A network to share best practices for children with special needs
One of the first tasks I do, in an early childhood setting, is to assess the level of independence. This, of course, really boils down to functional use of hands, which is why most early childhood settings are full of tactile manipulatives and gooey substances for hand use.
The hands are great for zipping and buttoning clothes, as well as opening and shutting doors and small containers. This also covers dressing, feeding and ambulatory manipulation of the classroom environment. All of these hand-tool skills are precursors to drawing and then handwriting. I often have a goal saying, “student will write their first name,” but find that the student cannot manipulate objects or has tactile defensiveness with different substances (like play dough, silly putty, shaving cream, clay). I have to go backwards developmentally and address hands as a tool.
I often marvel at a new born/infant when they discover their hands. They look at them in awe as they realize the potential of their amazing tool. Their first cognitive grasp of an object is magical. Hand use (scooping, raking, finger dexterity, sensory, etc.) and strength are quick assessments to direct the next level of a goal or objective. Hands are critical components to tool manipulation, but "hands down" (sorry, I couldn’t resist) the hands come first.