A part of school life includes cutting and pasting. It can hardly be avoided. From art activities to cutting up fractions – being able to cut and paste is a skill required to complete them. However, a child with special needs may never get to découpage because he’s struggling between holding a pair of scissors and wanting to taste the glue.
You can find scissor and glue skills practice on Pinterest, without a doubt. And, while tearing and expecting mom to glue the bits together is fun to do, it can only go so far. If you feel saddened by the fact that your child may never be able to create a ‘Thank You’ card for his grandparents, this post is for you!
Why cutting and pasting may be a challenge for children with special needs
- Children with fine motor delays will struggle with holding a pair of scissors while holding a piece of paper and coordinating the cutting sequence.
- Children who still mouth objects may want to lick the glue.
- Squeezing a glue bottle is a challenge for those with fine motor difficulties.
- Children with visual-motor difficulties will find cutting on a line to be tricky.
Suggestions for adaptations/ modifications for cutting and pasting
- Model. Before expecting your child to engage in activities that involve the use of scissors or glue, be sure to have your child observe you as you use the materials. Talk through it: “Look. I’m cutting the paper. Cut. Cut. Cut. Cut. All done!” “I’m sticking the paper to the scrapbook. Dot, dot. Tap, tap, tap. All done!”
- Offer the proper supplies. It might take a little while (and a little money) to find just the right tools for your child. Look through catalogues that market to children with special needs. You might be able to judge by just looking at a pair of scissors or a bottle of glue that they may be too difficult for your child to manage. However, you can’t fully know until you give it a go – so keep an open mind. If you don’t want to spend money, ask your child’s OT what she could lend you for a week as you test things out.
If you worry that your child will mouth liquid glue, make some homemade glue instead (1/2 c flour, 1 ½ c water, 1/3 c sugar, 1 tsp vinegar, heat through until thickened. Let cool before use.)
- Work through it hand-over-hand. After several days of observations, and hearing the verbal routine, guide your child through cutting and gluing. Below are some specific tips for each skill.
- Work through a simple cutting activity. Begin by just cutting the paper in one spot and celebrating! Then, in two spots. Yah! Work up to cutting straight across the page, then zigzags, then curves, then simple shapes.
- Use verbal routines : “Cut, cut, cut, stop!” (for straight-line cutting) or “Cut, cut, cut, turn!” (for cutting around a shape) or “Zig, zag. Zig, zag” (for… you got it – zig, zag lines).
- When working with liquid glue, have some glue out on a paper plate and use a craft stick to scoop it up. I would avoid using a spoon of any kind – especially with a child who mouths things. He may confuse this gloop on a spoon with food.
- Don’t avoid squeeze bottles altogether. The bottles on the market are actually child-friendly in design as they are flatter than, say, a condiments bottle. Work your way up to teaching your child the hand skill of squeezing. Having glue contained in a bottle will make it less likely for your child to want to stick his hands in it and then lick them! (Although, my little one is quick – even with a dot of glue).
- Work on making dots with glue, then lines, then zigzags, then squiggles. Your child will love it – even if you’re doing it hand-over-hand. My son loves the word “squiggle” and always asks for MORE.
- Use verbal routines: “Dot, dot, dot, tap, tap” (with squeeze bottle) or “Scoop, tap, tap” (with craft stick) or “Whoosh, whoosh, tap, tap” (with glue stick). (“Tap, tap” is for actually sticking the paper onto another paper/ object, etc.)
In what ways does your child struggle with cutting and pasting? Do you have a tool or trick to share?