Fine Motor Skills– Handwriting, Keyboarding, Feeding

It feels like a stabilizing hug. A simple intervention that can do so much!

Wearing a OTvest, denim weighted vest, can help those who struggle with fine motor skills, such as handwriting, keyboarding, drinking from a cup or holding a spoon, comb, or toothbrush, buttoning or fastening one’s clothes, coloring, cutting with scissors, or putting a puzzle together.

The deep pressure (provided by the weights lying directly upon muscle fibers) can stimulate the brain to produce neurotransmitters which effect our sense of calmness, focus and well-being, and an increased attention-to-task. In addition to the calming, focusing effect of the application of deep pressure, trunk stability is also increased because of the patented weight placement inside of the vest–which helps reduce tremors and stabilize the trunk for increased distal (hand) coordination–providing increased control of arm and hand use. Person’s with movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, cerebellar ataxia, multiple sclerosis, athetoid cerebral palsy, and intention tremors can often see improved fine motor and upper extremity function when wearing a OTvest.

 Handwriting  can be a particular struggle for those with ADHD or difficulty with hand control, as staying within the lines of ruled paper, forming the “points of juncture” necessary to create letters, and the visual attention and fine motor skill needed to “cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s” requires an extreme amount of  visual attention-to-task and motor coordination. Tremors can further impair fine motor function.

In the research published in The American Journal of Occupational Therapy by Nancy VandenBerg, OTR/L, the ADHD children in the study showed an increase in attention-to-task while performing fine motor tasks such as cutting, drawing, pasting and writing by 18-25% while wearing a weighted vest. Using her experience with sensory integration treatment, Bobath and NDT theory, and knowledge of the central nervous system, Ms. VandenBerg created the OTvest, as she was excited by the outcomes of the research study, but realized that a weighted vest needed to provide weight directly to the muscles receptors and could therefore, use less weight than often found in other available weighted vests through this more effective use of direct weight placement on the body, rather than weight supported by the garment by hanging inside pockets.

A first grade teacher excitedly showed Ms. VandenBerg a class assignment by a boy in her class, done while wearing a OTvest–completing a page for the first time, and coloring within the lines of the triangles and geometric shapes for the math assignment, which he rarely, if ever, could do without wearing the OTvest, weighted vest. The teacher said that the young child told her, “I feel like a brand new boy.” He typically had papers and pencils all over the floor around his desk, being very unfocused and disorganized. He was so proud of himself as he could see the difference in his work. What an improvement in self-esteem!

Occupational therapists have reported that wearers of the OTvest, weighted vest have shown almost total elimination of tremors. Improvement has been seen with elderly wearers, for example, in improvement in daily living skills such as being able to hold a cup of coffee without spilling due to the increase in trunk stability.

1. VandenBerg, N.L. (2001). The use of a weighted vest to increase on-task behavior in children with attention difficulties. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 55, 621-628. November/December 2001. This research is also in the book, Pediatric Issues in Occupational Therapy: A Compendium of Leading Scholarship (Royeen, 2004) published by AOTA (N. VandenBerg, Chapter 25.)