Meet Kendra, our new Occupational Therapist!


Hello everyone, and welcome to the first newsletter of the Rise 2019–2020 school year. My name is Kendra VanderWal, and I am the new occupational therapist at Rise! I am so excited to be part of this amazing team of therapists, teachers, parents, and students. My OT pediatric experience includes early intervention (EI), preschool–middle school, and pediatric clinic services. Although my career path is an occupational therapist, I am first and foremost a mom. My little guy, Ben, is in the Bears classroom this year, and he has Down syndrome. Since Ben came into our lives, we have experienced a whirlwind of smiles and tears, bravery and fear, strength and vulnerability, but most of all, love. He has helped make me into the therapist I am today. 

The Rise students participate in occupational therapy groups throughout the year to help build their fine motor skills, upper body and core strength, motor planning and coordination skills, regulate their bodies to various senses in the environment, and refine their self-help skills. Since we are coming off the summer break, I want to share some information about transitioning back into the classroom.

It is important to note, fine motor skills in preschool are not learned by sitting at a table for long periods of time. To learn these skills, we want to work on some of the foundational and fundamental steps first—some of which include lots of movement, big body work, and floor/tummy time. By utilizing some of the activities listed on this page at school and at home, we can help alleviate some of the stress your child may feel about fine motor skills such as handwriting, coloring, scissor use, or manipulating everyday items (i.e. toys, spoons, cups, containers, etc). 

Movement and Hand-Eye Coordination Activities 
 Catching bubbles with both hands or popping them with their pointer finger
 Copying arm actions to finger plays (i.e., Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes)
 Throwing small balls into a hula hoop or basket
 Stacking mega blocks and crashing down with both hands
 Opening, closing, and stacking different sized containers
 Rolling a ball back and forth 

Big Body Work
 Crawling under a blanket tunnel 
 Action songs
 Ring Around the Rosie (holding hands together in a circle moving to the left and right, then crashing into pillows or cushions at the end)
 Row, Row, Row Your Boat (while sitting on the floor facing one another, hold a blanket or each other’s hands, then rock forward and backward)
 Animal walks
 Bear crawl (have your child move around on their hands and feet with their bottom
 Elephant swing (have your child put their arms together and swing side to side)
 Penguin walk (have your child keep their arms straight by their sides and take short steps while waddling side to side)
 Dog crawl (have your child crawl on their hands and knees)
 Pillow play (pillow hugs/squeezes or controlled pillow fights)
 Pushing ball under comforter or quilt blanket
 Using both hands to smear finger paint, whipping cream, or pudding on a sliding glass door 
 Shaking blanket up and down while sitting and standing

Tummy time is also a critical piece to building fine motor skills—no matter the age. It helps stretch their core, back, and hip muscles as well as builds their upper body strength and endurance. Encouraging tummy time at least 5–10 minutes after school each day can help build these skills. Here is to a great year at the Rise School! I look forward to collaborating with every one of you. Please email me or find me in the hallway if you have any questions. Have fun!

-Kendra Vander Wal, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist

Rise Office