs and vignettes of children with challenges and the strategies that helped them. For example:

Abdul was motivated to insert magnets into the can shown in photograph 2 when an electric toothbrush was placed inside.Four-year-old Abdul prefers to line up objects rather than drop them through a small opening into a container. Inserting objects is an early skill that develops the eye-hand coordination to use shape sorters or push coins into a piggy bank.  Abdul was motivated to insert magnets into the can shown in photograph 2 when an electric toothbrush was placed inside.

The toothbrush created vibration and motor sounds that interested Abdul and made him want to hold the container. He had to use both hands together – an important skill that will be discussed later – in order to separate the magnets. Pulling magnets apart is an enticing activity by itself, but inserting them into a vibrating container is irresistible. This is one of my oh-so-simple, yet oh-so-effective strategies to help children to build hand skills.

The following activity helped Gary learn how to fit letters on guide lines with spaces between words.activity helped Gary learn how to fit letters on guide lines with spaces between words.

Attach three strips of Velcro fastener to a frame. The frame shown in photo 39 is a large plastic envelope that also provides storage. Cut small ovals and circles out of white plastic milk bottles. The taller ovals are used to write uppercase and ascender and descender letters (such as H, p, y and d) and the smaller circular shapes are used to write half-space letters such as a or s. Attach dots of Velcro to the letter pieces so that they can be repeatedly rearranged on the board.

Use dry-erase marker so that the shapes can be wiped clean and reused. Show children how to spell a word or short phrase, choosing the correct large or small shape to write letters on. They then place the letters on the Velcro fastener strips, in the correct order and position. This provides a visual and tactile experience as they feel and see how the letters relate spatially to one another.

Video of Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L, The Recycling Occupational Therapist, showing strategies and adaptions of activities that develop hand dexterity as mentioned in her latest book, From Flapping to Function

About the Author:

Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L, Author of  From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L started out in human services as a live-in residential counselor for nine developmentally disabled men who moved from a large institution into a true home in an upstate New York community. After discovering she had a talent for helping people to be as independent as possible. Barbara earned her master’s degree from Tufts University’s Boston School of Occupational Therapy in 1984. In addition she has earned certifications in sensory integration and hippotherapy.

Barbara  has worked for more than 30 years in settings that include public schools, early intervention programs, community residences, state schools, and Hippotherapy farms. She is the author of the following books: The Recycling Occupational Therapist; The Almost Complete Plastic Bottle Activity Book; Still Giving Kisses: A Guide to Helping and Enjoying the Alzheimer’s Victim You Love; and From Rattles Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills. Barbara has also published extensively in trade and parenting magazines and is a nationally recognized speaker and creator of online continuing education courses.

Follow Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L, The RecyclingOT: The Recycling Occupational Therapist: Hundreds of Simple Therapy Materials You Can Make by Barbara Smith MS, OTR/L

READ Also: 

From Rattles to Writing: A Parent’s Guide to Hand Skills by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/LBuy Books by Barbara A. Smith, MS, OTR/L

  • From Flapping to Function: A Parent’s Guide to Autism and Hand Skills Amazon.com   Amazon.ca
  • The Recycling Occupational Therapist: Hundreds of Simple Therapy Materials You Can Make :  Amazon.com  Amazon.ca

This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.
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