For children with coordination problems or weakness, use of scissors can be especially difficult. Here are some methods students, teachers and occupational therapists employ to encourage correct scissor use.
Start by letting the child know that they will be cutting a 4-inch circle that you have traced on card stock.
For right handed students start by talking how “busy” the left hand will be in holding the paper. Ask the child to cut a 4-inch circle that you have traced on card stock.
It is important to help the child understand the task before beginning. Once you explain how busy the left hand will be in turning the hard stock so the scissors can cut out the circle, then explain the duties of the right hand.
We want to downplay the cut-cut action of the scissor fingers and start by focusing on those muscles that must hold the card still while snipping and then moving the card between snips. I have found that by emphasizing the paper holding hand, the scissor holding hand has a much easier time of it. During the teacher demonstration of how to cut, children tend to focus only on the scissor blades during the teacher demonstration, so they miss the job of the paper holding hand.
Once the child understands what their non-dominant left hand must do, then introduce the job of the right hand. Ease their performance anxiety by reassuring them that the right hand has “the easy job of just opening and closing, opening and closing. Now let you fingers slide in here and here…”
Have the child try opening and closing their fingers. Test out different speeds and find the ideal speed.
Now put it together by supporting the child’s left hand to hold the cardboard to begin cutting out the traced 4-inch circle. Provide lots and lots of hand‑over-hand support so the child can feel the job of both hands.
You will want to reassure them about the scariness of opening and closing sharp blades rather than emphasize their danger. Try to refrain from frightening the child who is probably already over-stimulated and charged up. When you’re teaching a unique learner the use of scissors for the first time, safety is on you. Keep your fingers out of the way and don’t allow interruptions!
Now support the child’s left hand to hold the cardboard to begin cutting out the traced 4-inch circle. Provide lots and lots of hand‑over-hand support so the child can feel the job of both hands.
This step is to teach the left hand what to do. That means the task could be considered successful when just ¼ to ⅓ of the circle is cut. At this point the student can stop.
For the next step, or the next project, introduce a recipe card that has two or three lines drawn horizontally across the recipe card. Ask the child to hold the card with the left hand and cut along the straight line with the right hand. These can become bookmarks and have pretty pictures put on them as gifts for classmates or to say, “thank-you” to office staff.
After the child has demonstrated independence in cutting several lines, return to the circle and remind the child that he must let his brain really focus on his busy left hand. Remind him that the right hand does the open, close, open, close and the left hand is very busy turning and turning.
The right hand is always oriented at midline, just above waist level with the scissor blades pointing out. In other words, the child’s hand is in front of their stomach and the scissors are pointing away from them. This right-hand position never varies so the left hand has the job of turning the paper in order to keep the same right hand position for cutting a circle.
For left-handed students, it is important to use left-handed scissors and to follow the identical instructions for right-handed student, but reverse the hand function. The right (non-dominate) hand is introduced as the busy hand that must turn the paper and the left hand gets positioned at midline, blades pointed away from the tummy and the paper is brought to the scissors within this safe mid trunk position.
Teaching Scissor Safety to Unique Learners
Always encourage this secure arm and hand position when using scissors. Children should be sitting when they’re actively using scissors. They should also be taught how to carry scissors safely from one location to another.
We must remember that, most of the time, these children have tremendous eye‑hand coordination difficulties. Most likely they are already overwhelmed with the scissor skills task at hand. Add onto that, some children have an exaggerated sense of danger, and the child will be so worried about cutting themselves, or their friends that they won’t be able to enjoy learning how to cut.
Never-the-less, at the end of each scissor activity the safe manner of handling scissors needs to be reviewed. As stated above, it is usually off‑putting for unique learners to emphasize “the dangers” at the beginning of the session, so choose your words carefully.
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