Today I worked with a girl, J, with autism who has difficulty isolating the pointer finger to point at pictures, imitate lines, or any other activity requiring this skill. If the child cannot isolate fingers as in typical development, they will have difficulty with daily functional activities such as tying shoes, writing with a pencil, playing an instrument, and so much other good stuff to name a few.
I have learned the importance of looking at grasp to measure strength of the upper extremities and lacking isolation of the pointer and middle fingers, or “tripod fingers” in the therapy world, may mean she does not have the shoulder or arm stability to support the hand and fine motor skills.
As we strengthen J’s hand, we will work on activities that encourage use of her tripod fingers to later support the strength for handwriting and so many other functional activities that will be expected of her. To understand her current grasp and why it is difficult, try writing with your ring and little fingers hanging next to the pencil instead of being firmly tucked away – it is much more difficult and tiring. Strengthening these muscles will help her to pinch, grasp, and ultimately allow her the endurance to sustain handwriting activities.
Activities we worked on today:
- Pulling colorful bears from theraputty to strengthen overall musculature of the hand to support.
- “Feeding” shaving cream “ice cream” to bears to encourage her to press down on shaving cream bottle with one or two fingers as positive breaks in writing activities.
- “Finger painting” in shaving cream imitating vertical and horizontal lines and circles.
- Forming playdough balls between her thumb and tripod fingers.
- Pointing at objects in a book.
Happy strengthening and isolating!