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Little Hands makes big difference in motor skills

New occupational therapy program Little Hands has ended its first year with excellent results.

The program’s focus is to help children learn gross and fine motor skills, such as holding a pencil, cutting with scissors and “being able to do a range of things around strengthening sensory planning and fine motor skill co-ordination”, said Annette Cairnduff, director of the Social Inclusion Unit at the University of Sydney.

The program was launched at various Western Sydney public schools, including Bexley, Fairfield and Wattawa Heights, in Term 2 of this year.

Throughout the 11-week school term, 20 occupational therapy students and alumni volunteers from the Little Hands program assisted 180 kindergarten and Year 1 students through the Fingergym Fine Motor Skills School Readiness Program.

Of the participants, 83 per cent had improved fine motor skills and 78 per cent reported an improved ability to carry out self-care tasks, such as tying shoelaces and dressing. Also 100 per cent of teachers found general improvement in their students’ gross and fine motor skills, focus and confidence in the classroom.

Cairnduff mentioned that there were many unidentified occupational therapy issues when kids enter school and there was a real need for schools to develop a program that would help.

“This was part of us wanting to develop a program that would give our [university] students the opportunity to engage in schools and communities and would also give the schools something  they need.”

The assistant principal of Wattawa Heights Public School, Nitsa Comninos said, “Having this structured program has been beneficial because it broke down into five key areas what sorts of skills are needed and provided specific examples of activities to be incorporated in the classroom.”

Antoinette Mouzayek, a parent at Wattawa Heights Public School said, “It’s not like a normal lesson where children can get easily bored. The program is so quick and fun, the students don’t even realise they’re developing their fine motor skills.”

Parents were also encouraged to participate in information sessions; 175 parents received instruction on how to practice the skills with their children at home.

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