This informative guest blog comes to us occupational therapist Katie Zelinski from The Well Balanced OT.
As a pediatric Occupational Therapist I am always looking to add items to my “tool-bag” that I can use to promote greater independence for my clients. Some of the children I work with have poor hand awareness, a loose grasp, and poor visual attention, all of which impact distal function, and more specifically, handwriting. The Tran-Quill Writing Kit is the perfect tool to help! It combines a Z-Vibe with 3 different writing attachments to provide vibration to the hand during these activities.
First off, what’s so special about a vibrating writing utensil?
When you turn the handle on, the vibration sends the brain a message saying “HEY! YOU! WAKE UP!!!” The brain then sends a message back to the hand to turn on all the little muscles that are just waiting to work. Those muscles activate and send yet another message back to the brain with information all about the hand: how it’s moving, its physical boundaries, what the writing utensil feels like, etc. Since the brain now has a better understanding of the hand, it’s now able to send a signal to the eyes: “Hey eyes, see these things down here? They are your hands and they are capable of so much! They can make marks on paper and they can manipulate tools, but you can only be successful if you look at them!”
Basically there’s a multi-lane highway between our hands and our brain. For most people, the road is clear and running smoothly; tactile and proprioceptive sensory signals are transmitted to the brain, and motor signals are sent to the hand to perform a skilled distal manipulation.
This isn’t the case for everyone.
For some people, the highway is jammed. Their brain doesn’t pay attention to their extremities because they aren’t registering any of the sensory signals, or they are perceiving them too faintly. Vibration provides a stronger input to the hand, allowing the body to register the sensation and send information to the brain. With the Z-Vibe, the highway is cleared, and cars are traveling back and forth taking new information with them, helping the hand-brain connection grow stronger each time.
Okay, now that we know WHY we are using this - let’s jump into the Tran-Quill Writing Kit!
The handle looks like a little stick with two ends. One end is where the different tips screw in and the other is the on/off switch and where the battery is stored.
Do you have a child who really needs a lot of oral input? Do they chew their clothes, erasers, or hair? You can replace the on/off tip with another one for oral input! Give the Brick Tip or the Bite-n-Chew Tip a try.
Perfect for coloring and use with our smaller kiddos (2-5 years old) practicing their pre-writing strokes.
OT advice: Break the crayons in half before placing them in the tip. This decreases the size of the writing utensil making it a bit easier to manage.
The Tran-Quill Writing Kit comes with 1 pencil adaptor and 5 golf pencils to fit into the adapter. The pencil is great for our Elementary+ age kids.
And just a side note, the vibration does not impact the legibility of writing at all. In fact, a bystander would have no idea that the child used anything but a regular old pencil. This definitely isn’t the squiggle pen of the 80’s.
You’d be surprised how many elementary aged kids are motivated to write when they are using a pen. I’d pull this out on special occasions or use with some of my older kids. Pens typically glide a little better on paper, which may help improve the fluidity of writing.
Some additional options:
I always recommend adding on the additional battery, especially if this is something you envision using often or with many kids. The last thing you want is to pull it out for a session (or for homework) and it won’t turn on. You can still use it, but just without the vibration.
Does your child need even more input? Or maybe have they have some tremors? Weighted items have been found to facilitate greater distal control. This tip goes on the end of the stick (where the on/off switch is). You twist the weight to turn the vibration on and off.
I really love these grips when using the pencil tips. It gives the children a visual cue to where their hands go (instead of holding further up the handle) and promotes a more functional grasp. You get two, because we work with kids and will obviously lose one.
I highly recommend The Tran-Quill Writing Kit to all my OT friends and concerned parents. It’s motivating and fun for kids, which meets their requirements, and it improves their independence, which meets my requirements.
Katie Zelinski graduated from New York University with a masters in Occupational Therapy. She currently lives in Cleveland, Ohio and practices OT at Galvin Therapy Center. She has additional training in Ayres Sensory Integration, Reflex Integration, handwriting, and Integrated Listening.
Follow her on Instagram @the.well.balanced.OT