Interview: Ruth Stephens, Child Occupational Therapist

The brilliant thing about pens is that, while they’re capable of producing great art, they also provide one of our simplest, most effective means of communication, aside from speech.

That’s why we love to hear from  people who put their pens to that most fundamental task, connecting people through the handwritten word. Especially when they’re helping to pass that skill on to the next generation.

Today, we introduce you to Ruth Stephens, an occupational therapist and pen enthusiast in West Sussex.

Please tell us a little about you.

I am a mum of 2, who loves baking, coffee and making a difference in children’s lives

Tell us a little about your work.

I work in private practice assessing and providing therapy to children of all ages who have coordination and sensory issues. My areas of expertise are working with children who have handwriting difficulties and children who are adopted (both very different I know). My working life never ever has a dull day!

Courtesy Ruth Stephens, optimatherapy.net

What are some of your favorite pens/markers for OT?

The Stabilo S Move Pen, and basically any pen with a slightly thickened rubber bit low down on the barrel. I also love the “Handwriting without Tears” Flip crayons for little ones: these are short crayons that stop children using a barrel grip to hold their pencil when they are learning to write. They also flip over to a different colour which helps develop fine motor skills.

How do you discover new pens and markers?

By scouring stationery shops or word of mouth. (It’s hard to look for pens online unless you know where you alerting but I look at The Taskmaster website and TTS.)

What factors do you consider when choosing pens and markers?

Shaped pens which help children develop whats called a tripod pencil grip (the most effective pencil hold). However all ages and different individuals need different types of pen/pencils.

Which one pen or marker do you use most frequently?

S move and now the Bic Learner Ball Pen Click System.

(Editor: These also are the pens she recommends to others doing OT with children.)

Imagine you designed the perfect pen. What would it be?

It would be refillable, no need for a (cap), have a slightly rubbery soft area above the pen tip for comfort, indented where fingers go (left and right need to be different ), and with some kind of a strap to make it difficult to hold the pen too upright.

And, just for fun, which pen would you use to fight off a great white shark?

A cheap Biro because I d probably lose the fight anyway!

*****

To find out more about the kind of handwriting work Ruth does with children, check out her website at http://optimatherapy.net/.

Ruth, thanks so much for sharing your insight into the pens that help children learn to write. And thanks for the good work!

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