Scissor Skills and Speech: A Perfect Match

Stick with me.  We’re gonna talk crafts.

Not the glitter-flying, drying-time crafts, but specifically those that incorporate scissor skills. Maybe a glue stick or crayons.  Even those of you who swear you can’t or won’t “do crafts” will be tempted to add these and here’s why….

Have you ever noticed there’s a disproportionate number of kids from the classroom that see (or should see) both you and the OT?  It’s not a coincidence.

Articulation is the fine-iest of the fine motor skills, involving lots of little muscles in a symphony of movement and coordinated timing.

But our kiddos who are less symphony, maybe leaning towards cacophony, frequently have issues with other complex fine motor skills like handwriting and cutting in addition to speech.  And they need to work on all of it.

Scissor skills are important pre-writing skills. They build muscle strength, improve hand and eye coordination and require bilateral integration (which means using both sides of the body in a coordinated way).

But there has also been research that suggests improving these fine motor skills can have an impact on fine motor skills as a whole—including articulation.  Now, I don’t mean to suggest that having kiddos cut intricate designs for weeks on end will somehow end up in lovely /r/ productions.  Of course, you need to do targeted practice of sounds in error, but working on fine motor skills across the board seems to develop neural pathways that support improvement in related fine motor skills.

I personally incorporate a lot of additional fine motor work into my speech sessions for a few reasons:

  • They need the practice and it’s an easy item for me to incorporate.
  • Parents and OTs are grateful for the extra practice and (hopefully) more willing to support my requests for extra practice as a result.
  • I’m vested in the improvement of their fine motor skills for both improvement in articulation and because writing is another area of communication I want to support (even if my area is content over visual quality).
  • I’ve noticed that students working on articulation while increasing the “mental load” by adding a fine motor component, seem to have an easier time with carry-over outside the therapy room.
  • Speech seldom occurs all by itself. The expectation is you’ll walk and talk, work and talk (quietly), eat and talk (with your mouth shut), play and talk,….you get the idea.

Here are a few easy, low prep and low mess ways you can combine speech and scissor practice in your room.

  • One of the earliest scissor skills is short snips.  When you do this across the bottom of a sheet of paper, it looks like fringe.  Try having a student say and snip for each word they say. (*Additional tip: card stock is easier than regular paper to begin with.)
  • Cutting in a straight line is the next level of difficulty.   Consider having a student repeat one word for each snip as they cut across a paper.  Once the strip falls off, start a new line and a new word.  (*Additional tip: Fold and cut an 8.5”x11” paper vertically so strips are shorter and more manageable to start.)
  • Angled or wavy lines or cutting out simple shapes is the next level of difficulty. For these, have students cut around a sheet with their artic words (*Additional tip: draw a quick shape around each picture with a wide marker that they can use as a guide.)

I’ve had years where I’ve been between schools and in non-classroom spaces for therapy so I started creating cutting projects that didn’t generate any mess, were a cute reminder that the child had speech that day and the kids felt vested enough in that they showed it off (making it very easy for parents to review/practice at home).

Click on the cover for full descriptions:

    

Sooooo many kiddos come to me with limited scissor exposure.  I think because parents are nervous about “accidents” (aka horrible self done haircuts). I remember a cousin with a very close crop in one area when he was three or four. Anyone else have a early scissor mishap?

 

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The views expressed in this blog are my own and are intended to inspire other speech-language pathologists in their own practice. If you are a parent, teacher or other educator, these ideas are not intended to take the place of treatment by a certified clinician. Read full disclaimer here.