2 occupations put focus on child's strengths




Handwriting coach and pediatric occupational therapist

AGE --41

SALARY --An estimated $33,000 from the Carroll County Public School System Infant and Toddler Program and $75 an hour at her private practice.


TYPICAL DAY --There is no such thing. Stair works for the school system three days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays). She then has private appointments with children Monday and Wednesday evenings and on the weekends in her Eldersburg office. Sometimes, she visits children in their homes or at a day care center.

HOW SHE STARTED --Began working as a pediatric occupational therapist for a private practice in New Jersey. She moved to Maryland in 1998 and joined the occupational therapy staff of the Howard County school system. She began working as an occupational therapist for the Carroll County schools in July. This part-time position has allowed her the time to develop her private practice. She is the owner and founder of My Handwriting Helper, which helps individuals develop fine motor skills and handwriting.

TYPICAL "COACHING" SERVICES --Handwriting coaching services are provided like tutoring sessions. They are scheduled individually after school or on the weekend. Typically children come once or twice a week for 45 to 60 minutes. An initial assessment is scheduled first to determine strengths, needs and parent/teacher concerns.

THE GOOD --"Having the time to focus on each child's individual strengths and needs and watching them grow and succeed."

THE CHALLENGES --"I have been frustrated when people schedule appointments and then do not call or come for the appointment."

THE IMPORTANCE OF HANDWRITING --As a parent and pediatric occupational therapist, she has encountered a significant number of children who struggle with handwriting. Some children do not "grow out of" their handwriting difficulties, she said. They develop poor writing habits, weak grasp patterns and inconsistent/atypical letter formation skills.

HOW'S HER JOHN HANCOCK? --It's usually pretty neat handwriting, although she acknowledges scribbling a bit when she's in a rush.

EXTRACURRICULARS --Yoga, crafts, making baby blankets for Project Linus (an organization which donates blankets to children at hospitals, shelters and crisis situations).

FAMILY LIFE --Husband, Scott, is a chemistry and physics teacher for Frederick County schools; two daughters, Samantha and Carly.

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