Close to seven years ago, Syosset native Sarah Appleman was working with a young student who was having trouble overcoming handwriting difficulties. The child’s parents had tried numerous methods, all resulting in the same frustrating educational dead ends. Then, in a moment of inspiration and dogged determination, Appleman created a new teaching method on the spot.
What she came up with was Paw Prints, a multi-sensory handwriting curriculum geared toward the preschool and kindergarten grade levels. Available to teachers for classroom use, it follows Common Core curriculum standards and is designed to teach children letter recognition, letter formation and early literacy skills.
“I made up something and it worked. I thought, ‘this has to be developed,’” said Appleman, a pediatric occupational therapist currently residing in San Diego. “It’s a unique way to teach children using animals, which children love and are familiar with.”
Working with her business partner and co-author of Paw Prints Alissa Alongi, a pediatric occupational therapist in Oceanside, NY, Appleman’s Paw Prints includes three books—for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and a curriculum book for teachers—with more than 300 practice sheets to draw letters using animals, a basic overview of how these exercises can help children’s visual motor skills and an instructor guide to help speed up the handwriting and motor skills learning process for children.
Appleman said that while this method is especially helpful for children with Autism, as well as youngsters with other special learning requirements, it is a teaching approach that can benefit children across the spectrum.
“It’s for everybody, but it just so happens that it is extremely beneficial for students who have extra learning requirements,” said Appleman. “It helps them keep up with the rest of the class. And for the rest of the class, it’s a brand new activity. It’s not redundant and boring. This method brings all kids together; mainstream learners, special needs, public and private school.”
According to Appleman, one parent of an ADHD-diagnosed child told her that Paw Prints completely changed the way her son took in new information. The parent told Appleman that within weeks, he was writing his name and drawing pictures of people and animals—all of the things that other kids his age were doing—and his confidence increased dramatically.
And other learning specialists are also on board with Paw Prints. Pam Miscioscia, an occupational therapist from Long Beach, NY, said that parents are also looking for innovative ways for their children to learn.
“Parents are excited to see something new and innovative, and because of their excitement the kids are excited as well,” she said. “This is the prefect fit to add to the current curriculum because not only is it fun and educational, but it fills a void that is not currently being taught in schools.”
Currently, Appleman and Alongi are working to become certified on the public speaking circuit. This will enable the duo to travel from region to region expounding on the virtues of Paw Prints to educators from coast to coast. Appleman said Paw Prints is a brand of learning that not only teaches, but helps kids do what they do best.
“It helps children be children,” she said. “Kids often don’t even have time to be kids anymore. This program is fun, creative and silly and it allows bonding and it builds confidence. When kids feel good about themselves, they go a step further. It’s a relaxed way of learning that is beneficial to everybody.”
For more information on Paw Prints, visit www.pawprintslearning.com.