There seems to be lots of questions each year about what is on the CAIS (Charlotte Area Independent Schools) tests for pre-schoolers. First of all, not all private schools participate in CAIS testing. The private schools that do require it (as of today) are:
Charlotte Christian School
Charlotte Country Day School
Charlotte Latin School
Charlotte Preparatory School
Providence Day School and
Trinity Episcopal School
The CAIS test looks at kindergarten readiness in a variety of areas. The CAIS testing for preschool students are administered by a licensed psychologist that is on the CAIS approved list. For the 2014-15 school year, there are 10 psychologists that can administer testing, including: Melanie Powell, Frank Gaskill (Southeast Psych) and Trey Ishee (Southeast Psych).
The assessment is the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-IV). Here are some of the areas it tests:
Often, we get occupational therapy referrals from these CAIS tests. The psychologists will note a deficit in an area that needs improvement and suggest O.T. prior to entrance to kindergarten. Really good psychologists will also note children who need to work on their pencil grasp, handwriting, motor skills and processing speed. Sometimes a referral is made to a speech therapist if verbal areas need improvement.
There are times when a child will get "conditional" acceptance to a school based on the criteria that a child makes improvement in a needed area. Schools may even ask for a written progress report from speech or occupational therapy to demonstrate adequate progress and parental involvement.
Most of our clients come to us to improve some component of handwriting (manuscript/print/cursive) skill. Parents often question why occupational therapists work with handwriting so much.
Handwriting is a very complicated neurological and anatomical process. Usually poor or inefficient handwriting or penmanship is most often the symptom of a developmental process that is not functioning smoothly. When a well trained pediatric occupational therapist evaluates handwriting issues, they should be evaluating specific developmental areas.
Optimal handwriting skills also require fundamental skills such as:
upper body strength
visual motor integration (also known as eye hand coordination)
visual perception (vision to brain processing)
pencil grasp, finger strength and
When children participate in needed occupational therapy, the child is more successful in academic work. Often, if a child does not make quick progress through conventional academic tutoring then the student may have a developmental need, not an academic need. If your child is typically developing and has participated in handwriting tutoring by someone other than an O.T. for more than 2-3 months without great improvement---then it is likely not an academic need.
Our weekly "Mini Charmers" preschool class gets to play with lots of messy sensory activities that encourage handwriting preparation. Yep, thats right. Work on handwriting without doing handwriting. In the studio, we had a few centers going at once.
Our first center was the cornstarch tubs. Lots of gooey cornstarch, mixed with water, washable paint and small things thrown in. Kids were Encouraged to find and pull out everything they could find-- from frogs to tiny perler beads. The cornstarch is resistive, so this works the finger muscles. The activity also encourages tactile processing as children have to distinguish between textures.
Another preparatory center was our "N" and "M" activity. They cut the big lines out of magazines and placed them on the construction paper. Building letters is a great reinforcer for visual memory of letters and for the stroke too. We use Handwriting Without Tears curriculum so there are lots of building and writing inside of boxes and with consistent language.
In another center were our clothespin activities. Miss. Kelly and the OT students made these foam sea creatures, etc, a few minutes before class. Kids loved adding legs and candles!
Then, we always have our group direct handwriting instruction for our letters of the week. These kids are laying on their stomachs as it increases core strength and helps their forearms and hands be in the correct position. You can see that these 4 years olds are writing their letters very well and independently. These are some bright Charlotte kids!
Our occupational therapists enjoy working with kids and making therapy fun. if your child is learning to recognize letters, up the challenge by offering letters turned this way and that in a bowl of non-letters. This challenge in picture actually uses water beads, which is a sensory experience in itself. The specific goal here is to increase visual discrimination (meaning, can the child recognize the upper case letter if it is turned a different way?). Once they find the letter, have them place on a line and see if they can orient in the right direction and perhaps spell out their name or another word. Have fun!
About the blogger: Stephanie Wick is a pediatric occupational therapist that founded and is lead O.T. at Learning Charms.
Read past Blog here